“Would you all just leave me alone!” I thought it but did not say it. Standing in the foyer of the church I had just started attending a few weeks before, I felt very uncomfortable. I knew some of the people but most were strangers and at the moment I wanted to keep it that way.
Church was new to me. I had not regularly attended one since I was in high school. In those days, it was a Catholic church. In fact, in those days I had attended a Catholic seminary during my high school years. But that was long ago and many an alcohol and drug stained years had washed under the proverbial bridge since then. Now here I was making small talk with Seventh Day Adventists and trying to appear normal.
The only problem was that in my mind I was sure that my normal was nothing like the normal these folks were used to. All I could think was, “What if I say something that offends one of these holy rollers?” Or “What if they can smell last night’s booze on me. I am sure that will let them know who I truly am.” And that was something I was trying to hide.
The decision had been made that we start attending church without a vote of consent from me. It was the continuing and ever-expanding ‘peace agreement’ I had made with my wife to learn about Sabbath keeping. I had about 6 months before agreed to keep from Friday sun down to Saturday sun down free from alcohol and take part in day long worship. For the most part I was keeping my part of the agreement. Last night I had snuck a few long pulls off the vodka bottle I had hidden in the shed but I not enough to get fall down drunk. I thought that was pretty good.
So, here I was at 10:30 AM on Saturday morning standing surrounded by people I was sure had never been near a person like me and feeling very much out-of-place. I was never happier then when time arrived and I could hide in the peace of the sanctuary. At least there it seemed the prying eyes were elsewhere.
As we sat down, announcements had just started and I was paying little attention. In fact my head was down and taking a non-obvious nap was my true focus. But then I heard a woman’s voice and for some reason I became immediately attentive. She was speaking of a recently started program called 777. This was a call for the worldwide church to pray once at 7:00 AM and once at 7:00 PM, 7 days asking for the latter-day rain of the Holy Spirit. I had no idea why this caught my interest so strongly but the thought came, “You need to be doing this!” It was totally bizarre but would not leave my mind.
The rest of the service and day went by but still the thought persisted. As 7:00 PM approached I was sitting on the couch and my wife was sitting in a chair opposite of me. I was a nervous wreck because I, me the guy who hadn’t prayed in years or maybe ever really, was about to suggest that we pray these 777 prayers together. And as the words came from my mouth I could see tears welling up in her eyes. It seems she had the same impression but was afraid to talk to me about it.
We did pray that night together. It was awkward and embarrassing but the words tumbled out. We also prayed together every morning and night until the day she died, when I sat at her bedside at 7:00 AM on a Sabbath morning my hand on hers begging the Lord to end her misery, ten minutes later He did.
That prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit changed my life. Within a month, I was no longer a stranger at my church. My drinking on Sabbath never happened again and within months I was free from the addiction that had plagued my life for nearly 45 years. Less than two years later I was baptized. And I have had an abiding belief in prayer since that night.
My friends. I don’t offer advice or try to preach in these pages but today I am convicted to share that we need to be praying. It is also my conviction that we need the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the latter-day rain so we can finish work and Jesus will return.
Ellen White in her book The Acts of the Apostles, wrote this: “Near the close of earth’s harvest, a special bestowal of spiritual grace is promised to prepare the church for the coming of the Son of man. This outpouring of the Spirit is likened to the falling of the latter rain; and it is for this added power that Christians are to send their petitions to the Lord of the harvest ‘in the time of the latter rain.’ In response, ‘the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give than showers of rain.’ ‘He will cause to come down… the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain.’ Zechariah 10:1, Joel 2:3. (The Acts of the Apostles, p 55)
Jesus promised this also, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” (John 14:16) Or “The Helper. The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all thing that I said to you.” (John 4:26)
We are promised the Holy Spirit to be our Comforter, Helper, Healer. Our Counselor and Advocate. But we need to seek Him in prayer, “Ask, and it will be given to you: seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) In these words Jesus tells us all is possible thru prayer but we need to take that first step. Prayer for the Holy Spirit, alone daily, in our churches together and around the world. If we seek He will be there and we can finish the work with the power only the Spirit can bring.
Almost 7 years from the date of that first prayer, my life has been changed. I am saddened that I rarely get to see those church members who accepted me with love beyond my belief. I now live across the country but am blessed to have a church here in Macon, Georgia who is ready to move forward in prayer on their knees. And blessed to be re-married to a woman of God who wants to, ask, seek, and knock every day of her life and share that with me. Prayer to the Holy Spirit did all that in my life and I want you to share in it. This is my prayer for you this morning, “Heaven is full of light and strength, and we can draw from it if we will. God is waiting to pour his blessings upon us as soon as we draw nigh to him and by living faith grasp His promises. He says that He is more willing to give His Holy Spirit to those that ask Him than earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children. (Historical Sketches, pg. 152, EG White) Grab a hold of His promises today, seek the power of the Holy Spirit. It will change your life and the lives of all those you touch.