I was sitting in church, minding my own business. You know, singing and thinking about God’s praises and promises. Then during the choir’s song, I noticed a young man in his 20’s. He was alone, listening intently and holding the tiniest Bible I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. (My stalker-like tendencies were back with a vengeance!) Who was he? Why was he alone? Where did he get that itty-bitty Bible?
“I want you to pray for him,” came a thought inside my head. Okay, I know this kind of thought. If you’ve walked with God for very long, then you recognize the Holy Spirit’s voice, too. “Done, Father!” I answered. No big deal. Interesting instructions, painless execution. Glad to help!
But then, just as the pastor got cranking, The Voice: A Sequel piped in: “You’ve agreed to pray for this young man. Now I want you to tell him you’re praying.” Ummm, what?!? How interesting that when He whispers easy things, we boldly claim clarity: “God told me to give away my old shoes. God asked me to volunteer at a resort hotel in Jamaica.” But the minute we hear tougher, riskier words, we start questioning: “Hold on. Is this actually the voice of God? Could I have a sign, Father? An audible voice or a vision from Heaven?”
Confession time: The idea of approaching a stranger and getting into his personal business did not appeal to me. What was I supposed to say? “I was staring at your miniature Bible, and the Holy Spirit told me you needed prayer”? Seriously, does this sound like something God would require? Well, yes. In fact, it has the Holy Spirit’s fingerprints all over it. Here’s how I knew, sitting in that pew, that God was clearly speaking:
1) I was meditating on God’s goodness. Have you noticed that the voice of Truth is clearest when you’re listening to praise music, hearing a sermon, or sitting quietly with your Bible? That’s when He often speaks; if you hear a whisper during these close spiritual times, it’s probably the Holy Spirit. (Philippians 4:4-9)
2) God spoke in first person. When I am thinking about God, He is in third person: “God told me to pray for a complete stranger; He is putting me in an awkward situation!” When God Himself speaks inside my head, though, the instructions are direct: “I want you to pray for this guy. I will tell you what to say.” (John 16:5-15)
3) The thoughts echoed God’s Word. Obviously, the Holy Spirit won’t ask me to disobey Scripture. So knowing this, I must take every thought captive, making sure He is in the whisper. What I heard in my head–becoming a prayer warrior for someone–makes perfect Biblical sense and sounds a lot like something God might say. (Colossians 4:2-6)
4) The instructions stretched me. Here’s the brutal truth: I prefer to be comfortable as I serve God. No surprises, please. So when a spiritually challenging thought arises, I always suspect the Holy Spirit. That’s when He works best, when our pride and abilities are out of the way. It’s all about shining the spotlight on His glory. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
So back to the story: By the grace of God, I did it! 🙂 Walked right up to this stranger and said, “Excuse me. This probably sounds strange, but I believe God told me to talk with you. I’m learning to obey when He speaks, so I’m not going to apologize for how crazy this may seem. Do you mind telling me your name and how I can pray for you?”
And now for the humbling, “Yes, I the Lord was speaking, Ava, and here is why” moment: This tall, African-American man said he’d been praying that very morning for encouragement. He needed strength to grow in his faith, and he’d been searching for a believer to lift him up. Then he added with a smile, “I didn’t know it’d come from a white sister. God works in crazy ways, don’t He?” Yes, He does, my newfound brother. Yes, He does.