I was sitting at a local dining establishment with a good friend of mine named Jon, and as usual we were partaking in great food and even better conversation. Most of our conversations revolve around Jesus, the Kingdom of God, and the paradigm shifting books of Brian Zahnd, Carl Madearis, N.T. Wright, and many more of our favorites. This particular day was no different.
We were immersed in conversation about all of the above mentioned topics, and undoubtedly were loud, boisterous and completely ignorant of our surroundings as we’re both very passionate and excitable individuals. If you don’t believe me, then just ask our wives who frequently have to put up with similar conversations when we all get together.
This particular day, while no different conversationally, was going to be unique but we had no clue to what it held for us when we sat down for our meal. We ate, conversed, joked and laughed until it was getting near time for us to leave and return to our respective jobs.
It was in that moment that we both noticed a woman to my left, Jon’s right, who had been sitting next to us for quite some time and was apparently lending her ear to our conversation. That’s my nice way of saying she was eaves-dropping! Once we realized this, we both immediately knew that we had walked into the restaurant on our own accord, but that the Kingdom of God had decided to make additional plans for our day.
Upon first glance Jon and I both could tell that this woman beside us was intrigued by the various topics we’d been talking about, and she had a look on her face as if her heart was saying, “Please invite me into the conversation.” So we did. Her name was Cheryl, and through a brief conversation with her we learned that, while she knew God, for quite some time she had felt very disconnected from that relationship.
In that moment we had a few choices: (1) We could console her nicely and make our exit because it was time for us to leave; (2) We do the “Christian” thing and pray for her, thus making us and her feel better about her situation; or (3) At the risk of failing, we attempt to bring her into an encounter with this God she feels disconnected from.
I don’t know if it was the vortex of human emotion, the confidence you get from being with a friend, or simply our trust in God but that day we chose option #3.
Unlike our most recent guest on the podcast, Ben Armstrong, neither Jon or I have a particularly strong gifting toward prophecy or the like. We would have been excited to receive an amazing, and detailed prophetic message from God, but on this day that apparently wasn’t in the cards for us. So now, having chosen risk, and with Cheryl awaiting our help to encounter God Jon and I did the only thing we knew how to:
We asked Cheryl, “Has God ever spoken to you?”
Her reply, “I don’t think so.”
So, rather than put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to hear from God on Cheryl’s behalf, we chose to cut out the middle man so to speak. Since Cheryl had already explained to us that her pain point in life was feeling disconnected from God, we prayed with her and asked God to show Cheryl why she was feeling so disconnected from him.
Like good Christians, we began to bow our heads and close our eyes to pray because we all know that’s the only way God hears us, right?!
Actually, we didn’t do any of those things. With eyes open we began to pray, mostly because before we could even begin to pray Cheryl had begun to cry almost uncontrollably and I was getting a little worried that our distraction might draw some unwanted attention. Why I even cared about that in that moment I have no clue, but that was my reaction.
We prayed a 10-second prayer simply asking God to speak to Cheryl about why she felt so disconnected. Immediately after saying “Amen” Cheryl became very excited and the tears turned to a smile as she said, “I heard him! I heard God!”
Cheryl began to explain to us that God had spoken to her and told her that the reason she felt so disconnected with God was due to a tragic situation involving Cheryl and her son, for which she had blamed God for almost 18 months.
In the moments following, Jon and I were able to pray with Cheryl again and encourage her. As we left Cheryl, this woman whom we’d never met before, gave us both the biggest, happiest hug you could imagine. Her embrace was filled with such gratefulness, relief and joy! Cheryl had encountered God in a life-changing way for maybe the first time in her entire life. The pain of her situation had been lifted, all because God had spoken to her personally.
I wanted to tell this story, not so I could declare my amazing exploits for Jesus, as if this story actually contains an exploit other than just being a decent human being. Rather, I wanted to show how anyone, myself included, can help others enter into life changing encounters with a loving God who wants all of his children to know him.
We may not all be like Ben Armstrong, or some of our other more prophetically gifted guests from the podcast such as: Marty Gabler, Shawn Bolz, or Kris Vallotton, and that’s okay!
The point of prophecy, which is also the task Jesus left us with, is to risk our lives to love those around us. When we prophecy we risk being misunderstood or just simply being wrong in our interpretation of what we’re hearing. When we pray with others to hear God’s voice like Jon and I did, we risk other people’s rejection or judgement.
However, in this inside-outside, upside-down kingdom where we die to live, and we lose to gain, risking it all for love is no longer a risk but now a certainty. If our goal in prophesying, praying for others, or simply serving others is that they would experience love and know they are loved, then the risk is not only mitigated but relieved. When love is the goal… love wins!