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http://www.michellebenthamcreates.com

Please visit me at REDEEMED...RESTORED...RELEASED: One Woman's Story of Living Free to read more about what God is doing in my life and how He is working those things to set me free. Thanks so much for following, visiting, reading all about it and supporting me as you have done so many times these last few years. If you follow my other blogs, the posts from all three of my blogs are going to be transferred to the new digs for one big blog about our journey to restoration and freedom in Christ.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

“In Other Words” When God’s People Pray


Christell is hosting this week's "In Other Words." Stop by her blog to read all about it or click the "In Other Words" link above to find out how you can participate in this challenging and fun MEME!
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“Now, my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and let Your ears be attentive to the prayer made in this place.”
2 Chronicles 6:40 (NKJV)

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A number of years ago I was a member of a small rural Baptist church in a community (actually in between two communities) with a population of less than 1,000 people apiece. Our small congregation had built a new church building by faith and was experiencing the normal growing pains and spiritual attacks that a growing and ministering church faces when they are moving in God’s direction. I was among those growing and experiencing the burden of this attack. We had only attended the church for about a year when this season came along… a sifting season. Sifting seasons are interesting to me possibly because it seems I have been through so very many in my recent walk of faith – and as my sweet teacher, Beth Moore says, “Anything that needs siftin’, I want sifted out… Amen?”

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The troubling thing about it was the struggle was prevailing and so many were praying and believing God to change what needed to be changed, but the struggle hurt and it was hard. As I lay on my face in my small office/den/”whatever the need was at the time” room, I pled with God daily to move, to change our hearts: Change our minds, our lives, our desires… God change us all and change me first. I prayed ardently for my pastor, for the services each week and the wonderful people who attended our church. I cried out and carried a burden that I felt would crush me. During this season, I laid not only my heart bare before the Lord. I stood on His promises and had what Henry Blackaby calls “A Crisis of Belief:” A time when my reality and my faith would collide and prove God real to me.

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As the changes came, slowly at first – the changes seemed hurtful, wrong – people were leaving and some of them were angry and wounded. There was dissension in our midst and trouble brewing just below the surface. I found myself writing in my notebook, “This is not about God.” I prayed for pride to be broken among us and healing to take place – I prayed for His love to fall on us and invade us, for God to turn our hearts toward Him. This was the season of my life when I would begin to believe God for big things, step out in areas I would never have dreamed of ministering in and I began to seek God through in-depth Bible study. I had two encounters with God in that year. The first was in doing Henry Blackaby’s study “Experiencing God.”

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I was assigned the task of spending an afternoon seeking God in nature and I was anxious to do it. We were living with my parents at the time so several hours before my children were due home from school on the bus I took a walk down to the creek and brushy landscape full of Texas Cedar trees and prickly pairs, large boulders and snake dens and the most wonderful trickling stream that feeds into the mouth of a cove off Lake Granbury. It was a relatively calm March day that year, the sun sending the first warm rays of the forthcoming spring into my life. It was a season of growth and change. As I picked and stepped, even stumbled marveling at how remarkably small this place seemed, I came upon a small crystal clear pool that had been cut into the limestone bedrock that was the foundation for my childhood playground. I remember catching tadpoles in that pool as a child in the early days of spring and pretending to be pioneers on the wagon trail while the boys were Indians. I sat, tapping my finger on the glassy surface and smiling as the soft waves lapped their way back to the limestone backdrop. I stood and dusted the soft red mud off of my pants before turning and walking further down to the cove. As I walked I began to talk to God, to thank Him for a childhood rich with memories of such a marvelous place. I talked to Him from my heart and smiled at the thought that He was there, walking with me in that moment. Just as I got to the mouth of the cove were the mud grew deeper and wider, I had to leap from one rock to another to make it to my destination. I finally arrived at the edge of the cove where my father taught us to swim on busy summer days when we would take a break from building my father’s dream home.

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He once caught a snake, a water moccasin, in a fish trap and we watched as he hacked it up into little pieces after he crushed its head. I sat fearfully amazed as those snake parts wiggled around on that hot rock. My daddy said that the snake would keep on wiggling until sundown, and somehow I knew it was true. The place where we fished with cane poles and laughed as we swam in lifejackets in the forest green water: It was a place of wonder from my childhood that had turned to precious memories for this adult. I was so blessed in that moment. Just as I stepped up to the water’s edge, I felt the gentle stirring of a wind coming through the trees above my head. The water began to rock gently as the wind softly kissed the top of each wave. A soul stirring moment if I’ve ever had one.

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Just then the warm spring sun began to burn blazing hot, it grew brighter and beat down on me in a warm and flowing rush of heat. I was comforted, encouraged by it. I heard what I thought was the sound of many people running toward me through the trees and leaves I had just trekked through on my way to the cove, but as I turned I found the mightiest rush of wind washing over me in an exhilarating rush of cool, refreshing life. I felt I could not stand as I threw my arms wide and laughed loudly praising God all the way. Just as quickly as the wind had come, it left. I was standing there fully alive and aware of the glorious presence of God. I would describe this moment as a day when God showed up and let me know He was there. It was the first time in my life that I ever experienced the full baptism of the Holy Spirit – the first time in my life when I could say I knew for certain God was real and active in my life.
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A year later I would have a deep baptism into the love of God and that would send me reeling again as I saw God all around me and knew for sure He was personally interested in me. This brings me to the day when God so showed up at church. It was in May 2003, shortly after my rich encounter with God’s love. I sat in church praying as the worship service ended. Things were coming to a boiling point in the congregation and I begged God from my heart to meet with us that morning. He showed up huge. Pastor rounded the pulpit and shared the verse of Scripture I opened this post with.
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As he preached, my heart soared! I was hearing the exact message I had been praying for: A call to our church to step up to pray as a body of believers. Pastor admitted that he felt the church had been riding the previous season of blessing and had forsaken prayer. He told the story of the nation of Israel after Solomon built the temple and how Solomon cried out to God in just the same way our pastor was calling us to pray that day! I could hardly stand it! This was what I had been looking for. He told us to begin to turn our hearts toward God, to cry out to Him as a congregation with one heart and to stand together in prayer. Many felt the Holy Spirit fall in church that morning, God’s presence was palpable.
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When he closed the service he called for the members to consider serving on a committee to build a prayer room within our church. He called us to pray together until the prayer room was completed and for anyone interested to come to a meeting. He closed with this passage of Scripture: “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.” 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (NKJV).
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In the month that followed many of us met, planned and I was very involved with the assembly and development of the prayer room. We opened it with 72 hours of prayer and in the months that followed, we saw God do a great work among us. The church began to grow, the dissenters left and new, fresh visionaries arrived. We began to flourish and grow as a body, united for the cause of Christ. Prayer requests came in and people signed up for hours of prayer. We posted the prayer requests and praise reports we received on a bulletin board in the lobby and we saw God do so many things in our lives I cannot even recount them all today. Still, God was doing more amazing things in the community of our church. He had set into motion the provision for a community member to give us a $1,000,000 dollar gift. He conveniently arranged for me to grow into a role as Women’s Ministry leader and cultivated the growth of many women of the church through that season. He healed cancer, provided spiritual healing and deliverance from drug addiction. We saw Him heal marriages and take a small children’s ministry and use it to reach an underprivileged group of kids hungry for love and for God through van ministry. We saw people saved and come to repentance… We enjoyed the favor and presence of God in every way. God can move mountains with faith as small as a mustard seed, and when we come together in the name of Christ with unity of mind and purpose seeking the will of God we will see Him do amazing things… sometimes Face to Face!

7 comments:

twinklemom said...

AMEN! What more needed to be said? Lol...love your post!

Melanie said...

Wow! The power of prayer is so great!

Susan said...

Michelle, this was just beautiful!

You truly have a heart after God, and I know He loves your worship, prayer and deep passion for HIM!

Blessings to you my friend!

Heather@Mommymonk said...

Thank you for sharing that intimate moment between you and God. He rushed into your life, assuring you of His love and continual presence. And the power of a congregation committed to prayer that changed the whole tone of your church. Awesome.

Beloved MaMa said...

Oh my...I can so relate to your church experience!!! in your faithfulness, God liften you up in His perfect time...What a wonderful testimony!!!

Kysha said...

Thanks for sharing/

Amy B said...

I can relate to this experience as well. God is so faithful to us. I love your zeal for Him!