Friday, May 9, 2008

Ambushed

What is "conversational prayer", anyway?

That was the initial thought in my mind – as a 16-year-old dishwasher at a summer camp – when one of the guys in our cabin group suggested it as a way to end our Bible study time one sweltering afternoon. As it turns out, it was just an effort to involve the whole group by having everyone contribute a couple of sentences to the closing prayer instead of having just one person do it.

Hardly what you'd call "living on the edge", but it did break the routine at this theologically very conservative camp. However, what happened during this somewhat-stiff-but-still-participatory prayer time was outside of any of our mental or spiritual grids.

We had gotten about halfway around the circle of prayer, and suddenly, all of us were acutely aware of something dramatic happening amongst us. None of us had asked for it, or prayed about it, but suddenly, the presence of the Holy Spirit filled that little cabin.

I remember lying on the top bunk, looking up at the worn rafters – autographed roughly by a succession of campers over the years – and not knowing if I wanted to laugh or cry, but definitely feeling a surge of Life flowing through me.

A few moments later – or was it much longer? – that acute sense of the Spirit left as quietly as He had arrived, and after a short, hushed silence, the prayer time resumed. But as the final "amen" was spoken, the whispers and comments began to immediately buzz around the room.

My co-worker on the bottom bunk – with the unlikely but self-chosen nickname of "Ferd" – stood up and peered at me over the edge of my upper bunk, eyes wide. "Did you FEEL that?" was all he could say, voice hushed with awe. I could only laugh and nod.

Sitting up and looking around our cabin, it was immediately obvious that every person present had been affected by this visitation of the Spirit – even the two guys who claimed to not be interested in Jesus (that changed dramatically over the next two days).

There had been no visions, prophecies, or speaking tongues (this was a decidedly non-charismatic denominational camp which discounted such things anyways), but there wasn't a person in that room who hadn't had a very real sense of the Spirit's presence and touch on our lives – whether we had the theological grid to understand or the vocabulary to put the experience into adequate words or not.

Brother Maynard has suggested that September should be a month of post-charismatics giving voice to what apostolic leadership could/should look like. I'd like to propose a synchro-blog to get the ball rolling – namely, as I've just shared my earliest "charismatic" experience (after becoming a Christian, that is), let's remind ourselves and tell each other our stories of how we first became acquainted with, and eager for, the felt presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

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