My church (Calvary Chapel) is “charismatic with a seatbelt” – which means we’ll ask for miracles, but don’t get too attached to getting. It’s a big, highly varied church – so some of the folks are pretty charismatic, some folks are more seatbelt. The church of my youth (Baptists) were on the side of “gifts are for yesterday, not today” – so very seatbelt. And I hang out with at least one lady who is very charismatic. I find her faith inspirational.
I’ve been thinking about this, and trying to figure it out, if not in words, at least in my heart. It’s part of my faith walk, and this is a season where faith is something on which I’m concentrating.
Something came to me as I was driving around this morning… how is prayer different from any other spiritual gift/discipline? We are enjoined to pray without ceasing, to pray for our sick, to pray for our daily bread, to thank God in everything… so there is a very solid place for habits of obedience – in this flesh. I will pray for you if you ask me to, I believe that this is an obligation of every member of the family of Christ. (And I will, likewise, show very little hesitation in asking you to pray for me if I need it).
But sometimes the prayer becomes something more, and while I know that the Spirit is always with me, and prays for me/through me (Rom 8:26), but sometimes there is more. Sometimes the power of God moves, and I pray with greater boldness than I would normally. And on those occasions, I often feel the peace of God which passes all understanding – after all, we know that we receive what we ask, so long as it is within God’s will. (It isn’t always here yet. Like a giant dry-cleaner with clothes on the racks, your suit is clean… but it might take a minute for it to make it ’round to you).
Romans 8:26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Does that mean that all of my prayer, including prayer that I believe *should* be in God’s will gets answered with peace like that? Extremely nope. Does that mean that I always pray like that? Also nope. (Ah, if only).
I’m not the one in control.
Sometimes I think my Charismatic and Pentecostal brethren mistake the obedience and faith that drives us to our knees with the power that comes at God’s discretion or not at all.
Likewise, I have certain spiritual gifts, and most of those mesh nicely with the person that I am. But when things become more, when God speaks through me… that’s not my choice. I showed up, I was willing to serve, and then God did what He would do, when it suited Him – and no, again – not that often. I’m not in control of those gifts!
So, I’ll ask. But whether or not I get is up to God. I do find that the more I offer myself up to serve and obey, the more I am used – and the more unexpectedly. That’s my bit – the obedience bit. God’s bit is… everything else!
And that’s just fine with me.
So, you ask about my faith – my faith in God is unassailable, my faith that the prayers I know He’s answered but haven’t shown up yet is growing every day, and my faith in my own efforts is very small indeed.