My Story: Part 2
In the previous post, I was a child who found myself unexpectedly experiencing a Holy Spirit revival. Up until this point I did not think about God very much and I certainly wasn’t aware that He could interact with His creation in such dramatic ways. I now accepted that human bodies could exhibit physical manifestations of His presence and power:
my friend’s spine condition was miraculously healed and her whole body shook and flailed around for hours after the encounter;
my Mum’s hands became rigid all evening after stretching them out in prayer;
my sister randomly selected a verse from the Bible that explained what was going on when we most needed to hear clarification (the verse described the Holy Spirit as real and active -- fostering faith through signs and wonders);
and I rolled around on the floor of a marquee with three hundred others. All nine-year-old kids experiencing the strangest laughing fit ever, known as Holy Laughter.
From that moment on, it was obvious to me that God must exist. None of us desired these experiences. We didn’t even know it was an option! They just happened to us with such convincing power and effects, that we concluded God was real and you can pray to Him and He might just answer…
Answers to Prayer
When I was Seventeen, I fell in love with a boy from Church. The problem was that this boy seemed not to notice. I had made it very obvious that I was interested in him, giving him my phone number, etc. Three months later – not a peep! No text, no contact, nothing! Yet, I was not quite ready to give up. I had a bizarre inkling that we were meant to be together.
We lived at opposite ends of the city and went to different schools, so there was virtually no chance of randomly bumping into each other out and about. I’m ashamed to admit that I hatched a plan to travel into the city centre on Saturdays, on the off chance that I would see him there and be able to strike up a casual conversation. Naïve? Yes! A bit pathetic? Absolutely!
I was very fed up one Saturday, walking aimlessly around the city centre hoping to see him. I was in Waterstones, indifferently flicking through the books, when I prayed to God in my desperation. I said I was ready to quit on this boy and move on, but I would give God one last chance to prove to me that I’m meant to be with him. I asked God to make this boy appear before me right then, against all the odds. It was a long shot, but I turned around and was shocked to see his younger brother on the other side of the store. And at that same moment, the word "Wait" appeared in my mind in a firm, tangible sense, as if it didn't arrive from my own thought-conjuring processes. That's the only way I can think of to describe how it felt. A deep peace travelled through my body like warm water soothing my insides.
I knew then that it must not be the right time for us to get together for some reason. But God had been kind enough to listen to my request and give me some confirmation that I needed to hang on in there. A month later, the boy I liked randomly sent me a text. To cut a long story short, we dated for five years after that strange answer to prayer in Waterstones and have been married for thirteen years and counting.
I have told this story to a few atheists before and they were really offended by it. They were adamant that if there was a God, He wouldn’t be interested in the silly emotional longings of a teenager. Look around the world and see all the evil and suffering that millions of humans have to cope with – that is proof that the universe is cold and indifferent. There is no one out there to answer insignificant and selfish requests. I must admit, I sort of agreed with their argument. I’m quite embarrassed to recount these experiences because they don’t paint me in a very good light (why am I praying for myself so much?!) and when they were answered, I couldn’t explain why God would do that for me and not heal someone who had been praying for decades for relief from a terminal illness, for example.
Now, I don’t know how to answer this predicament. All I can do is recount the strange encounters with God I have experienced as honestly as I can, and leave it to you to decide if you are offended by it or curious enough to find out more. Do you want to find out about this living God who declared “that even the hairs on your head are numbered”; who “delights over you with singing”; has “engraved your name on the palms of [His] hands”; and states that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”?
God doesn’t always answer the prayers of His people:
Moses longed to see the Promised Land but God wouldn’t reverse His decision to end Moses’ life before the Israelites would arrive there;
David wanted to preserve the life of his dying new-born son, so prayed and fasted continuously for a week but God took him anyway,
and Job asked for a reason from God to explain why He had allowed all his children to be killed in natural disasters. Instead, God revealed Himself in order to ask Job questions: “who are you to darken my counsel by words without wisdom?”.
I don’t know why God answered these insignificant prayers in my life, but I can’t deny that it happened and I was blown away by it.
Sing me a song!
When I was Eighteen, I went to the same Christian camp I had attended as a child. The effects of the revival had died down through the years (as all revivals do) but the Holy Spirit was still very much active and present, as thousands of God’s people joined together to sing and pray to Him. It was a joyous experience to be a part of. During one meeting, the Holy Spirit was revealing "words of knowledge", which generally involved a person you’d never met before telling you something that God had stirred up in their mind on your behalf. It is an amazing experience for all involved – the person who receives that much-needed message from God feels encouraged and the person who is brave enough to offer the message (in case they’ve just imagined it) realises that God has allowed them to contribute to building His Kingdom on Earth.
My friend (whose spine was healed when she was ten) received an accurate "word of knowledge" for her situation. We were both anxiously awaiting our A Level grades at the time and longing to receive our first-choice university places. My friend wanted to go into acting but was very unsure about this decision and prayed to God, asking for confirmation that it was the right thing for her to pursue. A lady at the meeting (who she didn’t know and had never met before) said that in her mind she could see my friend stood on a stage, with Jesus in the wings cheering her on saying "You can do this!" My friend was so comforted by this. She went on to receive a first-class degree in Acting before enrolling at a prestigious Drama School in London.
Now, being an insecure teenager at the time, I was quite hurt that God hadn’t chosen to speak to me when everyone else seemed to be receiving accurate, personal words of knowledge. I am very ashamed to admit that in my self-absorbed angst, I prayed to God and asked that He prove how much He loved me by dedicating a song to me. I guess I was envisaging that in this huge venue the band leader would speak into the microphone: "I’m receiving a transmission from God. He wants us to stop what we are doing, so that we can applaud and sing to that girl over there". Then a spotlight would fall on me and everyone would stare in wonder.
Looking back, I see how hideous this request was and I’m grateful that God didn’t answer my prayer. If that had happened how I imagined it, it would have created such an inflated ego and sense of pride. Jesus rebuked his disciples when they argued about which of them was the greatest and told them that those who want to be called great in the Kingdom of God should be like children with servant-hearts. Paul wrote that Christians should “in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but to the interests of others”. I wasn’t exhibiting any of those character traits then.
Paul spoke of supernatural visions he received from God when he “was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that [I]…was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” What an experience that must have been. Maybe he might have been tempted to feel quite special after that – one of God’s chosen ones -- to be gifted such remarkable insights of the things to come in the New Creation. But Paul wrote afterwards: "so no one will think more of me than is warranted…because of these surpassingly great revelations…in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’.” God disciplines those He loves to keep them humble and able to be used for His glory, not their own. That was why God answered my prayer with a firm 'No' at that point in my life. I was far too focussed on myself and that needed to be redeemed, so I could be of use to others.
Ten years after presenting my foolish request to God to dedicate a song to me, I was at a Christian conference with two hundred people in attendance. I knew only three other people in that room. Everyone else was a stranger to me. I had never told my three friends what I had prayed to God ten years ago – mainly because I had forgotten all about it, but also because it was a mortifying request that I wouldn’t want to admit to.
There I was in the crowd, singing to God, when the worship leader (Helen Yousaf) stopped singing and pointed at me from the stage. She said through the microphone: "I have this strong feeling that God wants to sing a song over you". And then she sang one of her own compositions: "Child of Mine". I wept. I couldn’t believe it. My request from 10 years ago came flooding back into my memory. But this time, instead of longing for this to happen because of pride, I was shocked, humbled, and awed. I wondered who is this God who “takes great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing."?
As I walked out of the conference, an old lady touched me on the shoulder and said "you’ve been entrusted with a great gift today". She was absolutely right. Yes, God loves me, but He LOVES YOU too with a deep passion. He longs for you. If my story will lead you to Him then that is why I was given this experience – this gift. This request welled up from teenage insecurity and brokenness, but God answered it at the right time, so it would be received by a redeemed, thankful heart. It wasn’t entrusted to me so I could keep it to myself.
I don’t know how familiar you are with Christian worship songs. They are mainly written from the human perspective singing to God; lyrics that offer Him praise and honour. Helen Yousaf’s song is quite unusual as it is written from God’s perspective; as if God is singing over you. It uses a lot of Biblical imagery in its beautiful lyrics. Have a listen on Youtube. Jesus wants to sing this over you too if you’ll let Him.
References & Footnotes  Goodness knows how long this experience went on for, I lost all track of time as wave after wave of the mysterious force swept over me and came out of my mouth as laughter.  Luke 12:7  Zeph 3:17  Psalm 139  Deut 3:23-28  2 Samuel 12:13-25  Job 28:2  Matt 18:20, Hebrews 10:25, Acts 2:46, 1 Cor 12:12  As if He hadn’t already proved it by sending His Son to die for me so I could have eternal life – why did I need a song too! Ludicrous, I know! (John 3:16)  Luke 9:46-48, Matt 18:1-5  Phil 2:3-4  2 Corinthians 12:1-3  2 Corinthians 12:1-10  Proverbs 3:12, James 4:6, Isaiah 66:2  Zeph 3:17  1 John 4:9-10, 1 John 3:1, Romans 5:5, Jer 29:11, Jer 31:3, Deut 7:9, 1 Peter 5:6-7, Romans 8:37-39, Isa 54:10  Luke Chapter 15  https://youtu.be/i_35DclKNIM