The program agenda called it an altar call. Really it was a call for those who needed prayer to step out in a crowded room, admit their need and come forward.
I stepped up to receive whomever might come, not expecting that many of the great needs that stood singing before me, would be brave enough to expose their neediness among the women gathered.
The truth was that I was as needy as anyone in there. It might not have been apparent because I stood at the front as a leader, a minister of encouragement, someone who had it all together.
Every day I am needy-- every day I need the Bread of Life. I don’t get enough on Sunday morning. I need to lay down my life daily, pick up my cross and live by faith. I need Jesus and I want to be mindful of that each morning I wake up in this world.
She came from somewhere in the back. Head down, she watched her feet step their way past the rows of chairs and along the cinder block wall. The room was dim. Candles flicked behind me. Near the front, she lifted her head, caught my eyes, held out her hands. I leaned forward to ask her name and her need.
She smelled of cigarette smoke and greasy hair, her shirt hung off her shoulders and her pants puddled around her shoes. I looked into her eyes and I saw desperate---desperate for God, desperate for hope, desperate for acceptance.
She confided her need and it was great. I could not relate, no experience from my life could I draw deep from a well of empathy. I had never walked in her shoes. We prayed but the words were mine. My prayer for her reached beyond to the only One who knew the depths of her need and the only One who could give her the comfort, the hope, she had stepped forward to find.
I was grateful she was small like me. She may have been a tad shorter. I reached around her and held her tight, a prayer embrace that we both needed, these strangers desperate before God clutched to hope at a place in a room that, for a moment, became an altar.
We live in desperate days.
We can live in denial and say we don’t. We can put up our perfect on Facebook or Instagram. We can tweet cleverness out into the cyber-world, seek a following, a tribe of our own.
In the din of noisy idol worship that is the world we live in, God is looking for voices, voices of courage that will speak into the desperate nature of a world that has lost it moorings, adrift and swept to and fro at the whim of expedience and instant gratification, of comfort and control.
Suppose He is looking for, not only voices, but for people who are willing to wrap their arms around the hurting.
I saw a friend recently at a gathering of people. I had not seen him in a good while, even wondered if he had moved away. I knew of the deep personal suffering he was going through. I had prayed for him but it wasn’t a situation in which I could assert myself and be of any help.
My friend was standing some distance from me when I spotted him. I walked a straight line to where he was standing alone, apart from the crowd. I reached to hug and he hugged back---the kind of hug that says I know you understand how much I am hurting.
There is something about the human touch, something powerful. Like so many things in the sin-suffering world, touch has taken some hits. Personal space is a right many claim. In an over-sexualized culture, touch can be dangerous and perceived as something it wasn’t intended to be.
A widow blamed Elijah for the death of her child. She held the boy before him angry and accusing:
And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child's life come into him again.” And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” (1 Kings 17:19-24, ESV)
Elijah calmly took the boy into his hands. He stretched himself over the boy three times, crying out to God for the boy’s life. God raised the boy from the dead.
The prophet didn't walk up the stairs thinking that he would ask God to do what he’d done before--- for Abraham, or Moses, or Joshua. He was asking the impossible. There were no precedents for God raising the dead until the day Elijah prayed over the lifeless boy.
I don’t know why Elijah “stretched himself on the child three times.” I am thinking that he wanted to wrap him up in his arms when God answered his prayer of faith, his God-directed prayer. He would be holding him in his arms when he gasped and caught earth’s air in his lungs once more.
Elijah lived in incredible days where God had been pushed to the sidelines. Judgment was upon the land. There was hunger and death and the need for God to show up big. The prophet's desperate situation led him to pray for the impossible. God answered. The miracle convinced the woman that the words from the prophet's mouth were truth.
God put Elijah in a desperate situation to prepare him for the days to come, days when he would need the “word of the Lord in his mouth.” A huge battle loomed on the horizon and God was preparing Elijah for it. (1 Kings 18:20-40)
Elijah’s timeline would not have been pretty--at least not most of the time. Maybe he would be the guy we would unfriend because we couldn’t look at his stuff in the newsfeed? We might wonder what God would require of him next, but we aren’t sure we want to know.
If we have received Jesus, we believed the “impossible.” We have received Christ’s resurrection as our own--his resurrection is our resurrection. We live the miracle.
All around us, people are living in seemingly impossible situations, facing battles too great for them. But no battle is too big for God. This is our testimony and the hope we share to a world that is dying and in need of that very miracle.
Let’s meet them at God’s altar, pray with them and embrace them in arms of love believing for them that “nothing will be impossible with God.”
Now that's something for the newsfeed.
I would love to pray for you. If you can leave your request in the comment box maybe others will join me in lifting up your need, or you can message me on Facebook, or send me an email. And consider yourself hugged.