This mission and the recovery were much more difficult than I ever imagined it would be. Five months later, I have pieced together team pictures to make this video showing just a little of what we did. Most could not be photographed because we were involved in prayer walks on the streets of Moshi, Tanzania, Africa during the days and ministering on the streets of the red light district at night. Our ministry ended with a banquet for the girls and ladies we met there.
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. ~ Ezra 8:21
Our Pastors have called a time of corporate prayer and fasting during the forty days leading to Easter. In fasting we deny ourselves, temporarily afflicting our flesh so that we can be made sensitive to the voice of God and His plan and will.
When the Israelites were released from captivity, to return home and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra called a corporate fast. It was not to focus on God giving what they felt they wanted and needed. Instead, the motive was “to seek of Him a right way.” Ezra then gives a three-fold purpose to the fast that still stands as a great outline for believers during times of corporate prayer and fasting. The purpose – “that we might afflict ourselves before our God …”
1. … to seek of Him a right way for us.
The “us” was the leaders Ezra gathered for the journey. Pray for your Pastors. Ask God to show them His right way and vision. But also as leaders in your home, ask God to show you His right way for your path and family.
2. … for our little ones.
The little ones were the children and represented the future of the Israelite nation, the heritage of the Lord. During your fast, pray that God would order the steps your children but also this entire generation.
3. … for all our substance.
The substance was everything in their possession. As you fast, ask God to make you sensitive to the way He wants you to manage your resources. Pray that His will would be done in the finances and possessions that He has entrusted to you.
God has done amazing things in my life over the last 24 hours to encourage me and remind me that He hears, He cares, He answers prayer, and He has and always had a plan for me and for my life…and His plans are very specific and personal.
Earlier this week, I was in a state of desperation in prayer. I felt that loneliness necessary for going deeper places with God. Necessary, but painful to the core. I cried out to God during morning prayer on Monday and asked Him to please have someone pray in agreement with Him for me! Nothing seemed to come of the prayer right then, but later I felt a lifting of the despair. Although the burden was still present and I could see it, I knew I was no longer the one carrying it.
Yesterday my mom brought me a letter she had found in a box. It was written in 1980 and it was to me from my Religion professor at Gardner-Webb University. Dr. Ronnie Prevost was my professor but also went to my church. Over the few years I knew him, not only was he my professor but he was my Sunday School teacher and also a father figure. I babysat his kids, so I was close to his wife and all of his family. They loved me. When the boy that I thought I would marry showed up on my birthday with another girl Dr. Prevost is the one that saw how that sent me into a spiral of destructive behavior. My heart was broken and his heart was broken for me as he truly thought of me and treated me as a daughter. In the letter he wrote these words, “Melissa, you need to find your own special place and purpose in this world. You need to do your best to move forward. Just do your best, ok? And Melissa, always keep in mind Proverbs 3:6 ‘In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.’”
That touched my heart to be reminded of how God has ALWAYS put into my path the spiritual parents, friends, and teachers needed to help with that particular part of the path…as I acknowledged Him. My dad died in 1975. The Prevost family was a major part of my life from 1977-1981 when they moved away to work at a college in Alabama. Sometimes I forget all the people God has woven together in His great plan to help raise me and encourage me, correct me and love me. Now please don’t misunderstand, I had the best and most Godly mom and so blessed to have her always there for me, but I have had quite a few others in many stages of life that God provided. I still do, praise God. What a good, good Father who blesses me so!
I received a text this morning from a lady I used to go to church with. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in almost 6 years. She wrote… I can’t get you off of my heart and mind this week. Not sure why, but the Lord keeps bringing your name to me several times a day. When that happens, I just pray.
He hears. He cares. He answers. He has a plan for you and for me. Always has. Still does. Always will.
I find myself stuck somewhere between two messages I have heard this week – laying a dream on the altar and not giving up on a dream. I guess in God both can work together for His good purposes.
The problem with laying a dream on the altar is that you have to actually take the steps to kill it -yourself. The problem with the death of a dream is that it was only tangible to you and God and so for the most part no one else gets your grief and so they tend to try to redirect it toward something perhaps totally unrelated.
Last night I was out having a quiet dinner with my son and we ran into my group of friends going to Africa on a mission trip this winter. They had all been getting their yellow fever shots. Ouch! They said it hurt. Don’t know about that but it sure pinched like crazy to have to deal with my own feelings in the middle of Cracker Barrel. I admit it hurts not being a part of the mission and group. It hurts to be on the outside when I get together with these friends and this mission is now the topic of conversation. It hurts and yet I am still interested and have a heart of love and I still am supportive and want to always offer life giving words regarding this mission and my friends willingness to go and share the Gospel.
So I deal privately with my heart and I sit here and the tears roll. I have happiness for them and the changes that will come in their lives. I have happiness for those they will meet along the way. They have lots of projects with orphans and widows and pastors and ladies that have come off the streets of Tanzania. I so wanted to be a part of the ministry to the ladies and widows there.
So I do what I know I am allowed – pray and sow and lay my dreams and plans on the altar.
Interesting how ours seem so “perfect” but God alone has perfect plans.
And then there is the other message of don’t give up….
I know God has a work for me but I am often reminded by the Lord that my work at this time is intercession, and serving and supporting other’s visions and dreams. Not that the Lord hasn’t given me my own dreams too but it is all related. As it says in Luke 16:12:
And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?
No matter what, when you know your assignment has proceeded straight from the Lord’s mouth, no matter the opposition, it is an assignment full of life and joy and a mighty expectation.
My wheels began turning this morning after I read Greg Mauro’s article in Ministry Today Magazine titled “Are You Called to Another’s Man’s Ministry?”
It reminded of a story Evangelist Rachel Hickson told once. When she was first called into the ministry, she worked as an intercessor with Christ for All Nations and Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. For many of those early years, while Reinhard Bonnke would preach to tens of thousands and minister healing and deliverance to thousands, Rachel would intercede each night UNDER the platform where Bonnke was standing. It was her job and assignment. Rachel was faithful. It was during these times of intercession that she not only saw others healed and saved and called, but she herself was miraculously healed as she had been in an automobile accident that left her unable to walk. She saw deliverance herself- as she was so incredibly shy when she started that she could not talk to others normally (sound familiar-Rachel’s testimony and her selfless gift of her teachings are what gave me the hope that God would deliver me as He had her) Today, Rachel Hickson is an Evangelist and Author and yet, still and always an Intercessor. She travels the world leading others to salvation but also encouraging and teaching the saints- equipping them in areas of prayer and God’s supernatural gifts.
Many times over the years since I was saved, I have been called to the prayer room during a service. Honestly, sometimes I have not wanted to leave the atmosphere of what was happening. Sometimes I resented that no one would come alongside no matter how much we pleaded for help. Seemed no one cared. Still, I knew that prayer was my assignment and God had spoken to me of interceding during services…much like some serve in the nursery or on the praise team or wherever. Prayer was my assignment.
There were times I found it incredibly easy. There were times it was so difficult. During one of the difficult seasons I found myself telling God over and over that I felt like I was missing something special out in the service. I would say God please let YOUR GLORY flood this room TOO. Over and over God would tell me that He would never leave me out.
One day God said to me Words that I keep always with me and close to my heart. They were Words of correction but great LOVE. He took me to Psalm 63:2
“To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.”
Beautiful, hopeful thought….and then He said, “Missy, your real rebellion is feeling like I have put you on a shelf in the midst of the action. I haven’t put you on a shelf; I’ve put you UNDER the platform with JESUS!”
He never left me out of what He was doing, He was using me also to do His own will. I have thought so often of those words and that two year time of being back there with him during those services and I know this – what He was doing, was He was trying to make a minister of me. When He brought me back into the services I was different.
Now when I am in a service of another minister that I know God has specifically called and assigned me to pray and intercede for, I see myself and position my heart with Jesus….UNDER THE PLATFORM. What a very special place and indeed a treasured assignment!
I was in prayer this morning and heard part of a song by Luke Wood:
I want to stand in Your counsel
And sit at Your table
And speak to You face to face as a friend…
Before I got past this first verse, I felt like crying. It was such a necessary reminder of what I’m after and what I feel I have been left alive on this earth to do. Even as I labor in prayer and as I prepare to preach (there, I said it) and with everything else I have going on from day to day, this is the heart of who I am. In all my doing and all my ministry, if I haven’t stood in His counsel, it benefits me nothing. If I haven’t met God and heard His voice and had His own fire touch my heart, not only will my witness be that much less effective, but I will become dull on the inside. I desperately don’t want that to happen. I can’t afford it.
Life is too short to not really know God. The hour is too urgent to babble away with lofty sounding ideas that have nothing of the weight of heaven upon them. As exciting and glorious as it sounds to stand in the counsel of the Lord, it is more than that — it is a matter and life and death for those called to be His messengers. It is a matter of hearts being alive and our witness being powerful, or our hearts growing cold and our words falling to the ground. He is coming back soon, and we must know His voice in that hour.
This journey is a painful one. As other lyrics in the song go, “Let my heart be torn in two until Your will is mine.”
I personally am hitting head-on the reality that in and of myself – I have nothing. I’m nowhere near where I want to be as far as hearing God and then responding rightly when I do hear. But by the grace of God, I want to continue to say yes, continue to rise up and follow, once and for all to remove that garment of fear that the enemy keeps trying to fasten back on me. No more! uh uh NO I will not cower to intimidation any longer and I will continue to cry out to hear His voice until the day I see Him face to face…
I want to stand in Your counsel
to sit at Your table
And speak to You face to face as a friend
I want to stand in Your fire wherever Your eyes fall
May You find me faithful to Your heart
Let me be found…
With a heart after You
May Your eyes find this heart loyal to You
May You be all that’s on my mind all of the time
Let my heart be torn in two until your will is mine
Dearly Beloved of my soul
JESUS CHRIST said: “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” or in another translation, “Pray all the time and don’t quit.” (Luke 18:1) and Paul said this: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17)
“How long are you going to continue this praying thing?” That is the question someone just asked me. Wow…how do I answer that? My life is very much a developing life of prayer. I take these verses literally and so I have purposed in my heart to try to figure how to live this life on earth while also living a life of prayer. To me ending my prayer life would kill the person that I am as much as someone killing me physically. I am not ashamed of my life of prayer but I really don’t discuss my daily schedule unless I am asked. Most don’t understand this life and many are frankly offended by it. The longer I pray and the more I pray the smaller my circle gets. Maybe some don’t understand my heart or maybe they don’t understand theirs. The flesh part of me would like nothing more than to be accepted and understood and liked by people. The part of me that was forgiven of so much and changed so radically and quickly by such a merciful God can never ignore nor do I want to ignore the debt paid for me. I feel nothing but absolute total love to the one that set me free. God changed me and showed me through His Word that I was to know Him in ways that I had never considered.
I asked for it all…this change. I said I would give Him whatever He wanted. He asked me into a life of prayer. Nothing has changed me more or continues to change and then sustain me than knowing my Lord the way that I do through prayer and the Word…they go hand in hand for me. It is glaring to me in these days as I watch and as I study, how little we all pray…even me. I am nowhere near the “without ceasing.” I have heard some try to explain and justify my actions as a calling. Was I “called” to this life? No. I may be assigned to certain ministries but I believe we are all to pray and so there is no waiting to be called for prayer any more than I would be called to something like obedience. Both are expected of me and demanded of me… but in the end I do it because I love God. I love Him. When I said whatever I did mean it. Love gives whatever is needed and to me it is so obvious that what God needs most is PRAYER PRAYER PRAYER.
There is this great saying: “Find out what God most wants done and do it!” Sounds simple.
You want to see the world evangelized? So does Jesus. In fact Luke 10:2 says: Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
I have heard sermons on that verse saying GO and I have to tell you most everything in me wants to GO. But I want my definition of go, my will. Jesus didn’t say go, He said PRAY. If you GO, only ONE of you will go. What will that do to a huge harvest? But if you PRAY, hundreds can go. PRAYER ENABLES GOD TO CALL AND EQUIP AND SEND WORKERS INTO HIS HARVEST FIELD. I have found myself saying… but God, I want to win souls in Africa! And God says, “Do you know their language?” I say no and He says, “Do you know their customs?” I say no and He says “You pray and I will send someone who already knows the language and the customs.” His Will be done…not mine. So I pray. Does that mean I don’t take care of a need in front of me? Witness to the person across the street? Go into the mission field of my own town? Get outside the prayer room? Absolutely not, but in addition to a life of prayer, not as a substitute for. You want to see the world evangelized? Prayer may be the greatest act of evangelism.
Why are the harvest fields unreaped? I believe it is not because we didn’t GO, but because we didn’t PRAY. I pray because God loves me; I pray because I love God. And you know what? When you think about it, I pray because God loves you. Oh, and I don’t intend to ever stop.