I think all but one the Giving Moments so far have had most directly to do with giving. I’d like to turn the concept on its head this morning, as Carol Thomas did last week, and talk about receiving. The connection between giving and receiving was perhaps best summed up by St. Francis in a line from what is probably his most famous prayer: “For it is in giving that we receive.”
In preparation for speaking today, I was given three prompts from which to choose. I chose this one: “What areas of St. Paul’s parish life or outreach feel most Spirit filled to you? Why?” My answer is the Healing Prayer Ministry, of which I am both a member and a beneficiary. I hope my little story will explain my choice.
During a 10:30 service at the beginning of this year, there was something that really touched a very vulnerable and tender spot deep within me—the place of an old wound that was still bleeding. I struggled the entire service to hold back tears. I had no idea what my problem was, and I wouldn’t until later in the week. What I did know was that I was overcome with despair and struggled to keep my composure. After all, that’s what you want to do when you’re surrounded by 80 people.
Part of me wanted to go for healing prayer, which was offered that day, but there were quite a few people filing out into the vestibule, and I feared making a spectacle of myself. Rather than stand in line, I headed for the ladies room to regain my composure. Surely a little splash of cold water on my face would do the trick, but it didn’t. The other part of me wanted to flee to the parking lot and go home. Instead I took what felt like a middle-of-the-road position: I sat on the waiting pew in the vestibule as far into the corner as I could squeeze myself. I wanted a safe place in which to disappear, I wanted help, and I wanted to stop crying.
Two people from the healing prayer team came up to me at different times and gently asked whether I wanted prayer. I waved them off, saying I didn’t know. The service eventually ended, and a third member of the prayer team sat down next to me. The person rubbed my shoulder lightly but said nothing. By that time I was able to express between sobs what I was feeling. All that person did at first was listen. No judgment. No advice. No commentary. It was followed by a prayer for God’s blessing, and somehow that was enough. Gratefully I stopped crying.
What I experienced in that encounter was love, God’s love. I was in a desolate place, and what I needed to feel was the tenderness and compassion of Jesus. I needed to know that I was not alone, that he was with me. I didn’t need advice or in-depth conversation. I needed love, and that’s what I received out there in the vestibule—God’s love shining—flowing—through the person who sat beside me, touched my shoulder, and prayed for me.
A Spirit-filled ministry? I was drenched with the Holy Spirit that day.