"Several months ago I was invited to be on the Life Today television show with James and Betty Robison. During the interview they asked me to relate a story that happened many years ago at the end of a large Christian women's conference event in the Midwest. Kathy Troccoli was leading worship at this particular event, and she concluded by inviting women in need of prayer to come forward to the platform while she sang a song based on Psalm 23.
Now, I truly believe that inviting individuals to pray is almost always a good thing, but you know how people sometimes get whipped into an emotive frenzy in spiritual settings? Well, this was one of those times. Over a thousand women surged foward and began to cry and carry on and loudly express their distress. Personally, I'm a firm believer in weeping before the Lord -- even whining if you need to. And I appreciate God's assurance that he counts our troubles and stores tears. Scripture makes it clear that no sincere grief on our part is ever ignored by the Heavenly Father.
However, much of the sorrow expressed at this conference seemed to be more self-induced than Holy-Spirit-generated, and I found myself thinking, Wow, we need to do something to shift the focus back to God's goodness and away from our misery! Kathy was thinking the same thing, because she wrapped up the song, she marched over to where I was hovering at the edge of the stage, shoved the microphone toward me, and said authoritatively, "Pray, Lisa!"
A little flustered by all the drama, I wasn't sure exactly where to begin. But I've found that even much smaller groups of women typically include a few who are struggling in their marriage, some who are worried about their prodigal children, others who are suffering with cancer, and sadly at least a handful who recently lost someone they loved. So I simply started praying some of God's promises: that He's near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, that His name is a strong tower, and righteous can run to it and find refuge. Just as I was getting on a roll, I sensed God tap me on the shoulder and tell me to pray something else. Now I didn't hear God's audible voice as Abraham or Moses did, but the voice in my head was unmistakably His. John 10:1-5 assures Christians we can recognize our Redeemer's voice. And I couldn't ignore it.
I have to admit, however, that I wanted to ignore it, because I was certain the words he was impressing on my heart to pray would be about as welcome as a vegan at a National Cattleman's conference. I couldn't help thinking, They killed prophets in the Old Testament, Lord. May I please just say "Amen" and be done with it?
Yet God's spirit continued poking me so insistently that I knew it'd be overt disobedience to refuse His request. So I prayed for women who were struggling with their sexuality and living in lesbian relationships. Yeah, I know. It's not a prayer you hear very often in a setting where most people are wearing matching purses and shoes. I don't remember any details about what happened immediately after my prayer that day. At least no one pelted me with rocks, and within a few hours I was safely on a plane headed back to Nashville.
A few weeks later I received a letter from a young woman named Karen who'd been at the event. She explained that she'd been attending that conference for years, not because she enjoyed it, but to appease her mother. Karen had been raised in a Christian home but rebelled in college through excessive drinking, promiscuity, and homosexual relationships. Since she lived on the other side of the state from her conservative mama, she'd been able to keep her prodigal ways a secret. Karen wrote, "I don't know if you remember, but the prayer time at the end of the conference was really emotional."Yeah, I remember!
As all those women gathered around the platform that day, Karen had stayed put in her top-row seat at the back of the convention center with her arms crossed and thinking, Ugh, I hate this! These women are a bunch of dramatic hypocrites, and nothing that's been said all day applies to me. In that moment, she wrote in her letter, she sort of dared God to show up by silently praying, God, if you're real, I dare you to make that lady - she had no idea who i was - say the word "lesbian," because I've been here for seven years in a row and haven't heard anybody talk about what I'm walking through.
Seconds later, when I said that word in my prayer, she was so shocked that she bolted out of her seat and escaped to the bathroom, where she stayed until the conference was completely over. Then she walked out to her car by herself, feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and unsure of how to handle what seemed to be an answer from a God she'd nearly stopped believing in.
A week later Karen was driving down the highway in anguish because she'd lost her job and her latest girlfriend in quick succession. Despairing of her very life, she cried out to God and basically asked Him the same thing she had the previous weekend. "God if you're real, please help me find you." After her candid request, she absent-mindedly turned on her radio and was surprised to hear Kathy Troccoli singing the same song she'd sung at the end of the conference. Karen explained that she never listened to inspirational music and wasn't sure how her stereo got tuned in to that station! Then, even more astonishing, instead of a dee-jay's voice or a commercial coming on when the song was over, the station aired my prayer, and she heard that word a second time. She described the experience as being so unsettling -- and so unmistakably God -- that she felt compelled to pull her car over to the shoulder of the road and ask Jesus to forgive her and take control of her life.
How amazing are the ways that Jesus pursues us? Has He ever pursued you like this before? Or maybe used you in His pursuit of someone else?
I am grateful for a father who would go to the ends of the earth just to pursue ME. And YOU.