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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Midnight on the Second Pew

Off and on throughout the following day, I could think of nothing else; I wanted all that God had for me. Every time I ran into Pam on-campus that day, I stopped her to ask more questions. After class hours, I phoned her dorm room a couple of times to ask more questions. Finally Pam stuck it to me. “Look, Sojourner, why don’t you just ask God to baptize you with His Holy Spirit and be done with it? What can it hurt you to try?” I heard her giggle before she continued. “You’re driving yourself nuts with all the questions. Just ask to be baptized and God will open the Scriptures to you to help you answer those questions.” Hmm? Well, maybe Pam was right. I was likely driving her nuts with all my questions, too; though Pam never complained.

“Okay, I think I’ll do it tomorrow. A good night’s sleep is what I need. I’ll just sleep on it and get back to you, Pam.” Pam agreed that we’d connect after class the following day and we bid one another good night.

Sleep? Who was I kidding! I couldn’t sleep; I just tossed and turned in our bed. Finally, Curt suggested I might want to get myself a cup of something to drink so he could get a bit of sleep himself. Actually, there was only one thing I wanted and it didn’t come in a cup of anything! “Pam? Uh, er, I’m sorry to be phoning you this late. Were you studying, I hope?”

“No, I wasn’t studying but I couldn’t sleep either. I wondered if you might not call.” I heard Pam’s laughter and her reply was all I needed.

“Pam! I just can’t wait until tomorrow. I need the Holy Spirit and I need Him right now! Can we go somewhere to pray? I’ll come get you.” Pam sounded as excited as I was, agreeing to wait for me downstairs.

Opening the glass door to the lobby, I was struck by Pam’s equipment… she was carrying her Bible and the pillow off her bed. “Hmm? Pam? What’s up with the pillow?”

“Oh, that? Well, sometimes it takes a long time for the Holy Spirit to do something. We pray and then we wait. I just wanted to be prepared for the wait.” I hadn’t brought my pillow but figured I should be staying awake as I waited anyway.

Approaching the front doors of the church, Pam answered my raised brows, “The pastor just leaves the church doors unlocked now. He used to lock them, but so many students are asking to come pray at all hours of the night that he figured he needed his sleep. He prays for the Lord to guard the church, just leaving the doors unlocked. So far, so good.”

Pam and I walked to the front of the sanctuary, lowering ourselves to the top step of the altar. Pam read a few Scriptures and then laid her hands on my head. “Father, Sojourner really loves you and longs to have all that you have for her. She has been born again* and does enjoy your Presence. She has received the salvation that has freed her from the grip of sin and death through the shed blood of Jesus. We thank you for that, dear Jesus. Sojourner wants to totally surrender her life to you and asks that you would fill her with Your Holy Spirit to enable Sojourner to do all that You will ask of her. Please, dear Jesus, baptize Sojourner with Your Holy Spirit.” I prayed a simple prayer of request, repeating the lines after Pam. “Okay, now, we wait.”

“But, how will I know when I’ve waited long enough?”

“Oh, you’ll know. You’ll never be the same again. One thing that may happen is that you will open your mouth to pray and find that another language will come out of your mouth. Don’t be afraid of that; it’s what the Bible calls praying with other Tongues.”

“No chance of that, Pam! I’m planning to take Greek because we don’t have to speak just read and write the language. I just can’t speak a foreign language.” I shook my head, remembering my failed attempts, but Pam only smiled.

“ It isn’t something that you learn or can understand with your mind. It’s a special prayer language. Some people say it is the evidence of the in-filling of the Holy Spirit but, truly, it isn’t the only one. Don’t let it bother you if you don’t understand what you are praying, should that happen.” Pam chose to stay on the wooden step at the altar and I slipped onto the second wooden pew to wait. It didn’t take long. Pam needn’t have brought her pillow!

Resting my head on my arm, I leaned against the back of the first pew. How I longed for the Holy Spirit to come. I wondered what it would feel like or if I’d hear something or just how I would know He’d come. I began to thank God for all He had done for me, including the previous year’s experience at the cross and being born again. Before I finished my sentence, however, my speech changed. I was flooded from the inside out with a joy and sense of love that cannot begin to be expressed in words. Suddenly, I heard myself speaking a language with a Germanic-sounding dialect. Sounds I had never been able to make came rolling off my tongue like I had been born speaking like that. I couldn’t believe my ears. As I spoke, I was acutely aware of the flood of well-being pouring through my “innermost parts.” Incredible peace.

“Pam! Pam! Listen to this.” I left the pew, approaching Pam but speaking with a solemn voice.

“Yes, Sojourner. That’s it! That’s what is called speaking in Tongues. It is your prayer language. The Holy Spirit is praying through you. It’s kind of like by-passing your intellect and praying directly from the spirit.” Pam was gathering up her pillow, the Bible already in hand.

”So, if that’s right, then I should be able to use my brain to do something else while I am praying in this new language, right?” Pam laughed but agreed, in principle it was possible. Wanting to test this new experience out a bit, I continued praying in a language I didn’t understand, while I mentally did the multiplication tables. YES, it was not a problem to do this. It wasn’t my intellect that was coming up with the prayers; it was deeper than that. Fascinating!

Pam and I left the church but the joy couldn’t be contained. I ran down the steps and leap-frogged over the fire hydrant at the corner of the front yard. I’d never been so excited in my life. God did love me and had given me this most marvelous gift, the in-filling of His Holy Spirit.

Having dropped a sleepy Pam off at the dorm, I drove back to our apartment, singing at the top of my lungs in this new language pouring from my ebullient innards. The new love I felt for the Lord was boiling up and over, as I realized His love for me.

I bounded up our wooden staircase, fumbled with the key in the door lock and changed into my nightgown. I figured if I snuggled up close to Curt and just looked at him sleeping, he’d wake up and ask me what happened at the church. He probably would have, too, but I was just too energized to wait. Instead, I squeezed his arm and planted a kiss on the cheek closest to me. An eye opened and blinked at me. “Oh good, you’re awake, Curt! Let me tell you what happened. I just can’t wait until morning!”

To his credit, Curt listened to every detail, every expressed feeling of the middle-of-the-night encounter. He hugged me, sharing my enthusiasm. When Curt rolled over to finish out what little was left of the time before his alarm buzzed, I prayed that God would give the gift to him, too. I was so tired but feared, if I slept, the new prayer language wouldn’t be there in the morning light. I needn’t have worried.

In the chill of the early morning, I left for class, singing in my new prayer language all the way to campus. It was still there! It would always be there! God loved me and I knew it to the deepest most part of my being.

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