If you have participated in any type of sports or physical activity-even shoveling snow-you know how important it is to stretch your muscles and do a proper warm up. Failing to correctly warm up can lead to muscle damage, which may quickly side line you from the competition or keep you inactive.
Our African sisters and brothers have been teaching me that there is also a spiritual principal of “warming up.” It is a time where one prepares the heart in order to encounter His voice.
Last week 26 individuals from the Family Strengthening Team (or social workers) from Beautiful Gate South Africa joined us at Oceans Retreat Centre. These amazing people are truly the hands and feet of Jesus to at risk children and families in the midst of a spiritual and physical war zone. Everyday with enormous caseloads they seek to bring hope and healing where darkness seems to rule.
It was a joy for Oceans to host them and lead them in a time of much needed retreat. The theme was “Hearing the Voice of the Father.” Our prayer was for them to get much needed rest and to be refilled by the loving and encouraging voice of their Abba Father.
At the beginning of one of our sessions I asked the MC if perhaps we could limit the singing to just a few songs as we had a lot to cover that morning. He agreed and after a few minutes tried to draw the worship to a close, but he could tell it wasn’t time so he backed away. A few minutes later Patty made her way to the front of the room, but she too backed away. The singing got louder and more passionate as their voices poured out of the depths of their souls. It became a holy moment where no teaching could compare to what the Holy Spirit was doing. When I finally got up to share, hearts were wide open to hear. Their spiritual muscles were warmed up.
At the last session of the retreat I invited anyone to share how he or she heard the Father’s voice speak His love. One of the ladies described how during that extended worship time she was under a severe spiritual attack. She could feel this heavy weight upon her that was crushing her spirit. She even moved locations in the room to try to avoid it. However, as the worship continued she said the Father broke through the demonic bondage and freed her by His love. I later thought to myself, what if I ended the time of worship just after a few minutes as planned. She would have missed the break through that God chose to give her through extended worship.
My western mind was conscious of hearing God’s voice within a designated time frame. My western mind continues to do battles with the clock. How often have I missed a spiritual victory because I tried to rush into His presence without “warming up” and waiting on Him?
My African brothers and sisters teach me again and again the truth in Psalm 130:
“…This is why I wait upon you, expecting your breakthrough, for Your Word brings me hope. I long for You more than any watchman would long for the morning light. I will watch and wait for You, O God, throughout the night. O Israel keep hoping, keep trusting, and keep waiting on the Lord, for He is tenderhearted, kind, and forgiving, He has a thousand ways to set you free!”(Psalm 130:5-7 TPT)
During this Christmas season spend seek time “warming up” with worship AND wait with great anticipation for the gift His presence will bring!