“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26)
The thing about a mountain is there are hard places. Places where the Spirit of God cannot tread or take root because of the stoniness of our own hearts. And here’s the thing – we don’t even know it. All we know is what we know, and we operate out of those familiar patterns of behavior that govern who we are.
But here’s another thing – we’re not who we once were in Christ. He is making us new. In Him, we are learning how to operate differently – by faith, and to express our faith in love. This is, according to the apostle Paul, the only thing that really counts (Galatians 5:6). But we are dealing with so much more baggage than that. At least I am. There are two places, or rather, two practices that have literally revolutionized the way I see this problem in recent weeks: worship and intercessory prayer.
Standing in the Cracks
“If we stand in the openings of the present moment, with all the length and breath of our faculties unselfishly adjusted to what it reveals, we are in the best condition to receive what God is always ready to communicate”. –T.C. Upham
All I knew is that I had been struggling for months. God had asked me to step back from the worship ministry – a ministry I love and had never thought of leaving. I had so hoped this break would be temporary, but I was really starting to wonder by this point. I had prayed about it consistently and always landed at the same place – “not yet”. Nothing was changing and I didn’t know what it meant.
I was having a mild breakdown over this in worship a couple weeks ago. It was part lamenting, part soul-searching for whatever it was that was keeping me from returning to where my heart so wanted to be. Then something started to happen in worship. I can’t even describe it with the power and clarity by which it came. The best I can explain is that my understanding opened suddenly and I could see things – things about me, things about my involvement in the ministry. I could see that I had been holding offenses in my heart on some kind of a subconscious level. I want to emphasis the fact that I didn’t even know I was doing this until that moment.
Through worship, I had some kind of supernatural exchange with the Lord. As I came to Him in broken repentance, He did something real and tangible inside of me. It reminded me of the way He made covenants in the Old Testament. God instructed Abraham to bring an animal sacrifice and arrange it on the altar. Then, He came down with fire and consumed everything. “A smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces” (Genesis 15:17). As I offered Him my sacrifice of praise, He passed between the pieces of my heart arranged on the altar and burned away everything holding me back. I had been the barrier to my own return. Hard places incinerated in the fires of Holy Love.
Standing in the Gap
I had the privilege of being the recipient of an intercessory prayer ministry last week at church. You hear people say, “I am standing in the gap” for others, but I really experienced it firsthand. I have not been able to depart from this sense of utter blessedness. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). The image seared in my mind is of one of the intercessors- what she did in our session. As we were praying, she quietly walked over to an open space in the room and laid face down on the floor. I was humbled that she would bow before the Lord of Heaven on my behalf.
What a gift this ministry has been to me! Intercessory prayer is like pinholes of light raining down from heaven, piercing through the murky darkness of the mind, the muddy mire of the soul. Just like concentrating the light of the sun onto a magnifying glass, intercession has ignited a holy fire inside of me. I want to know God and the power of His resurrection in my life. I desire truth in my inner being. I want to be free from all the places hindering my union and fellowship with Him. “This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
But there is a secret in the knowing.
“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
We are all crack pots, dependent upon the mercy and healing hand of God. This is the secret known only by God – and maybe the intercessors. We all have hard places, the stony remains of deceitful hearts. We cannot truly know Him apart from His will and desire to know us. And this is the most incredible part – He desires to know and be known by us. The Lord of the Universe has His eyes of love on you and me. He stands ready to break through our rocky hearts and lavish us in amazing grace.