Day ONE: May 23-29

Spiritual Focus // SPIRITUAL GIFTS

By Andrea Larson

A few years back our youngest son, an ardent lover of innovative technology and useful gizmos, gave us an Amazon Alexa device for Christmas. It looked interesting, but I was certainly a bit wary of it listening in to our conversations and was definitely reluctant to take the time to learn how to use it. So… it went into the closet for the better part of a year. When there was an actual lull in the action of our busy lives, my husband, Rob, finally took the time to get it set up in our kitchen.

We quickly discovered that Alexa was very responsive to our queries and would light up, ready to assist, even when it heard its name on a commercial in the other room! Wikipedia describes Alexa as a “virtual assistant” that is capable of “voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information, such as news.” And that’s just the basic list. I had no idea what I had been missing!

In just a short while, I was using Alexa to set timers for cooking, to play my favorite Christian radio station and to pull up a playlist for “Italian dinner party” during my COVID date nights at home. I learned to turn Alexa’s receiver off when providing personal identification information  over the phone. Now, I find Alexa quite useful and a marvel of technology!

Just as we had reluctance to pull Alexa out of the closet to become useful, sometimes I have similarly kept my spiritual gifts “packed away in mothballs”, so to speak. I know I have them, but I make little use of them for long stretches of time. I’m not always sure how they all work. I often don’t stop long enough trying to solve a problem on my own to ask for help.

Take, for example, the gift of tongues that enables me to have a prayer language to connect more directly to the Father through the Holy Spirit. I received my “prayer language” many years ago while visiting with some Christian friends who were having a gathering of believers in their home. Since I didn’t grow up with the concept of “speaking in tongues”, I will freely admit to you that at first, it seemed pretty weird to me at best and kind of scary at worst. But the more I learned about it, the more I was assured that it was actually a wonderful gift from our very real and living assistant, the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit will not force anyone to do anything against his or her own will, my prayer language came at a time when I asked for it in a quiet and peaceful way. I was a full participant in receiving the gift.

Since the beginning of 2021 (yet another seriously stressful year), I have been committed to spiritual disciplines with more determination than ever before. During the period of time when several members of our New Hope family were sick and hospitalized, I feared for their lives – I wanted to pray with great fervor, but was often at a loss for what more to say as the Lord held the lives of these dear ones in His hands. In my desperation, I began praying daily in my spiritual language. I was, quite frankly, overwhelmed and relied on the Holy Spirit to intercede.

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” 

Romans 8: 26-27

I have felt “at the end of my rope” in prayer many times, anguishing over children, praying for healing and more. Those would be the times when I would “pull out” my prayer language gift. But a few months ago, I thought that it would be a good idea to pray in the spirit for 5 minutes every day, as a spiritual discipline. It was hard at first, but now I often go far over my time, as I entrust to the Lord the very, very many concerns of my heart. And we are seeing some amazing breakthroughs – answers are coming to prayers that have been ongoing for YEARS!

What about you? Doesn’t it sound amazing to have a way to pray when you are tired or disappointed or overwhelmed and don’t know what to say anymore? You can have this gift also. Pastor Isaac spoke about being Spirit filled on Sunday. Perhaps you have already asked and received or perhaps you are still waiting. I would like to share with you a few things that I learned on the way that may be helpful to you also:

1.   You have to use your voice.

  (BEST TIP that came from my husband)

Now, this sounds intuitive, but I actually thought the first time I asked for this gift that the Holy Spirit would “take over” speaking for me and sounds would just come out of my mouth. (No wonder I was hesitant! And of course, nothing happened.) You have complete volitional control. You have to open your mouth and start talking without directing specific thoughts/words. The best way I have found to describe it is to connect your heart to your mouth, bypassing your brain.

2.   You don’t have to speak in tongues. You get to. 

There is nothing that says that “speaking in tongues” makes you a superior Christian, just like there’s nothing that says learning to use Alexa makes me a technology whiz. It is just really, really helpful.  

3. No special knowledge is required. 

Whether you have committed your life to the Lord 5 minutes ago or 5 years ago, whether you have entire books of the Bible memorized or not a single verse, you are a candidate to receive this gift if you are a follower of Jesus. 

4.   If you’ve asked in faith to be filled with the Holy Spirit, then you have become Spirit filled.

When I first asked to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I did not receive a prayer language right away, but I definitely noticed a difference in my life. I had people tell me that my response to those inklings I got from the Holy Spirit were “answers to prayer”. I had many more “coincidences” happen, that I like to call “God-incidences”. The Lord was using me more than ever before. There is nothing more exciting than being part of God’s plan to renew the world!

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”  Acts 2:4

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