Reigniting Embers

This week, we are harkening back to our past. The blogs this week have been written by past directors who are a part of Wesley’s rich history partnering with God.  Even now, we have opportunity to step into more of what God was doing then. We are “re-digging the wells of our fathers” (Genesis 26:18).

Re-digging Wells of Prayer

“It was April 2007. I was pouting in the back of my parents' minivan on the way to a campus tour I didn't want to do, when we drove past Wesley. I remember very vividly thinking, “This is where you will be.” It was clear. It was unquestionable. It was the opposite of everything I wanted. It was God. Immediately my heart shifted. I told my parents before we got to the next traffic light, I would come to Georgia so that I could go to Wesley. Even then, as a prospective student, the grace God had given Wesley to hear His Voice in prayer began to awaken a fire in me. What I didn't know sitting in that back seat was that for the next ten years, God was going to use what He was doing at Wesley in me and many others- to awaken passion, burn away chaff, and build a fire of prayer that would last. He was going to keep speaking to me about Wesley. It wasn't always so clear, I didn't always respond quickly, but God used His voice to ignite faith in me that would burn through seasons of downpour and drought.

The Wednesday night before spring break my sophomore year (2009), we had a time of prayer and commissioning for all those going on mission trips. Bob had everyone going on a trip stand up and asked for those around them to lay hands on them and pray. The whole room spoke to God. People who had never been corporately prayed for experienced the power of God in the laying on of hands. It was incredible- the Lord was breathing life and freedom into people. There were healings, several healings including some that are still healed and some that were temporary (like my deaf ear which was opened for the rest of the service). There was so much faith. Desperation turned into confidence as God continually showed up when we prayed. It was not uncommon to introduce two of my friends on campus and hear one say, “I know you, you prayed for me.” There was a hunger in our hearts for God to break out revival, to see people saved, healed, delivered, and set free to live the abundant life Jesus bought for them. The Holy Spirit showed up in crazy ways. People were on fire for God and the flames were intense.

When you see God move with that much power, when you see His willingness surpass your asking, you don't have to work very hard to pray, hear God's voice or even obey. We didn't focus on prayer life at Wesley because it was so easy. Hearing his voice was easy, obeying His word was easy. It seemed as though an accelerant was poured on each student, and Wesley grew quickly. Fertile soil allows everything to grow, in time you see both fruit and weeds.

As we outgrew our building, God began to expose that which had spiritually overgrown. We began to see pride divide students between those who manifested (physically/verbally experienced God) and those who didn't. There became a sense of spectacle instead of awe in our services. Intercessors began to ask for protection and covering instead of “more, Lord.” I remember talking to students who attended other campus ministries and watching them physically step back when Wesley was mentioned, saying, “Wesley is intense”. The fire God had ignited was being refined, and the flames which raged as wildfire were beginning to reveal where wreckage had been left behind. Students loved God, but the sacred had lost place to the spectacular, and God began burning the excess away to rebuild us in prayer. God did not let the fire die, but began to direct and channel it to build embers that could sustain heat.

In the years that followed, we asked hard questions of God and heard Him answer in strategic systematic ways. God's voice became quieter and required more attention and sensitivity. He gave Bob and the directors new clarity of vision. We adopted a new mission statement to simplify our call to the campus. Bob called the prayer staff to refocus from strictly intercession and prophetic discernment to building personal prayer lives. Prayer and Freshley Prayer became places anyone could be part of a community that would learn together who God was and what communicating with Him in prayer was like. We began to teach students how to build a life of prayer that included but wasn't limited to passionate, desperate intercession. Small fires were kindled in hundreds of students, many of whom would have turned around at the door during a service in 2009. In my life, a shift came. Prayer was no longer primarily strong encounters, easy obedience, and intense passion. Not every prayer had faith. The weeds were identified and the removal began. But I found three practices that began to rebuild my own prayer life with God in my ministry and personal life.

First, the only sure foundation is Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:11). The first thing Jesus said when He taught the disciples to pray, was how to address God (Matthew 6, Luke 11). Prayer is based on who God is- not just your current experience of Him. When we see the flames of passion rise within us, it is easy to talk to God, but when we don't know where He is or what He is doing, we need to press into what the Scriptures tell us is true about who He is. I relied a lot on the different names of God in this season of building. When I felt hidden, I prayed to the God who sees (Genesis 16:13). When I couldn't understand, I asked the Teacher and Rabbai (Isaiah 30:19-21). When I was offended and hurt, I went to the One who is Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11). God is giving and gracious, but also jealous, righteous, all-powerful and above all else holy. A right understanding of God leads us to take the right stance before Him. For me to approach God in prayer is a privilege I can no longer take for granted. We are to approach the throne of God with confidence, so that we may find mercy and grace in our time of need. We get to approach God only because Jesus was actually completely forsaken by God on our behalf.

Prayer based on the reality and holiness of God is filled with repentance and humility. When things were hard spiritually at Wesley, when I felt disconnected personally from God, I took time to repent. I would ask the staff to repent. I asked God to search me and expose sin, then as it came to light (sometimes in action not in prayer), I would ask God to forgive me. I would ask God to loose me from the sin and bind me to Himself. The baptism of repentance came before the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and my prayer life needed to get that straight. Repentance always precedes revival, because God cannot dwell with sin. Personally, corporately, repentance realigns us with the reality of God. We must build our prayers on who God is and repent until we line up with Him.

The most powerful tool in shaping my prayer life was learning how to pray Scripture. As a student I prayed for what I wanted to see, but as God built my prayer life in His Word, I learned to pray for what He wanted to see. Learning who God is and what He has said gives me confidence to ask for His will and believe I will see it. How do we know the will of God? We pray His Word. When we are afraid we pray Hebrews 13:5-7 which leads us to repent and stand in faith. When we feel ashamed, we pray Hebrews 12:2 which tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus who despised shame and conquered it in His resurrection. When we want to know God's will for our life, we pray Deuteronomy 10:12-13, asking how to live out all Moses says. When we pray Scripture, we are familiar with the language and messages of God. We are able to see God moving in places others don't recognize. We begin to feel the warmth of His Presence even among those who have grown cold. Where it looks as though the fire of the Spirit has been extinguished, we see that the fire of God cannot be contained or put out. Praying the Word of God both written (in the Bible) and spoken (prophetic or personal in prayer) fans into flame faith based on who God is and prayers that move His heart.

Building a life of prayer is not a simple or in all honesty enjoyable process. But if you will discipline your prayer life until God awakens desperation, you will enjoy and not be ravaged by the flames of the Spirit. You see, where wildfires have raged, the soil is changed. The passionate prayers of my years as a student readied the ground for new growth. The years that followed built personal prayer and devotional lives that were rooted in who God is, not just on what He is doing. When it seems like God is still, like the fire has gone out, I have learned that His unchanging nature builds embers that burn hot enough to ignite whenever He chooses to breathe again. In that stillness you can study His Word, pray His promises and wrestle with the hard things. You can sit with God in His holiness and allow Him to search you, know you and refine you. In the midst of a pandemic and quarantine and limited community, you are not alone. You are invited to the deep work of building a fire that won't be put out.

In the fire, when every surface is consumed, what will remain within you?
In the stillness as all the momentum dies down, are you still burning for God?
When God breathes on you, Will you be ready to ignite?”

Author | Kelsey Parham
Student 2007-2011
Intern 2011-2013
Associate Director 2013-2017





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