This past weekend, my church did a night of prayer and worship starting at 7:14 pm Saturday the 14th, and ended at 7:14 am Sunday morning. Sounds extreme huh?.. It kinda was, but in the best and potentially coolest of ways. The entire evening was to kick off a 40 day freedom fast, of which I chose to give up sweets (more on this later I am sure).
I did a post about my view of When Men Worship the Lord, but this post is more about the entire experience for me.
My intention heading into the evening was, to be there until I got tired, figuring it would be somewhere in the 2-3am vicinity that I would actually end up leaving. So, when my friend left around 11, I did not think I would be far behind her, especially knowing how much stuff I had to get done on Sunday and because I had been fairly tired all week.
I have never done all night prayer and worship alone or with anyone else, so I had no idea what to expect heading into the night... Which in this case I guess is a good thing.
When I got there, my first overwhelming thought of the evening was that there were too many people, and they were all too close to me... and it was really warm. I mean, do not get me wrong, normally I love being close to people, I enjoy being surrounded by people, giving and getting hugs, most of the time I do not mind being touched by friends and people I know, and I was really excited there were so many people there. However, when I worship my Lord and Savior, it is intensely personal and private to me; almost more than anything else. Not to mention the fact that, I am a swayer when I worship (thanks Dad for that gene), I move, I raise my hands, I sway, I bounce around, all depending on how the music moves me. But, there were so many people that I literally had no room to move, and I did not want to bump into those around me for fear of interrupting their worship time.
Once I settled into realizing it would be a while before I was able to sway and move freely, I began the task of searching my heart to let go of the things that would hinder my communication with Christ. It took me oh, about .001 seconds to identify the burden on my heart. Lovely.
After my friend left at 11, I moved up next to another friend, mostly because I would rather worship next to someone who knows me, just in case the Lord decides to do some real work and I turned into a blabbering fool. Thankfully by the time I moved to join my friend almost half of the people had left already and I was able to worship without worrying about bumping into someone else's worship experience.
Every hour or two they would transition into a new worship leader while one of the pastors talked or shared for a bit about what God was putting on their heart. It was really a neat experience, and while somewhat structured, it was actually organic enough to make sense and flow with the Holy Spirit. The neat thing about having so many different people lead worship throughout the night was how it all ebbed and flowed do to the different leaders. There were periods of time when the worship was powerful and exciting, and other times it was raw and seeking, some ushered into praise, while still others lead us into contemplation and reflection. It was a fantastic experience from just the worship leader's anointing alone!
What amazed me afterwards about the entire thing, and as I began processing through what happened, how in the world did I end up being there the full 12 hours?! The first real thing that struck me was, it took me EIGHT HOURS to deal with the burden on my heart. Eight hours of constantly in the presence of God working through my fears, my anxiety, my desire to control, and finally relenting to letting my Lord deal with it. I spent the first seven hours begging for a clear answer, I just wanted to know for certain what His plan was and where He is leading me. Finally around hour eight I still did not have a specific answer, but an entirely overwhelming sense of "Peace, I'm here." No form of do this or that, no action plan, but an outpouring reminding that the plan is in motion, my job is to let go and let God, and remember He is with me. However, just before I realized I was at peace I began crying and saying over and over "Abba, Father, I need you." It was an interesting moment when I realized I was at peace once more because I was beginning to get tired, and had curled up in the chair to listen to other people talk about the various things God had been laying on their heart to share, and in the midst of someone sharing their heart, they mentioned Abba Father, and instantly I realize I was content, full of peace, and God was going to take care of me. What is even more ridiculous to me is that it took until about hour eleven before I really felt God at my core.
What I also find interesting and fairly ridiculous about the entire thing is how long it took for me to let go and relax in the presence of God, my Savior. EIGHT HOURS before I was finally able to relinquish control and let go of my anxiety. That is a really long time, and kinda stupid that it took me so long. However, the truth of it all is that, it took me four hours for the knot and dread in my stomach to go away, so I suppose it is fitting for it to take another four hours to work itself the rest of the way out of me, and then another three hours for God to wash it all away from my memory enough so that I could only focus on Him, despite my almost delirious state of exhaustion at that point.
I was a little surprised throughout the night at the things that made me tear up or cry. Nothing sparked a fountain or waterfall type of crying, but at several points throughout the night, different things touched me or beckoned me to the feet of Christ enough that I found myself tearing up or in a couple instances crying... It is in those moments that I am thankful my bangs cover my face when my head is bowed, it gives me a semblance of privacy; even though I am fairly certain others can see me wipe my tears away. Like I said earlier, worship between God and I is one of the most personal and private things to me, I really struggle letting others into that area... And, I have also had several people on numerous occasions inform me that I am really bad at letting others know how and what I need prayer over... I am working on it, promise.
The other thing that amazed me about the entire experience was how easily I paid attention the entire 12 hours. I expected to really struggle as the night wore on, but the hours flew by, and my attention span remained... I also was slightly surprised that I did not even come close to falling asleep at any point throughout the night, even when my eyes were closed and I was sitting while praying.
Overall I am so excited to have been able to experience 12 hours of prayer and worship, it was not at all what I was expecting, in the very best of ways, and I am excited to see what God does in the next 36 days of my fast!