Deacon Arlene Burton offers the Prayer of Encouragement for 4 July 2021 for our country, businesses, frontline and other workers. Deacon Burton owns the copyright to this post. We reprint here with her permission.
My Brothers, Sisters and Friends, we are hoping that you are well but if not, please let us know. Just a reminder that if you or anyone you know needs prayer, please let us know. You can post your prayer request here on our website.
I am extremely grateful to God Almighty for the prompting and guidance of His Holy Spirit, for times of communion with Him. Many of us are knowledgeable about God but I keep seeing a missing link when I assess the actual work and function of the Holy Spirit in what we say and do, the way we seek and consult with Him. I am of the view that part of this challenge came from interpretations about the work and function of the Holy Spirit, our views and importantly, the times spent with Him.
I realised that our history and the way some of us are socialised may impact our position on certain issues concerning the work and function of the Holy Spirit. Anything that falls outside of our understanding causes us to be extremely uncomfortable and even disturbed. I noticed that people will search for their views and understandings in what was said or read and confirm what makes them comfortable. A lot of times people are left confused from discussions because of the feedback that I have received. This happened frequently so it troubled me.
Theological literature has differing interpretations on the working and function of the Holy Spirit. Our tendency though is to search for writers whose interpretations and views are in line with the positions that we have taken. Most of the time, there are areas during discussions concerning the Holy Spirit that could be considered sensitive and conflicting. However, from a denominational standpoint, a position may have been taken, which followers are expected to maintain. Then again, I also noted that such a position may cause disquiet among followers.
Having gone through so many of those foregoing discussions etc., and having had my own experiences I had to make certain decisions. Firstly, I acknowledged that we need to discuss and have a reasonable understanding of the work and function of the Holy Spirit. There will be differing views and beliefs, some of which are passionate and cemented in the minds of the Christian Believer/Follower. Some may be correct, some may not.
Secondly, I had to ask myself the question “What is the essence of God sending His Son to make a selfless sacrifice that tops all others?” The fact is that He made the sacrifice of His life and having done so, He was resurrected from the dead. It was not left that way. He ascended unto His Father. It was not left that way either. He sent His Holy Spirit to comfort us, provide us with gifts, convict us, empower us, counsel us, etc. The follow-up questions are; “What is my role in God’s scheme for humankind?” “How do I fulfil that role? “How should my relationship with Him look?”. This became my focus. Yes, I have to interact with a local body of followers and some issues must be addressed and I do address them. Yet, I still go back to the questions that I ask myself.
You know, one of the main passages of scripture that awakens me is the story of Deacon Stephen; and he mentioned the conflict concerning the Holy Spirit. We know that he was stoned to death because of the bold deposition that he gave in the Sanhedrin/the Jewish High Court. Part of what Stephen said was not gentle so it caused a wild response. He said “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:51-53, NIV).
The words of the deposition were hard for the people to swallow. The people’s beliefs conflicted with those of Stephen’s, so there was disquiet among them. This became the focus to the extent that they stoned him to death. “When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:54-55, NIV; Acts 7:59-60).
Here was a powerful man of God who was so committed to His work and evidently connected to Him. “Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8, NIV). Yet, he faced opposition. “Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen.” (Acts 6:9, NIV). Still, one may say that God was pleased with Stephen because, among other things, His Spirit shone on him. “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15; NIV); (Acts 7:55, NIV, above).
Stephen committed His spirit to God as he took his last breath (Acts 7:59). Even then, some people may not have understood the series of events that happened because of their relationship with God. Many of the times, we get caught up in the noise and we do not experience a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit.
I tell you something. On my hill walk recently, I was at a point where there were a lot of trees and lots of different types of birds are usually in the area. They all had some form of similar sounds. I slightly recalled hearing a knock that was somewhat different from the normal sounds but I was not sure about it. Then, one morning, I heard a sound that was so profound. I stopped and looked around. A bird was hitting its red and black beak on the lighting post. It was a woodpecker. I had not seen one of those birds in such a long time. Hence, it was a refreshing sight that caused a smile to creep on my face and a twinkle of light in my eyes.
What, in the name of Jesus, does that have to do with the Holy Spirit? Ah! I heard the woodpecker on subsequent walks and looked out for him because I am now apprised of the fact that there is one in the area. So when I hear the sound again, I know it was that particular bird because of my experience with it. I understood the ways of the woodpecker because of prior knowledge but I never had such close contact as I did recently.
I have knowledge about the Holy Spirit but my encounter with Him is distinguished from my knowledge of Him. However, there is a coming together of the two that brings an awesomeness to the entire experience. It leaves me in wonder at times resulting in a smile on my face, a twinkle in my eyes and a hold on my heart. Also, the sound is critical, knowing when it is the Holy Spirit prompting and guiding me makes sense. Compare the peck of the woodpecker with the prompting of the Holy Spirit. What do you think?
Lately, I spoke of king Jehoash’s experience, which had to do with the prophet Elisha instructing him to strike the ground with his sword six times. He struck the ground three times instead. He failed to follow the instructions of Elisha resulting in him losing out big time (2 Kings 13:14-20). First of all, if king Jehoash had a relationship with the true King, he would know that it was best to follow the prophet’s instructions. If his relationship with God was that good, he may not even have to seek the prophet. And even if he did, it could be to confirm his understanding.
When the people in the High Court sought Stephen’s response and got it, did they seek God? No! They got angry and killed him. Would you say that their acts were contrary to what was expected of them? As Jehoash did, were they the ones who lost out big time and not Stephen?
What is the essence of your relationship with God? How do you manage it? Do you spend quality time communing with Him? Do you understand your role in His picture of experiences? Are you really carrying out that role? What is your focus? “Think bout it, chat bout it” What are you going to do about it?
Let us pray
Lord, we thank You for today, Your goodness, mercy and love. We acknowledge Your unending and incomparable greatness. We are in awe of You, Lord. Fater, we thank You for sustaining us even in the midst of a pandemic, hurricane season, exam season and just life in general.
We ask, in the name of Jesus Christ, that as individuals, families, communities, Churches, leaders and a country as a whole that You have mercy on us. Forgive all of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Lord, we ask for Your continued sustenance and protection even as we face a rise in criminal activities.
Lets’ personalise and pray part of a Psalm of David:
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;Psalm 32:8-9 (NIV)
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Lord, we pray for all leaders of our country. We pray especially for our church leaders, the Honourable Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness, Minister of Health and Wellness, Christopher Tufton, Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Nigel Clarke, health workers and support staff, Minister of Education, Youth and the Environment, Fayval Williams; Minister of National Security, Horace Chang and his team, Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck, and the leader of the opposition Mark Golding and his team. We also remember the judges in our congregation, Paula Blake Powell and Grace Henry McKenzie.
Lord, we present to You those among us who are on the usual sick and shut-in list, as well as Sisters Nicole Evans, Kadene Stewart, Iris Lawrence, Merle Braham, Valerie Smellie, Lelith James, Jennifer Nicholson, Virginia Muir, Marville (Cherry) Murray (Sister Iris Lawrence’s daughter), Janet Chen-Young, Joyce Bailey, Lucille Alexander, Jhada Graham, Cherrie Lee; Brother George Gabbidon, Brother Lloyd Trusty, Mr Alan Ashley (Sister Dawn Ashley’s father), Sister Jennifer Japp who mourns the loss of her father, Brother Danville Japp’s father, Mr Isaiah Japp, Mr, Delorn Dixon (Sister Rachael Dixon’s husband).
Lord, we ask that You fill each day with a new sense of hope, peace and compassion. Hear O Lord, have mercy on us, and attend to our prayers we ask with thanksgiving in Jesus’ name.
Our Prayers of Encouragement are for everyone. Therefore, if you are also in need of prayer or comfort, please contact us with your request. We would be so very happy to share with you.