STAY and PRAY
by Dr. Julie Ostrowski
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Why was I sitting in the pew instead of up at the altar with the rest of the congregation? They were up there praying like good Christians, so what does that make me! I could have told myself I wasn’t feeling well, but that would not have been the case. I could have told myself that it didn’t include me, but that would also be a lie. So what was going on? To fully understand why I was so out of place, I will have to take you back just a few moments.
The preacher had just finished a very spiritual sermon. The praise and worship songs were just soul piercing; the kind that touches your heart and makes it ache, not with pain but passion. I couldn’t see a thing in front of me because my eyes were blurry with tears; it is safe to say, I am emotional. We were half way through the invitation and the preacher called for those who were ready to come down and finally do what God has been pulling at their hearts to do.
Many individuals went down to make professions of faith, some went down to join the church, and others just went down to the altar to pray. Surrounded by a sea of “altar moving” people, I sat still and alone in the pew. I knew God was pulling me too, but it seemed He wasn’t pulling me to the altar. He was pulling me to pray, right where I was. At first, I thought that staying would make me stand out more, I felt like I was the only one sitting. Thoughts of embarrassment rushed through my head because anyone in their right mind would have been touched after hearing those scriptures and songs we heard, so I worried that they would judge me and think that I hadn’t been listening.
After a second or two of arguing with my conscience and with what God was telling me to do...I surrendered. The strangest thing happened after I finally said yes to God! The feeling of embarrassment and paranoia vanished! A comfort of peace replaced the feelings of before. God was calling me to pray where I was, not to move to the front of the church, not to the isle, not to the prayer room; just to the spot where I was already sitting. What a simple yet hard concept for me to grasp! To just “Call on the name of the Lord”! To some this would not be a big deal, but for me, a woman who was desperately trying to seek God, it was huge! God had told me to stay and pray! Those are pretty big words when they come from your creator. So I prayed and thanked God for His presence.
Sometimes I lose sight of where God actually is. That morning I thought I would have to take my search for communion with God to places like the altar, isles, and the praying room; when all along He was in the pew right next to me. He was waiting for me to start talking to Him as though He was right there...and you know what....He was there, and I did pray! I opened my heart, my mind, my dreams and my will to Him, right there in that pew! A flood of joy filled my heart. Sometimes God wants you to seek Him in prayer at the altar, isles, and in the prayer room...but at other times He just wants you to realize that He is where you are. How more connected would our lives be if we could only realize He is in our workplace, our cars, our kitchens, our showers and yes, our church pews!
I commend everyone who reserves special prayer times and goes to special places to pray, but I also encourage you to start praying where you are! Do not be mislead by thinking you will stand out from the rest, do not succumb to the feelings of embarrassment or paranoia; these are Satan’s tactics to misguide you and to allow you to miss out on what God has for you!
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I” (Isaiah 58:9 NIV) Just soak that verse in! He is listening, He is close, He is where you are! This verse does not say: He will listen only if you are at the altar, in the isle, or in the prayer room...it says He will listen when you call! Not where you call from. I have since learned to keep this scripture fresh in my mind so that when I pray I can remember where God is...right beside me in all that I do, say, and pray!
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