|"When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:31)|
Last Thursday, I had the privilege of being invited to Bible Study at my church by a friend of mine, whom I used to work with (and still work in the same building as). As she knows, I'm not much for speaking in a group setting. But, I do enjoy sitting there and absorbing what is taught, provided something is actually taught. Anyway, there were a few questions which were a part of the lesson, of which I never did speak up and answer, because of my comfort level in this group. So, without further ado, here are my answers to some of these questions...
2. Consider the place of prayer in your own life. What are the circumstances in which you pray? Are there situations or times when it it harder (or easier) to pray? Has there been a time when prayer has been especially significant for you or for people you know or love?
When I was younger, prayer was a common thing for me. I would pray that my parents would stop beating us children; that God would save us from the pain we were going through. I would pray that the other forms of abuse we dealt with on a regular basis would end. I prayed for death. I prayed for salvation. I prayed for peace, and happiness. I prayed God would at least let me know that he truly was there watching over us.
After suffering for years, I began to doubt in God. I went through a painful period of trying to figure out if he truly existed, and if so, why he never listened to or answered my prayers. Eventually, while still without any good answers, I began to alter my prayers.
Today, I pray to give thanks for what I do have. And I pray for others. I no longer (or, rarely anyway) pray for myself. I pray my children have enough to eat this month. I pray for their health and happiness. I pray for Dad - while I realize the cancer will not go away, I pray that God gives him peace, and takes away his pain. I pray for Mom - that she has the strength to make it through this difficult time. I pray for my husband - that during his continued trials, he finds some joy in life. I pray for my pastor and his wife - that while I am still hurt and angry that I will be losing a trusted friend (or, rather, two friends), I pray they find happiness and peace in their new home. I pray for my other friends who are going through difficult times right now.
I have a difficult time praying for myself... this would have to be the most difficult for me. To pray for something I want or need... this is something I spent so many years doing without any answers. And so, I no longer do so. It's difficult to pray knowing that the personal prayers will not be answered... believing that maybe I'm not worth having those prayers answered. And, it's just difficult as it seems so selfish to pray for oneself.
6. Can you recall a situation in which you spoke boldly in the face of opposition or risk? What happened? What gave you the courage to do this?
This hasn't happened much recently, and I don't think it has ever happened for me in regards to religion. However, I do recall a few times when I was in high school still. One time actually ended up in a fist fight (the only fist fight I ever got into). Some kids were outside the school smoking... and were trying to convince a mentally handicapped girl to smoke. "If you smoke with us, we'll be your friends. We'll take care of you.." I was furious. I had spent a few years working with the mentally disabled - teaching Sunday school to them, babysitting them, etc - and I was very protective of them. And so I did speak up. I knew the risks - the main girl trying to get the other to smoke was about twice my size, and well known to pummel anyone or anything that got in her way. But I didn't care. Well, as I said, it did end up with fists flying, but for the most part it was me on top of the other one... it was me doing the pummeling.
I'm not sure what gave me the courage... I just knew that someone needed to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves.
A couple other times were also in high school. We had two teachers - one whom enjoyed touching his female students, and another who gave the popular kids good grades, regardless of whether or not they deserved such a grade. With help from a friend, we managed to get both of these teachers asked to leave the school. In the case of the first - sexual harassment is never right, and I knew the discomfort and shame felt by girls who are abused in this way by an elder. In the case of the second... I'm all about fairness (or, used to be anyway). And so I just didn't like her.
7. What makes it difficult to speak boldly about your faith, or about what God has done in Jesus? What might help to overcome that difficulty? Fill in the blanks in the following statements: Something important to me about God, Jesus, or my faith is___________. One way I could "speak boldly" about this is _______________.
Now this is an interesting question (the first part anyway). There are a few different answers. First, it would depend on who I'm around. Around my old college friends and some of my other friends (both of which are only on Facebook)... most of them are not firm believers in God. Some are willing to accept there might be a higher power, but that's as far as it goes. And some are atheist. Speaking boldly - it isn't that it's difficult, so to speak, but more that it's just pointless. I think the most difficult part for me is that I do not like having anyone else's views pushed on me, and therefore do not want to force my views on anyone else.
Around other people... such as people in the church... I just simply do not feel comfortable. It has nothing to do with faith being the difficult part of speaking... I just don't like speaking in front of them.
But, I think besides not wanting to push views, the other difficulty in general is that I'm not 100% positive about my own beliefs. Yes, I know there is a God. But, that's as much as I can say I am absolutely certain of. If anyone were to start asking questions, I know I would not be able to answer.
8. Share a time when you or a community of believers had a foundation-shaking experience of God. This may have been a radical or energizing experience, or perhaps a quiet and comforting one. Briefly describe the experience and the outcome of the experience.
The one time that sticks out the most to me happened earlier this year. Our town's youth group went on a trip to Minot to help with flood relief. This trip changed me in so many ways. Seeing a group of 13-16 year old teens doing hard physical labor to help others renewed my faith in mankind. Partaking in that physical labor renewed my faith in my own ability to act selflessly. Hearing the stories of those affected by the flood - the loss they had to deal with, the constant struggle to rebuild - it made me much more grateful for what I have. Watching everyone work together, play together, pray together - it made God's work and word more visible than I had ever seen or experienced before.
But above and beyond all this, this was when God answered one of my unspoken prayers and sent to me someone who would change my life in ways I haven't fully realized. It was at this time when I began to believe again, and trust again, and open myself up.
9. Where does the Spirit seek to move you and your own gathered community today? In what ways is the Spirit empowering a change, so that you might speak the word of God with boldness?
I'm not certain. I know the journey that was started in Minot is still the path I am on, but I don't know where the Spirit is moving me. I know there is a change continuing within me, but am still in the process of fighting this change. Boldness is currently hiding from me... or rather, I am hiding from it.