Holy Spirit Party Season
How to stay awake in the middle of the night
I love parties. But all too often I’m tempted to skip them and go to bed instead. Is that my middle-agedness showing or just plain weariness? Parties seem like a lot of effort when you’re tired.
It’s the same with God. I want more of God, I really do. But all too often physical tiredness affects my ability to receive from him.
Contrast this with my heroes of the faith who keep looking for more of God – for Holy Spirit parties - no matter what o’ clock it is. They are like the Matthew 25 virgins who had enough oil to keep their lamps burning throughout the night.
So how do I get to be more like them and stay spiritually awake? Can I learn to value spiritual rest over physical rest? Maybe I just need more of both.
The first term I was at University, age 18, I stayed up every night past 1am. I hung out in grubby student kitchens all over campus, laughing and joking. I went out to events that didn’t start till 10pm and just generally socialised my socks off.
Since then I’ve never been able to stay convincingly awake past 10pm. I have a theory that I used up all my partying energy in one term. I’m not a night owl. Mind you, I’m not really a morning person either. I have a few good hours between 9am and 2pm when I’m vaguely perky but that’s about it.
Not only does this really hamper my ability to be the life and soul of the party, but it also makes ministry quite challenging. I mean, how long do evening conference meetings go on for?! After the lengthy and glorious worship, with maybe a spontaneous healing session for half an hour, followed by notices, testimonies, promoting outreach opportunities, a quick chat with a visiting minister, the sermon usually starts at around 10pm. Wait, 10pm? Uh-oh. I am fighting my humanity to get through to the ministry time whether that’s to minister or to receive ministry. Everything within me wants to go home to bed.
I know, desperately unspiritual isn’t it?
No matter what o’clock
That’s why I’m so impressed and inspired by those generals of the faith who keep on keeping on no matter what o’ clock it is. I love the fact that at the beginning of the Toronto Outpouring in 1994, John and Carol Arnott stayed up every night after hours of ministering to thousands and lay down and soaked. I’d have been checking my watch and dreaming of my pillow. But they’d noticed those who were getting touched and changed the most by God were the ones who stayed down on the carpet when they got prayed for and fell down. So rather than go home and get some well deserved Zzzzs, John, Carol and their team would lie down on the carpet at midnight and drink in as much of the Holy Spirit as they could. That was where their current ministry of soaking comes from (following in the tradition of similar presence-seeking behaviour from the mystics throughout history).
They put aside their physical need for rest in order to enter into a spiritual rest. Their hunger for God outweighed their need for sleep. Wake up my spirit, O God, to be the same.
Party in the morgue
I love those generals of the faith who are always looking to start a Holy Spirit party. No matter how disdainful or serious everyone else looks, whether it’s during worship or at breakfast, you get people like David Dalley and Duncan Smith. They never tire of Holy Spirit antics. They don’t care if they’re the only ones babbling incoherently under the influence or firing invisible Holy Spirit fire darts across the room at people who are munching cornflakes. They can’t get enough of God and don’t care what people think. They could get a party started in a morgue, and knowing them one day they actually will. Raise the dead and then get them staggering around laughing and praising God? Sounds right up their street.
Morning, noon or night, these party starters are ready, primed and looking for opportunities to hang out with Father and spread the love. David Dalley quite often comes down to breakfast chattering and singing in tongues and manifesting as he puts the kettle on. It’s not surprising that he and Duncan are two of the most anointed people I know. They don’t get tired of wanting God. They keep their spirits stirred up and awake. Their hunger for God is greater than a respect for decorum. And yes, of course, they do get physically tired and need to rest but they still maintain this hunger for God.
My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak
As I said earlier, I’m not a natural partier these days. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And that is the truth. My spirit is willing to meet with God, but I let my weary old flesh rule it out all too often. But I have learned a little bit from the rabble rousers and late night Holy Spirit drinkers. And that is to keep pressing in. Ignore your heavy eyelids and find the Holy Spirit party. There’s life in all its fullness waiting for us, if only we can stay awake long enough to pursue him.
From Carol, I’ve learned to expect to meet Holy Spirit whenever I turn my heart towards him. Doesn’t matter what the worship is like in church – good, bad, ugly – I’ll raise my hands and wait, and once I feel his presence, if possible I’ll start to sneakily spread him around a bit. And if things are kicking off, well, that’s when I really want to keep the party going…let’s hold hands and keep drinking and praying for each other and just enjoying him, shall we? So often we get a drop and then we stop. Oh but what would happen if we just kept asking him for more?
“More Lord!” has been John and Carol’s prayer from day one of revival and they keep on asking. Getting the party started all round the world, and seeing more 1ams than I ever did at University.
They are the virgins in Matthew 25 who brought extra oil to keep their lamps burning throughout the long night of waiting for the bridegroom. The virgins in this parable were the bridesmaids, responsible for getting the bride ready and for lighting the way to her once the bridegroom arrived. In the story they all became drowsy and fell asleep. But when the bridegroom arrived unexpectedly some of them had spare oil ready and were prepared.
In many places, especially in the West, the Church is sleepy. In many places she has fallen asleep. It’s easy to get physically weary and spiritually sleepy – and I think there is a link between the two. It’s extra hard to keep the spirit flame burning when you’re physically spent.
But some have been keeping their oil stocks ready, keeping the light burning. David Dalley and Duncan Smith are two such wise virgins. (And there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.) They keep the oil of the Holy Spirit flowing in their own lives and in the Church and world at large. When I grow up I want to be like them.
This party season, have fun but don’t get too exhausted. The best party is a Holy Spirit party. So, Father, wake up our spirits and help us to actively seek to be flowing with the oil of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40 v 30-31 NIV)