Years ago, I was in Iraq and traveled to the south of the country with three Hispanic Pentecostal pastors. Their churches were wanting to help in the humanitarian aid work we were doing and they had one contact in the south, a convert from Islam named Timothy.
When we met him, Timothy told us that, during and after the war, he had been sharing the gospel with many friends and neighbors. In fact, he had led many of them to the Lord, had baptized some in the Tigris River and they had been meeting for months as a secret house church. He invited us to their meeting on the next night.
When we all gathered there was seven of them and four of us. Like Timothy, the other disciples were young, half women and half men, and all were very quiet. It didn’t take me long to realize that their quietness was related to all that they had lived through over the past many months of war. They were numb.
The group quietly spoke encouragement to each other in Arabic, there were a few quiet songs and then Timothy asked our group to give a teaching. The honor went to the oldest of the Pentecostal preachers but he said that he could only preach in Spanish. After a bit of talk the guys worked out a plan, they rearranged their seating pattern pulling Timothy into the group and then the elder spokesman began his sermon.
The little Cuban preacher slowly pulled us all in, sometimes teaching in a whisper and sometimes shouting and gesticulating about the greatness of God. He preached in Spanish, a Puerto Rican brother sat just next to him translating into perfect English while matching every change in intonation and hand motion, and Timothy sat as the third in line and, in the exact same way, turned the English into Arabic. We were all entranced, leaning forward to better our experience.
The sermon lasted ten minutes and was simply beautiful. It was made even better by the experience of hearing it in three languages and by seeing three men of God participate so animatedly in the telling. At the conclusion, we all sat in silence for about one minute and then Timothy asked me to pray.
I was still on an emotional high from the sermon, so I clenched my eyes, I prayed so fervently, I said my “Amen,” and opened my eyes to see the others in the group sitting quietly in a normal and casual manner. This group of people was unusually subdued. Timothy spoke up next; “Let’s go around the room and tell what God has done in our lives this past week.”
At that the guy to my left spoke up quietly, with no added emotion, and said, “While Dr. Charles was praying, I looked up and the room was full of angels. Jesus was also standing there.” He paused several seconds and then said, “That’s all.”
The man’s declaration had been remarkable to me but everyone else looked as if the guy had just said, “I enjoy a nice cup of tea and a good book.” No one seemed excited or made a remark.
Then Timothy indicated to the next person that it was her turn to speak. She took several seconds and then said quietly, “Yes. It was the same for me. While the doctor was praying I looked up and the room was full of angels,” and she motioned with her hand toward the area behind the couch, where I was straining unsuccessfully to see anything or anyone.
Surely the message was getting mangled in translation, I thought. Over the years I had heard stories about sightings of angels or Jesus, but I had never been involved in one, and I expected that, if I were fortunate enough to be in the middle of some supernatural manifestation, it would surely evoke some special emotion. There would be awe and fear, not the matter-of-factness that I was seeing from these new converts from Islam.
The woman’s husband spoke next, not commenting on any apparitions that he did or didn’t see. Then the fourth person repeated the same story as the first two. He had also seen angels and, like the first, he noted that Jesus was also standing there among them.
The last three persons, sitting on the couch who had their backs to the area where it was said that the angels and Jesus had stood, had their say and there was no more mention of spiritual beings. We finished up as a group, we said our goodbyes, and we walked outside. I quickly gathered with the other three guests and looked at their faces. They were as bewildered as I was.
“What just happened in there?” I asked. “Did you guys see anything?”
“I had my eyes closed,” each guy blurted out. “But I believe it,” they all agreed. “Jesus and the angels were there!”
Main Point: I can’t say exactly what happened in that house, but I link the event, perhaps supernatural, to prayer. The people said that they saw the members of a heavenly host show themselves to the church when we prayed. And, as the years and mileage continue to mount up on my personal odometer, I believe, more and more, that it is prayer that makes the most advance of the Kingdom of God, because that is primarily a spiritual work.
So What: We can put forward the resources that God has given us, but the fruit and prosperity are provided by God, not by us. There is no better use of our time than in asking Him to bring forth that fruit with His power.