Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
Have you ever wondered how Jesus knew Judas Iscariot was the one who would betray Him?
Have you ever pondered why Jesus knew he could do little for people “in certain villages”? (Mark 6:5) (because of their unbelief, Mark noted.)
Have you wondered why Jesus knew that some demons take fasting along with prayer, not just prayer alone, to cast out (Matthew 17:20)?
One answer is that He was in continual communication and prayer with God the Father. “I do what I see the Father doing” (John 5:19), He said.
We have the same information source, if you will, available to us. And we, like Jesus, need to preface our own comings and goings with prayer, too, so that we respond appropriately and accurately to some need or situation. Case in point:
This morning, as my neighbor and I rounded the corner outside of our manufactured home park to access the bike path leading to our favorite walking track, we noticed a very small man (perhaps woman, it was hard to tell from his position and ours and he had long, stringy blond hair) near the fence. He was squatted down rummaging with his fingers for something in the rocky dirt.
His dented bicycle lay nearby with a small trailer hitched to it that contained a red canvas suitcase in good condition, empty soda and energy drink bottles, and assorted bits of trash. A transient, we thought?
But what was he looking for with such focus he didn’t at least look up?
I noticed that whatever it was he found in the dirt he then, to my shock, put in his mouth. He was eating whatever it was he foraged for, there!
When we were perhaps 100 feet past him, I turned back to notice he was still at it.
My friend and I decided to pray for him…and to pray for wisdom as to how we might help him. Go back home and bring him a bag of food, maybe?
We continued our walk, discussing such things as the Lord, lately, has been teaching us. One item was discernment. I mentioned I had started a series on this topic.
On the way back, some thirty minutes later, we noted at a distance the dirt forager was still at it. We prayed, again, this time for direction. Should we talk to him? Pray with/for him? Go ahead and get some food and bring it back to him?
We also prayed against demonic influences and, as a sort of post script, for a sign from the Lord as to whether or not we should do anything at all.
We have each, in our Christian walks of many years, come to value the truth of the reminder in Ecclesiastes that there is a time to speak, and a time to remain silent. We have discussed that sometimes Jesus healed many, other times, few. Sometimes he commanded certain ones to remain silent, sometimes to spread the word…
When we were nearly next to the forager who was still fingering the dirt, we both heard him make a distinctive, low growl although he did not turn toward us or acknowledge us in any way. The kind of growl a dog emits as a sort of warning to on-comers. The kind of growl that gave us both goosebumps on our arms, made the hair stand up on our necks.
We passed by and into the park having both clearly discerned: do nothing.
We did, however, spend a few minutes discussing the import of praying before engaging in what SEEMS to be an opportunity to minister in some way. We discussed, again, how Jesus prayed first, too, before doing—or not doing.
And we thanked God for protection—and for what we believe was answered prayer.
I couldn’t help but think, here was today’s topic in my series on discerning your “spiritual gut”.
Later, another case came to mind, this one also involving the same kind of growling sound.
Years ago, a friend had a sister who became caught up in a very small religious cult. She was sequestered for a time by the cult leader before leaving her family and the Christian faith as well to follow the leader, another woman, to the Southwest U.S. where, until her partner’s recent death, the two of them fashioned their own sect of a mish mosh of New Age and pagan beliefs, supporting themselves by selling various idols and other home made artifacts.
At the time of the incident, however, long before they left town, my friend and a church elder went to the apartment where the two women were staying to pray and plead with the sister to come home to her family that included, at that time, an infant and several little ones.
The cult leader locked herself and the sister in the bedroom and, in response to the prayers and pleading outside the door, emitted, at length, a similar kind of low growl…
God alone knows.
But the potential for demonic possession and oppression does always exist in this sphere where Satan “prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Perhaps he also manifests as a growling dog…
Thus the wisdom of praying, first, before proceeding.
Then, if there remains an unsettled feeling about a matter, pray for confirmation.
And wait for it.