The Drunken City
Justice without might is helpless; might without justice is tyrannical.
Force without legitimacy brings chaos; legitimacy without force will be overthrown.
The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.
When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. He allowed no man to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”
I Chronicles 16:19-22
When God gets roused in Shiloh, everything accelerates into a supernatural pace, and only those who have been perfectly still and patiently waiting notice that he has quickened his pace toward them. They hear it in the earth and sense it on the winds. Only those who stop and look up have clear eyes to see and sensitive ears to hear him as he approaches. Reach up. He wants to take you along with him. Be calm and reach. Hold. Hold. Here he comes. Your heart races. You close your eyes and almost giggle. He swoops you up in warm strength. Take a look at that view. Where is he taking you? He’s about to tell you. You’re together now.
Last fall, CW and I took 30 students and a handful of adults from various churches into downtown Barrie, Ontario to pray. Last century, when Toronto was known as “Toronto the good”, Barrie was not so affectionately called, “the city of whiskey and wickedness”. Today, due to the highway 400 corridor through the city, Barrie is known as “the Gateway of the North”.
It was a chilly Friday night. We started our time of public prayer on the waterfront. We joined hands encircling the “Spirit Catcher” – a 60 foot tall demon- looking bird with giant knives for feathers, wings outstretched over the core of the city, with horns on its proud head. Two hundred meters away, along the waterfront – is a sundial entitled “Spirit Capture Time Vault” not to be opened until 2053. Close by the time vault, further along the waterfront, are seven large iron blocks, each one a letter spelling out the word B-A-B-Y-L-O-N.
After encircling the Spirit Catcher and asking God to bring it down and put up a lighthouse in its place, we went to “The Foundation” – a night club. The whole security crew were both fascinated and bothered by our prayers. We were distracting the clientele. One security guy spoke into his headset, “They’re praying! Ya, praying! Is there anything we can do?” So as not to make a scene, I took our little prayer platoon into the alley way between the club and the bar beside it. Students put their hands on both buildings praying humbly and yet passionately for the people inside them.
Two drunk gay guys stumbled down the alley and into our elongated circle of prayer. One of them stammered loudly, “This looks like where the party is!” I asked him if he had any idea that he’d just stumbled into a group of praying saints. He rolled his eyes and swore a lot. I asked him if we could pray for him. He swore some more. When he was finally lost for words and noticed we were not disgusted by his language, he bowed his head, “Ya, sure – Go ahead.” Six students laid hands on him in that alley and prayed quietly for 30 seconds. He was speechless. His friend was flabbergasted. They followed us for a while after that. Perfect love casts out fear.
We walked down the main strip and prayed outside every bar, strip club, night club and occult bookstore. When we got to the most prominent intersection of the core – Five Points – we circled together to keep warm, communicate with each other and to ask God where we should go next. A girl in our circle began singing a song to God. We all joined in. As we sang, the temperature in the inner city went up over ten degrees. The student next to me asked, “Can you feel that? It’s getting warmer.” I smiled and nodded. We all noticed, and people in the bars and clubs were noticing as well. Many clubbers came out to the sound of our song while enjoying the gathering warmth.
A girl in her 20’s approached our circle and asked a girl in our group to pray for her. She asked if we would be back the next day, because she would not remember us in the morning. She was plastered. She wanted someone to pray for her when she was sober. A drug dealer pained with a broken leg asked me to pray for his healing. I took his leg in my hands and prayed that God would touch him right then and there.
All heaven broke loose. What happens when God shows up amidst his people who are themselves amidst those who are lost in the drunken city? All people within range are swept up into his tidal currents and many blessings are left in his wake. Spiritual gifts are distributed among the faithful for the sake of others. Discerning those gifts is a corporate adventure. Distributing those gifts brings on unspeakable joy for both God and his obedient children.
One young man in our huddle became a prophet in the twinkling of an eye. He hadn’t said much all night. And it wasn’t because he was Methodist – he was just taking everything in. But when he stepped out onto the curb and read some scripture aloud about God laughing at the drunken city and a drunk guy jeered him from a nearby bar and this kid stepped out further into the street and read the scriptures with authority – the hair stood up on the back of my neck as I looked straight up into heaven and laughed good and hard while his voice boomed with the boldness and countenance of a lion. You could hear the scriptures echoing off of buildings four blocks away. For a moment, it seemed like every single person in the core of the city was standing still listening to a young man proclaim the living Word of God. In that moment, the Holy Spirit arrested the attention of the drunken city.
A thimble full of Pentecost.
Last night in St. John's Nefoundland, I was up until midnight with some 20-somethings planning a course of action for 24-7 prayer on George Street, their world famous bar and club district. Today I'm in Halifax - Dalhousie - God sees you. Does East Hastings Vancouver have any idea what the youth of the Salvation Army are up to?
But oh! God is in his holy Temple! Quiet everyone – a holy silence. Listen! God Racing on the Crest of the Waves. Habakkuk 2:20