How Jesus longs for us to spend time with Him, to adore Him, to sit quietly in His presence listening to His voice, simply being with Him. When we fall in love, we long to spend time with our beloved! We look out for his mail; we long to hear his voice; he is always in our thoughts. That is just how our relationship with Jesus can be. Jesus is always waiting for us, longing for us to leave what we are doing in order to simply spend time together with Him, like two best friends together.
I remember so clearly how I was as a newly engaged young woman in 1969. We had had a brief two-week courtship, ending in a day of prayer and fasting after which we were absolutely certain that God had brought us together. (We have recently celebrated our 48th Wedding Anniversary, as I write). My beloved and I married within five months of first going out together; he was 26 and I was just 27. In the busy months before our forthcoming wedding, my fiancé unfortunately had to be living a long distance away and we only had time together at weekends, when his parents kindly invited me to stay with them, and he was able to join us there. In the middle of the week I was able to receive just one precious phone call from him. It was on Wednesday evenings during our church midweek Bible study.
We would have about seventy people at the Bible Study, and we always sang several hymns before the Bible Study began. The phone was situated upstairs in the Pastor’s flat. To answer it, I had to go out of the meeting room, up a very long flight of stairs to the Pastor’s flat, and through two doors before eventually reaching the phone. This was before we had mobile phones, of course. Just think about it for a moment: there I was in a meeting, singing, not knowing when my call would come. Nevertheless, I was able to hear it ring in a distant room, over the volume of seventy other people singing at the top of their voices the glorious hymns of Charles Wesley! Nobody but me heard the phone as seventy people singing at the top of their voices make a great deal of noise. Why did I hear my phone call come in? Because I was expecting to hear from my beloved!
The Pastor’s wife was amazed that in the circumstances I had been able to hear the phone. She even said that my hearing was “too good!” The point I am trying to make here is that our Beloved, our Lord Jesus, longs to talk to us, but we must have a listening ear. As the Shulamite said in the Song of Solomon 2:8, “The Voice of my beloved! Behold he cometh…!” She did not fail to hear Him! Likewise, I did not fail to hear my beloved’s phone call despite the considerable volume of seventy people singing, and the number of doors and stairs between me and the phone!
Our courtship was Jesus-centred by the grace of God. Whenever we could, my fiancé and I used to spend time together worshipping God in the spirit. We knelt down side by side and worshipped Jesus; the Holy Spirit gave both the words (our respective Holy Spirit gift of tongues) and a heavenly melody to each of us. These heaven-sent melodies were different every time and were blended together by the Holy Spirit into a harmony so beautiful that the presence of Jesus was almost tangible. It was a deeply moving, unforgettable experience.
It is recorded in Revelation chapter 2 that Jesus spoke to the church at Ephesus, saying “You have abandoned your first love!” He first commended this church for several things they were doing which pleased Him. However, Jesus was grieved by the fact that they no longer loved Him as much as they used to love Him; they had lost their first love. Let us ask Jesus to search our hearts right now and show us if that is true of us. If it is, we are hurting our Lord and depriving ourselves of the indescribable blessing that comes from a deep, intimate relationship with Him.
Heavenly Worship orchestrated by the Holy Spirit
When I was a student teacher at London University in the mid 1960s, years before my husband and I met, I attended a large Pentecostal Church where Holy Spirit gifts were fully in operation. The presence of the Lord was almost tangible and the most wonderfully uplifting part of the services was the time we spent worshipping God in the spirit. The entire congregation would simultaneously move into heavenly worship, each one singing in his or her personal gift of tongues, in a beautiful melody given individually to each worshipper. The Holy Spirit merged the enormous number of different melodies into one harmonious whole. It was as though Heaven came down to Earth. It was indescribably beautiful; I did not want it to come to an end.
I told a Christian student music teacher friend about this singing and she was naturally eager to hear it for herself. My musical friend was overwhelmed — quite undone! She told me that it was utterly impossible to train people to sing so many different melodies blended into one harmonious whole like that. It was humanly impossible, she said; it had to be God. Did you know that this is the way in which the early church worshipped their Lord? To me it is so sad that nowadays the vast majority of Christians may not have experienced this breathtaking, unique Holy Spirit anointing on their worship. ‘Worship in spirit and in truth’ is God’s perfect will for His church: Jesus said in John 4: 23-24 that God is continually seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Holy Spirit-led worship is beautiful beyond my ability to describe. It is indeed a precious foretaste of Heaven.
Many years after my student days in London, my family and I were privileged to belong to a greatly blessed Pentecostal Church in Somerset, in the south of England. We travelled thirty miles to our church with our young family. The sixty mile round trip was well worth it; the preaching was anointed and we all grew steadily in the Lord. However, the greatest blessing to me was, as before, the way we worshipped. Every Sunday, just as in my student days in London, we sang in the spirit for a prolonged period, each one of us adoring the Lord in his or her spiritual gift of tongues and unique heavenly melody given by the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Lord was almost tangible; He was there, and we all experienced His Presence. Incidentally, as I wrote in one of my first articles, I was at an Easter conference held by the same church in the early 1980s when hundreds of Angels joined us in our worship and some of us saw them clearly – close up. You can read my personal testimony about this astounding experience in my earlier article ‘Childlike Faith Works.’
A closer look at singing in the spirit
In John 7: 37-39, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Jesus was referring to the work of God’s Holy Spirit in us. In worship “in spirit and in truth” — from our innermost being — there are times when our natural language cannot express the depths of what we are feeling, and we find ourselves singing in tongues. That is where the Spirit comes to our aid, as Jesus promised He would, and rivers of prayer and worship flow from deep within our inner man, resulting in heavenly sounds that originate from God’s Spirit within. Singing in the spirit flows spontaneously; there is great liberty in this worship. The anointing lifts us high into another realm where the presence of God is almost tangible. It is a deeply moving experience.
The Greek word for tongues is ‘glossolalia’ and worship in the spirit is known as ’glossolalic song.’ Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:15, “I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit…”
This Holy Spirit-led worship has been likened to ‘the strings of a huge harp set in motion by the wind of the Holy Spirit.’ It is a uniquely beautiful, unforgettable sound, which leaves those who have been privileged to participate yearning for this Holy Spirit anointing again.