When God visits us, it is often messy, out-of-the-box, and unpredictable. One of the only predictable characteristics of the upper room is that it is unpredictable. We need to understand that our God is creative and unlike coaches in the National Football League who pace up and down the sidelines with their laminated play sheets, our God has an unlimited number of plays He can call. For this reason, we have learned at the beginning of every upper-room prayer gathering to ask God for His leadership and direction. He is much better at play-calling and upper-room leadership than we are, and He always leads us to receive.
Several years ago I (Fred) was in Burkina Faso, West Africa with three hundred pastors and church leaders crammed into a room barely big enough to hold a hundred people. We sang, prayed, taught, and encountered Christ, but I sensed God had more that He wanted to do among us. He showed me what to do. I preached for ten minutes on the ascended Christ. Then I asked everyone in the room to stand to their feet, lift their hands to Christ, and, in unison, pray aloud and declare His absolute supremacy. It was as if I lit a match and the place erupted in a loud roar of prayer and praise, which lasted ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes. I then directed us to stand in silence for a full sixty seconds and listen for the voice of God, the Holy Spirit. You could have heard a cricket hop.
I then seated everyone and asked, “Did any of you hear God say something during our time of silence?” Everyone in the room raised their hand. I saw a young man literally shaking, as if he was being electrocuted by a low voltage battery. God was obviously sitting on this guy, and he could barely stand it. I handed him the microphone, and he proceeded to deliver a prophetic word of rebuke to the pastors in the room. “Pastors, you have forsaken God. You have fallen into sin.” The pastors in the room simultaneously got on their knees and repented publicly of specific sins. Their heartfelt prayers of repentance continued nonstop for an hour.
I then asked one more person to speak what God told them during our time of silence. A trusted older woman known as Mother Rebecca motioned for the microphone. I knew I could trust her. She too was trembling, and she too had an even stiffer rebuke to the pastors. This time the entire room turned into a birthing room; it was as if everyone simultaneously went into labor. They were wailing with gut-wrenching cries of remorse, bone-crushing repentance, vulnerability, and total transparency.
This session of repentance lasted eight hours nonstop. It was the most disorganized, organized prayer meeting ever! You could never create an atmosphere like this; it was obviously the work of God’s Holy Spirit. We did not take a break for coffee. No one stopped for dinner. To my knowledge, no one even went out for a potty break. No one dared; they didn’t want to miss anything.
After the confession of sin, we received forgiveness from Christ. We broke demonic strongholds in Jesus’ name, we were filled with the Holy Spirit, healed from soul wounds, and empowered for ministry. The pastors spontaneously started washing one another´s feet. Then they began dancing. They were free, demonstrative, and unrestrained.
God accomplished more that day than we could have accomplished in thirty years. Everything that happened that day broke loose because when we exalted the ascended Christ, He came and filled the room. When Christ manifested His presence, He activated the spiritual receptors in the pastors, just as he did at Pentecost.
When I returned to Burkina Faso two years later, I was thrilled to hear that those who had confessed their sins were still walking in victory and in integrity. God had legitimately broken their habitual sin cycles and set them free. As I look back on that eight-hour, nonstop upper room, it was messy, unconventional, and probably broke all the rules of a pastors conference, and yet it was exactly what they needed, and only God could have accomplished it.
I have discovered that most pastors are waiting for an opportunity to get honest before God with their issues and confront root sins. Pastors and church leaders are longing to encounter the exalted Christ. No one wants a dog-and-pony show revival; what we long for is a fresh encounter with Christ that is sin-exposing, pride-crushing, Satan-evicting, life-transforming, church-empowering, Christ-exalting, nation-discipling.
Parts of this article have been developed with permission using material from Author and Rev. Fred Hartley, International College of Prayer.