The knock at my hotel door was soft, apologetic. Outside, a bouquet of anxious faces clustered in the hallway of the hotel where I was speaking for a women's weekend retreat. "A situation has come up," Jill, the retreat committee chairman, explained. "Can we talk?"
Ten minutes later I was ushered into Retreat Central. Jill exchanged glances with the other retreat leaders. "Several women have come to us wanting, well … more."
Uh-oh. Clearly my morning presentation on the women of the Bible wasn't strong enough. "More what?"
"More of your teaching, Liz. They don't want to play games after dinner. They want to hear more about the Bible. Now that they've heard God's Word, that's all they're talking about. Could you speak again tonight?"
Does a 50-pound sack of flour make a big biscuit?
"Of course!" My heart pounded. Imagine, a group of women gathering at a spa—a spa!—and choosing Bible study instead. No question, it had nothing to do with me; it had everything to do with God.
In that moment, God spoke to my heart, telling me these precious women needed to learn how to take their needs to him directly. It was clear God wanted me to pray with these women one-on-one after my presentation. All of them.
Gulp. Logistics came first. "Is there somewhere I could sit and pray privately with each of them?"
Jill shook her head. "Not in that tiny room." She was right. We were already sitting buns-to-buns.
"I know!" said a feisty brunette. "One of the girls has a big van we can park outside the door."
"A van?" I said weakly. It was raining. It was chilly. It was a van. Did people pray in vans? Would we get a ticket for parking in a No-Prayer zone? "A van," I said, trying to convince myself it wouldn't be weird. I've heard of altar calls … why not an Aerostar call?
After sharing my message that night about Mary Magdalene's encounter with the risen Christ, I announced, "Now it's time for you to meet with God. I'll be outside in a … well, a van. Please join me so we can pray together." I said it with a straight face, but they laughed anyway. "Okay, it's a crazy idea. But this was God's idea, girls. I'll be waiting."
I didn't wait long. The first brave soul climbed into the backseat, wide-eyed and uncertain. Seconds after she pulled the door closed, the overhead light faded to black and we were cloaked in a cozy darkness. "Is this when the soft music starts playing?" she whispered, and we giggled like teenagers.
Things got serious soon enough. We prayed together—oh, how we prayed!—one woman after another. We prayed for wayward husbands and lost children. For difficult jobs and joyless situations. For forgiveness and for lives newly dedicated to Christ. When a distant church bell chimed the hour—3:00 a.m.—the Lord nudged me off to bed, 36 sisters' prayers tucked safely inside my heart.
"It's not a Ford Aerostar anymore," Jill informed me over breakfast, her eyes bleary but her smile ear-to-ear. "We're calling it the Holy Van."
And it was holy, set apart for time alone with God. From that sacred time we were changed—all of us. I was changed by simply being obedient, even when it felt scary and out of my comfort zone. And the women were changed by trusting God and speaking their hearts out loud. We all felt the sheer joy of releasing our burdens to God that night, knowing those burdens traveled much further than the dashboard.
The best lesson learned that weekend? When God says pray, pray. Anywhere, anytime, any van.
Liz Curtis Higgs is a speaker and bestselling author of numerous books, including her latest, Mine Is the Night (WaterBrook).
Copyright © 2002 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.
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