Robert called. He was calling facing a considerable prison sentence and asked for prayer regarding the court appearance the next day. I asked how he wanted me to pray. He talked in generalities; 'that things will go well' etc. As I considered just praying a generic, kind of 'help and take care of things Lord' prayer in response to his vague response, God stopped me. Working in this area and at the time praying for 8 hours a day for strangers can tempt you to get robotic. But God wasn’t having anything less than His best for this guy. I felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit, like He becomes more alert on the inside of me. God said - 'Concentrate!' So I physically and mentally sat up and started thinking/listening. I started speaking as the mouthpiece of God listening to the words coming out of my mouth as if they were not my own, for they weren’t, they were Gods.
ME: Robert I am going to ask you something and I don't want you to answer straight away. Do you understand? I want you to think very carefully about the answer to this question before responding. DO NOT just give me a response. I am asking this - not because it matters to me one way or another. I am asking this because I need to know how best to pray for you and how you answer this question will determine how I decide to pray to help you. Do you understand?
ME: O.k. remember - do not just answer this without thinking. Are you guilty of what they are charging you with?
long silent pause.....
Robert then begins to tell me that he is guilty that they have clear evidence against him for the charges he is facing. He has no chance of getting off. He will be found guilty. He is not a bad person but he has done something bad and there is no way out and he is scared and he doesn’t know what to do. He’s not even sure why he is calling for prayer.
He needs mercy. As I figure out and scramble around in my brain for how to pray in this impossible situation, imagining him in jail and trying to think of how best to prepare his heart and perhaps help him make the best of a very bad situation, God speaks to my heart and I say what I hear him say.
ME (as instructed by God): Robert. Jesus paid for your sin. When He hung on that cross He died for what you did. Do you believe that? He took the punishment for what you did. He paid the price for this. You can walk away innocent because of what He did. God wants to show you how much He loves you. Is there any way at all, it is possible AT ALL that you will be found not guilty tomorrow.
ME: then are you telling me it is impossible for you to be let go tomorrow.
ME: then God wants to show you that He loves you and that He is for you and not against you. He will show you that He is God tomorrow and you will walk free because of what Jesus has done. And I tell you - you better thank him for it when it happens.
Next day we received a giddy call from my new friend Robert.
CASE DISMISSED. He couldn’t even explain what had happened. He said he walked in there and the judge said the case was dismissed. It was over. He was free. Simple as that.
Now this story might provoke you like it did me. We talk about Jesus paying for our sins normally in a very hypothetical way. But God Himself spoke these things to me for Robert. It was His heart. Did it challenge me as I thought about what God was saying/promising? Yes. But I had the benefit of:
(a) Sensing Roberts repentant heart: he was sorry; he was surrendered; he was not proud or wicked; he seemed stuck and broken.
(b) Sensing God’s heart: He wants to love His people and He knows best. We are not to judge we are to love. God above all else wants to shower His love upon us. He is faithful and HE knows the hearts of man.
When I heard the report I wrote 'Robert!!!' on the piece of paper shown here. I still have it. It is still precious to me 3 years on. I kept it in my bible for 2 years. It reminded me of the goodness of God, shown in way that is easy to question. Like Jesus dismissing the judgement on the woman caught in adultery. We have to be careful never to make the mistake of being like the guy who fell on the floor and said, 'I am glad I am not like these other people'. We should identify with the tax collector in that bible story instead. For none of us are worthy of the freedom God has given us. Whatever his crime GODS MERCY RULES OVER JUDGEMENT and no matter how uncomfortable it is for us who are law abiding and have not found ourselves in a mess, Jesus really did pay for it. I choose to believe that Robert will never forget the mercy God showed him and that he is now operating in a love that cannot be taken from him. I look forward to hearing his full testimony. If not in this life - on the other side.