Copyright © 2003 by Stormie Omartian with Jack
Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97402
All rights reserved.
A Message for Our Time
The first time I met Pastor Jack Hayford, he told me I was ignorant. He didnít say it in a mean way. He was just stating a fact.
I had been singing on a record album that Christian songwriters Jimmy and Carol Owens had written, and we were rehearsing at their home before we went into the studio. I was the only one working on the project who wasnít a Christian. Pastor Hayford came by to see how rehearsals were going, and when we took a break, Jimmy introduced me to him.
The pastor immediately asked me a few questions about my relationship with God and specifically inquired as to whether I knew Jesus. I responded with a mystical spiel about how my occult practices had taught me to commune with a higher power through meditation and belief in a creative force. My New Age explanation did not impress him in the least, and he made some very direct statements about Jesus being Lord and the only way to God.
I didnít buy into any of what he was telling me, and thatís when he said I was ignorant. No one had ever told me I was ignorant before. In spite of having come from a miserably abusive childhood, I had for the most part gotten straight Aís in school. So even though my opinion of myself was very low, at least I did not think I was ignorant.
He was not at all hostile. In fact, he was careful to explain his choice of words.
ďYou are an intelligent person, not stupid,Ē he said. ďBy ignorant I mean you are unknowing of, or ignoring, what it is you need.Ē
His words made me feel better, but the conversation abruptly ended when it was clear I was not open to agreeing with anything he was saying.
Prior to this, my only experience with people who talked about Jesus were those who yelled rudely about Him on street corners and others who appeared to me to live dead and dull lives that I didnít want to emulate. Of course, my mother always talked about Jesus, but she was crazy and mean and made Him sound as crazy and mean as she was. I didnít listen to any of these people because their abrasive and insensitive manner was distasteful to me. Unfortunately, I associated all Christians with them.
I did notice, however, that the Christians I was singing with on these record sessions were quite different. They were loving, kind, peaceful, dynamic, and intelligentónot at all pushy or rude. I was attracted to them because of their manner. Even so, I still was not open to what Pastor Hayford had to say. In fact, I found him to be quite intimidating because he was confident, zealous, and overwhelmingly direct. I certainly didnít want to be around him again if he was going to put me on the spot with such an uncomfortable line of questioning. I fully dismissed himóand all the other Christiansóas not as being enlightened as I was. Never mind that they seemed happy and I was miserable.
The reason I was on that recording session in the first place was because of a friend of mine named Terry. She was one of the best singers I had ever heard, and she was only 20. I was 26. I marveled how at such a young age she could pick up any sheet of music, no matter how difficult, and sight-read it perfectly with great quality and nuance in her voice. She always contracted the sessions we did together, which meant she hired the singers. Not many 20-year-olds were contractors, so I had a great deal of respect for her.
Terry and I had become good friends over two years of doing TV shows and record sessions together. She liked that I would follow her lead and blend my voice with hers instead of trying to compete with it. She talked a lot about her faith in Jesus and the church she attended, but because she wasnít in the room when I met Jack Hayford, I didnít realize he was the pastor of her church.
I didnít see Pastor Hayford again until well over a year later. During that time, my life spiraled downhill. All of my fear, anxiety, hopelessness, self-hatred, and emotional pain increased to the point that I became so depressed I could hardly function. Depression was something I had suffered with for many years because I was raised by a mother who was severely mentally ill. She locked me in a closet for much of my early childhood, and that destroyed any sense of self-worth or hope I might have had for my future. Because of the pain, sadness, and despair I felt all of the time, I got into drugs, alcohol, Eastern religions, the occult, and wrong relationships to try and mask it. But these methods only brought temporary relief, and then I was pulled down even lower than before. I eventually hit rock bottom and decided life wasnít worth living anymore.
I had been doing two TV shows a week, which meant I was working 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week. It was insanity for anyone to do that, but I was too insecure to turn work down. I was headed for a wall and I knew it, but I didnít know how to stop. My whole life seemed like one mistake, failure, and disaster piled on top of another, and I was exhausted from trying to live as though there wasnít anything wrong. I had tried everything to find a way out of all this pain, but I had failed at that too. I seriously and meticulously planned my suicide and how I could make it look like an accidental drug overdose so my sister and father wouldnít be hurt by it. I knew my mother would barely notice.
When one of my TV shows ended for the season, Terry called me to sing on another record session. While we were sitting next to each other on a break, I shared some of what I was feeling with her. I didnít mention the suicide part, however. Even at this desperate time in my life, I still didnít want anyone to know about my secret plans.
ďI can see you are not doing well,Ē Terry said. ďWhy donít you come with me and meet my pastor? He is amazing, and I know he can help you.Ē
She had been telling me more and more about her faith in God every time we were together, but she did it in such a gentle and appealing way that I wasnít put off by it. In fact, I was attracted to the lifestyle she embraced. She seemed to always be full of life, purpose, and clarity and totally without the condemnation and self-judgment that was so crippling to me. But I still considered myself too educated and intellectual to actually believe something so absurd as what she was talking about. She said that a man named Jesus, who called Himself the Son of God, died for me so that all my sins could be erased and I would have eternal life with Him.
Yeah, sure, I thought to myself. And where do Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny come in? Right after the Tooth Fairy, perhaps?
Even though it seemed to me that Terry and the others on the recording sessions had rather quaint and unenlightened beliefs, I recognized that they were certainly nice people and they had a distinctly pure, simple, sweet, loving, and uncomplicated spirit about them.
If only I could fall for something so outlandish and my brain could be as numb to stark reality as theirs, I thought.
As bad off as I was at that moment, I still hesitated to respond positively to Terryís request. But this time she pushed me harder on the subject than she had ever done before.
ďWhat have you got to lose, Stormie?Ē she asked with urgency in her voice. ďJust come meet him.Ē
I paused for a momentary look in the mirror of my life, and what I saw looking back at me was shockingly fragile and dark. Was I on the brink of self-destruction and still refusing a hand that could possibly pull me out of the quicksand into which I was sinking? Realizing that I had nothing to lose because I had nothing to start with, I finally said, ďOkay, Iíll go meet him.Ē
Terry made arrangements to pick me up at my house a few days later and take me to meet her pastor at a popular restaurant nearby. She was astute enough to not trust me to get there on my own. When we arrived, he was already waiting for us at a table.
ďThis is Jack Hayford,Ē she said as she introduced us. ďBut everyone calls him Pastor Jack.Ē
He extended his hand warmly and smiled, and I did the same.
I thought he seemed familiar, but I didnít recall that earlier meeting and apparently he didnít either. In fact, I would not remember that this was the same man until well over a year later.
After the waitress took our order, Pastor Jack asked me a few questions about myself. I was beyond the point of trying to put up a good front, so I shared with him how I was feeling. Of course, I left out the part about my suicide plans and my crazy mother. It would be a long time before I would ever reveal anything to anyone about either of those things.
I told him Iíd had a hard time getting up that morning because of my severe depression, which had become a daily, gut-wrenching battle. I had put in 16 hard hours at CBS studios the previous day and night taping the Glen Campbell Show, where I worked as a singer, dancer, and actress. I was exhausted and discouraged and willing to hear anything that sounded like a reason to live.
When Pastor Jack talked about the Lord, I hung on every word. Right away I had this vague sensation of hope, even though it was very foreign to me. The three of us ate and talked for nearly two hours, and then he asked Terry to drive me to his office at the church so he could give me three books.
ďRead these and come by the office next week to tell me what you think about them,Ē he instructed me kindly.
I said I would and secretly postponed my suicide plans another week.
That same day I started reading one of the books and was hooked. I even took the books to work with me and read them when I had down time. Each book talked about things I was totally unfamiliar with, but they all made sense to me.
One book was on the reality of evil and the ways of the devil. It was exactly what I needed to hear, because my occult practices taught me that there was no outside evil force. They said that all evil originates in your mind and comes only from within you. This meant if you could control your mind to think only good thoughts, nothing bad would happen to you. The difficulty with that was when bad things did happen to me, I had to blame it all on myself. And the weight of that load was too heavy for my shoulders to carry. It only exacerbated my sense of failure. On the other hand, this book Pastor Jack gave me showed how to distinguish between my sin, which I was responsible for, and the enemyís plan to destroy, which was not my fault. It revealed how I could triumph victoriously over the plans of evil and fulfill Godís plan for my life instead.
The second book was on the power of the Holy Spirit. This intrigued me so much because I had never heard of such a thing. I loved reading about how receiving Jesus as Savior meant that Godís Holy Spirit would come and live in me and transform me from the inside out. If this was really true, I wanted that more than anything in the world.
The third book was actually the Gospel of John from the Bible in book form. It explained who Jesus wasÖand isÖand how He provided a way for me to be set free from all my sin and failure. I could receive an infusion of life by believing in Him, and He would give me the power to live His way. Every word of it fed my spirit and spoke life to my soul. I had read small parts of the Bible before, but it never meant much to me beyond being interesting history, nice poetry, and an example of literature from that time. But now, for reasons I could not understand, my eyes were opened to it and every word came alive. It wasnít until months later that I realized it was because people were praying for me to be able to discern the truth about the things of God.
When Terry took me back to Pastor Jackís office the following week, he asked me what I thought of the books.
ďI believe they are the truth,Ē I answered.
He then asked me if I wanted to receive Jesus as my Savior, and I said yes. When he and Terry prayed for me, I felt a surge of peace. I didnít know for sure what I had done, but I cancelled my suicide plans and felt hope for the first time that I could remember.
At Pastor Jackís suggestion, I started attending church every Sunday morning with Terry and her husband. From the first service I attended at Church On The Way, I felt completely at home.
The church was an old-fashioned small white chapel with a tall steeple, like the kind often seen on Christmas cards. The only thing missing was the snow. But there was nothing old about what was going on inside. It over-flowed with new life. The sanctuary was packed as full as it could possibly get with people of all ages, colors, sizes, and shapes. Extra chairs were brought in and placed in every available space, even up on the platform and behind the pulpit.
The moment I walked in, I felt a strong, loving, comforting, healing, and freeing presence. It was so thick and soul-stirring that I cried through nearly the entire service. And I wasnít the only one who felt that way. I came to learn that what we all sensed in that place was the love of God and the presence of His Holy Spirit. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and it brought such healing and restoration to my life that I changed in some amazing and undeniable way each time I went there.
The worship part of the service was life-transforming. Whatever hardness of heart I may have brought in with me soon melted away, and all anxiety and fear was replaced by joy. We worshiped God for nearly an hour, but the time flew by. Every worship song, praise chorus, or hymn we sang brought freedom in my soul, and years of uncried tears fell like refreshing rain through each one.
Pastor Jack got up to teach from the Bible, and he was the greatest speaker I had ever heard. He was insightful and thought-provoking, not boring or unclear, and I hung on every word. He made the Scriptures come alive to my understanding, and every verse became immediately relevant to my life.
I could feel myself growing in the things of God each week. My eyes were opening to a world I never knew existed. A world where anything was possible, because I was learning how to walk with and pray to the God of the impossible.
I found out that if I wanted my prayers answered, I didnít just send up a list to God as though He was a great Santa Claus in the sky. There was something required of me. I had to get my life cleaned up and set on the right track. I needed to be reading the Word of God and living in obedience to Godís ways. The good news was that I didnít have to make it all happen by myself. The Holy Spirit in me would teach me all things and enable me to live the way I should. Understanding the Holy Spirit was key to seeing the power of God move in response to my prayers.
What I liked about Pastor Jackís teachings was the way he illustrated the points he was making in a way that made it easy for me to understand. His pictures stuck with me because they related to my life. In one of my favrite of his illustrations, he compared the power of prayer to the engine of a car.
ďThere is very little power in the key that fits my car,Ē he said. ďThe car engine has power, but it does not come to life without my key being put nto the ignition. In other words, I donít have the power to go outside and get myself going 60 miles an hour, but I have access to a resource that can get me moving at that speed. Jesus said, ĎI will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19). Keys mean the authority, the privilege, the access. Some things will not be turned on unless you turn them on. Some things will not be turned loose unless you turn them loose. Some things will not be set free unless yo set them free. The key doesnít make the power of the engine, it releases the power of the engine.Ē
I understood that having legal possession of the keys to a car was evidence that we have the right to that car. In thesame way, because Jesus gives us the keys of His kingdom, we have the right to come before God in prayer. ďAs many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of GodĒ (John 1:12). As His children we have the right to come befor our heavenly Father in prayer.
Having the keys to the car also means that we have the responsibility for it. In that same way, we are responsible for our side of the partnership with God in prayer. If we donít use the key of prayer,then nothing is likely to happen. There wonít be anything released or unlocked.
Our problem is we sometimes forget where we put the keys to our car. The same is true in our prayer life. We misplace the key that unlocks Godís power. We cme upon a situationÖor a situation comes upon usÖand we forget to use our key of prayer to move powerfully in and through it. Whenever I lose the keys to my car, I ask God to show me where they are and help me to find them. He always does. Wheneer we lose sight of our prayer key, we can ask Him to help us find it again. He will do that too.
A key is no good to us if we never use it to unlock anything. If the car key doesnít connect with the ignition, th power of the engine will not be ignited. Godís power is always available to us, but if we donít use the key of prayer, we canít appropriate this power for our lives.
Have you ever wondered why there are good people who love God, rad His Word, and pray, but they donít see His power move in response to their prayers? Why their life doesnít affect or change the world around them for His kingdom, and so the world looks upon their faith as being irrelevant? Itís because here is a misunderstanding of the need to ask for the Holy Spiritís power. The precious Holy Spirit enters every believer, but He only moves in power in those who invite His overflowing enablement. Those who donít invite him are like carsthat have fuel in the tank, but the engine has not been turned on.
People often hesitate to pray because they do not understand the power of the Holy Spirit working through them when they do. Or they donít believe that Godís power is thre for them. Too often we think the power in prayer is not attainable for the average person like us. But God says it is available to all who love Him with their whole being and love others as themselves.
There is an important correlation etween Godís love and Godís power. Jesus said, ďA new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one anotherĒ (John 13:34).
ďIf youíre going to function as a person f the kingdom, then there are certain regulations you need to live in,Ē explained Pastor Jack. ďThe foundational law of the kingdom is the law of love. Itís not a casual Ďfeel goodism.í It is the love of God poured forth in our herts (Romans 5:5). The fountainhead of all power is that flow of the divine love of God happening in us. Loving others is a kingdom law, and you canít get kingdom action without obeying kingdom laws. His keys donít fit our private kingdom. His poer is unleashed upon command, but not for our personal gain.Ē
He didnít mean we donít benefit from Godís power. We certainly do. Everyday. Whenever we acknowledge that we need a fresh flow of Godís power working in us andask for Godís Holy Spirit to flow through us as we pray, we will see His power move in our lives. But He wants us to recognize that His Spirit is love. And if we want a demonstration of Godís power, then Godís love must be the motivating foce behind everything we do and each prayer we pray.
In order to move into that kind of love-motivated praying, however, our first step must be to submit ourselves to God and wait at His feet in prayer. Itís not that He is trying to keep His ower from us, itís that He wants us to depend on Him for it.
After Jesus was resurrected, He visited His disciples and said, ďI send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endue with power from on highĒ (Luke 24:49). Jesus was telling them to wait where they were until they had what they needed for what was ahead of them.
Pastor Jack likened this to the clothing that we wear. ďJesus is saying donít go forth until you have the necessary clothing that prepares you for whatís ahead.Ē
When I first heard this, a vision crystallized clearly in my mind. I saw the nakedness of a person who prays without being clothed in Godís power and thenwonders why they donít get their prayers answered. Itís one thing to be clothed with the righteousness of God through the blood of Jesus Christ when we are born again. And thatís what we need in order to stand before God in perfect confidene. But we also need to be clothed with power for the purpose of being what weíre made to be on this earth.
ďJust like we are to be clothed with the armor of God for spiritual warfare,Ē Pastor Jack told us. ďJesus is saying He oesnít want us going naked into a world that needs us to be prepared with what is necessary in order for us to make a difference there.Ē
Godís power is made available to us in order to do two things. One is to accomplish Godíspurposes here on earth. The other is to give evidence to people around us that Jesus is alive. But we canít do either of those things if we pray without being clothed with the power from heaven. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we are praying unovered.
If youíre like me, you would never say to God, ďI donít need Your power. I can live my life just fine all by myself, so donít try to do anything in me or through me.Ē Yet there are many people who do that every da. Maybe not in those exact words, but they do it by failing to open up to one of the greatest gifts God has ever given to us: the gift of His Holy Spirit. When we understand that this key of prayer is in our hands, and it can ignite Godís power when t connects with the Holy Spirit in us, we will unlock and unleash the power of God in our lives like nothing we have ever seen before.
Excerpted from The Power PrayingôTogether By Stormie Omartian with Jack Hayford. Copyright © 2003 by Harvest House Publishers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.