I don’t tell this story very often, partially because someone spiritually shamed me about it, but I’m going to share it now because the value of what one person thinks is so much smaller than how many can be helped.

It was 1999 when Rock and I attended a conference at a mega church in So Cal. There were several thousands of people there in the indoor stadium-like setting.

I was kind of in a funk with God so, instead of sitting in the first few rows like I normally would, I walked up as high as I could to the nosebleed section.

You know…

To avoid God.

The speaker was vulnerable and funny, honest and real. Sharing about this time when he was in a funk with God.  He had my attention and his heartfelt talk really touched me. At the end he invited us to stand up and open our hands, as a symbol of being open to receive whatever God wanted to give us.

I stood up, closed my eyes, and opened my hands.

Instead of talking incessantly during a closing prayer, like many ministers often do — preaching a whole new sermon at the end of a sermon — he allowed for silence.

Just a time of quiet, gentle, silent receiving.

As I was standing there, my hands began to burn like fire. They didn’t hurt, but they burned. I thought, “Maybe I’m being given a gift of healing!” And I began touching my thyroid, my heart, my hips — any place I knew I needed a healing touch.  

As I stood there with my hands still burning, I kept my eyes closed with my hands open and started hearing this phrase in my head:

Set the captives free. Set the captives free. Set the captives free.

As if knowing I was having an experience, the speaker said into the microphone:

“If you’re experiencing something and would like prayer, please come to the front of the stage and we will pray for you.”

I opened my eyes, you know, so I wouldn’t go falling my way down a million flights of stairs to get prayer, and made my way to the front.

As I stood there, I noticed that men were praying with men and women with women. But as soon as there were two people, anyone of any gender was allowed to join in.

I waited for someone to pray for me.

When I saw that everyone was taken, I noticed a man being prayed for his back. I went over and silently placed my hand on his back to silently join the prayer for his healing. As I touched him, the heat was so strong he broke into a sweat.

I pulled my hand away, not knowing what to think.

Then, I saw a woman being prayed for, for her knees. I went over and did the same thing: placing my hand on her knees to support the prayer that was already happening. The group reacted visibly to the warmth that immediately came over the lady.

I was perplexed and intrigued.

I went back to my little spot in front of the stage to sit and wait for someone to come my way.

When, after many songs, no one did, I just said, “That’s okay, God. I know I had an experience. I don’t need to know more right now if I don’t need to know more right now.”

And I walked away.

As I was making my way back to Rock who had come down to wait for me, these two rather large women were leaning against their seats. One of them had a cane to support her.

“Honey, we noticed nobody prayed for you. Would you like us to pray for you?”

I said, “Sure. I’m a worship leader and I just want to have all that God wants to give me so that I can do all that God wants me to do.”

That was it.

And the two women put one hand on each of my shoulders and began praying. It was a long prayer. And their hands were getting heavier and heavier on me as they prayed.

Until the woman on my left said, “God is going to give you songs of deliverance that will break the bondages of men’s hearts.”

And the woman on my right said, “Yes. He’s going to use you to set the captives free.”

I drew a deep breath in.

I had never said anything to either one of them about the words I heard up in the nosebleed section!

I walked, well, more like floated away to where my husband was sitting.

He listened attentively as I shared what had happened in the last hour or so.

He bowed his head and then shook it. My husband looked up into my eyes and said, “How come all the cool things happen to you?”

Seriously. I wanted to give him such a pinch.

I didn’t want to get started on my list of ‘how all the hard things seem to happen to me, too’ conversation.

We went away from that time in silence.

A few days later, we drove out to Vegas for my cousin’s wedding. When she asked us to sing a spontaneous song at the reception, a family member of mine who is a pastor came up to Rock and me with his wife and said, “The Holy Spirit is so strong on you, we want to pray for you.”

They invited us up to their room the next day for prayer.

As the pastor opened up his Bible before praying he kept reading passages that really spoke to me. When he lowered his head in prayer, he shifted quickly and stared into my eyes, “Stacey, God is going to use you to set the captives free.”

That’s when it stopped feeling cool and mysterious

And I started feeling scared.

Because, if I was being honest with God and everyone else, the truth was this:

I wasn’t free.

(Join me next week while I share Part 2 of The Energy of Freedom)