When the time came, I approached the leadership of the Charismatic Renewal on campus and expressed my desire to join them. I was one of a few seminarians who were joining the group for the first time. We were told that our initiation into the group involved participating in the Life in the Spirit Seminar. For about three weeks we all attended special prayer meetings. The main speaker was a lay person from one of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Accra. He spoke to us at length from the Bible. There was singing, praying and dancing.
Given my years of prejudice against the Charismatics, being part of this process felt awkward. However, I participated with an open mind.
The leaders told us that the Life in the Spirit Seminar would conclude with the “praying over.” This terminology was new to me. According to them, during the praying over, they would pray for the Holy Spirit to come upon us in power and we would receive spiritual gifts, including – but not limited to – the gifts of speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing. In the meantime, I felt excitement and expectation grow in me. I had many questions, though, because this was all new to me.
The most important question I had was about speaking in tongues. When and how were we supposed to speak in tongues? How did it work?
Fortunately, I knew two seminarian friends, Angelo and Eric, who were Charismatics. I asked them to explain to me what they knew about the gift of tongues. They shared their own experience with tongues and the circumstances under which they first spoke in tongues. They were honest with me. They said they couldn’t tell me when or how I would speak in tongues, but they just knew I would.
Angelo explained to me that I needed only two things: desire and expectation. Then, they pointed me to 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts . . .” (NKJV). It was the first time my attention was drawn to this Scripture. If I kept desiring and expecting, he said, I would speak in tongues at a time and place of God’s choosing. I took his advice.
Then came the day of the praying over. This was around early 2002. One of the priests at the seminary, Fr. Arthur, presided. It was a simple ceremony. He had a book to guide him. At the conclusion of the celebration, he invited the initiands to come forward. He and the other leaders of the group stood around us with outstretched arms, invoking the Holy Spirit to come upon us. They didn’t lay hands on us; nor did anyone touch us or instruct us to do anything. I didn’t notice any perceptible change in me. More importantly, I didn’t speak in tongues; not yet.
What I do recall is that I had yielded to the Spirit and was open to receive whatever gifts He wanted to give me. I recall, too, that I never stopped desiring and expecting His gifts to manifest in my life. Soon I began to notice unusual things happen in my life.
To be continued in my next post . . .
Until then, be led by the Spirit.