By Femi Aribisala
A woman came to our mid-week fellowship and, immediately my wife saw her, she bent over and began to groan in pain.
Have you ever had a prayer-meeting where, instead of praying, you groaned? Paul counsels that we should: “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers.” (Ephesians 6:18). Groaning is a kind of prayer. When we are pained and we groan, it is transmitted as a wordless prayer to God. David understood this. He said: “Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.” (Psalm 38:9).
The scriptures record that: “The children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning.” (Exodus 2:23-24). God not only hears, he responds when we groan: “I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them.” (Acts 7:34). “The LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them.” (Judges 2:18).
There are two types of groaning. The one is in the spirit: the other is with the Spirit. The one is initiated by the believer: the other by the Holy Spirit.
Groaning in the spirit
When we are confronted with unpleasant situations in the world, believers groan within ourselves. We do this compulsively, making it akin to Paul’s injunction that we “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). According to Paul, true believers become ill at ease in the world. Therefore, “we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23).
Therefore, it is quite appropriate to have a prayer-meeting where, instead of crying out to God with words; we cry out to him with groans. Jesus was so grieved at the needless distress of people at the death of Lazarus that he groaned at his graveside, even though he was about to raise him from the dead: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” (John 11:33). “Then Jesus, again groaning in himself, came to the tomb.” (John 11:38).
Groaning with the Spirit
God does not only inhabit our praises (Psalm 22:3); he identifies with our pains. The love of God for us is so intense that in our affliction God himself is afflicted. (Isaiah 63:9). So total is God’s identification with us that when we groan, he groans. When God groans for us, he groans through us. This groaning comes not at the instance of the believer, but at the behest of the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer. This is referred to as groaning with the Spirit.
Once, a woman came to our mid-week fellowship and, immediately my wife saw her, she bent over and began to groan in pain. This groan came automatically at the instance of the Holy Spirit. Thus, Paul observes that: “The Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26). Later, the woman told us her ordeal, which was what the Lord was reacting to through Karen.
Laughing in the Spirit
Isaiah said Jesus would be: “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” (Isaiah 53:3). This does not mean we are to be sorrowful all lifelong. Joy and gladness comes from the Lord. So indeed does laughter. I came to know this because the Lord anointed me with laughter dramatically after my “old man,” T.S.B. Aribisala, passed away. I thought I was the one laughing until I realised that I could not control the laughter and could not stop laughing. I laughed and laughed until I was out of breath.
Since then, I have prayed for people to be anointed with laughter at fellowships and God has answered the prayer. People start laughing “in the Spirit.” This phenomenon has scriptural resonance. We laugh in rejoicing and thanksgiving at God’s testimonies. We laugh when the Lord confounds us with his wonderful works. The psalmist says: “When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126:1-2).
When God promised him a son: “Abraham fell on his face and laughed. (Genesis 17:17). Sarah too declared: “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21:6). When the child finally arrived: “Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him- whom Sarah bore to him- Isaac.” (Genesis 21:3). God gave Isaac to Abraham, and Isaac means laughter. Therefore, God will give laughter to the sons of Abraham.
Believers today can also operate in this confidence. No matter the adversity, you can rest assured that the Lord: “will yet fill your mouth with laughing, and your lips with rejoicing.” (Job 8:21). Therefore, the Holy Spirit sometimes gives us a foretaste of this assurance when we stand in faith by anointing us with laughter, even in some of our darkest hours.
Covering of the Spirit
Once, I was on my knees in prayer in the middle of the night in my living-room. Suddenly, I heard a loud noise in the room. Fear immediately came over me. But there was something dramatic about my experience of this fear, even as there was about my deliverance from it. The fear started from my toes; and it crawled up quickly until it reached my head. But immediately it reached my head, something else displaced it.
A blanket came down from my head, just as dramatically; going gradually down all the way down to my toes. This covering banished the fear, and I quickly realised it was the covering of the Lord. Then I discovered that the noise came from the domino effect of arranged Christmas cards falling down from the top of a side table in the foyer.
There is a spiritual covering that God places on his people. It is invisible but sometimes discernible. If you are a child of God, the promise of God is that: “He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you shall take refuge; his truth shall be your shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:4). We are created for the glory of God and “over all the glory there will be a covering.” (Isaiah 4:5).
In Isaiah, God complained about wayward Israel: “Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin.” (Isaiah 30:1).
I was ministering at a night vigil at Pentecostal Assembly in Lagos when an inner witness told me a man standing in the front row was covered from head to toe with “juju.” The witness said to me: “Give him the microphone. Let him tell the congregation what he did.”
The man admitted he had consulted a “babalawo” for protection. He took him through certain rituals, and “covered” him with “juju.” The inner witness told me to remove manually the man’s invisible “juju” protection, and to warn him severely never to return again to the “juju” man. “Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy” (Jonah 2:8).