Praying with Yoda

Praying with Yoda May 4, 2023

A recent, comprehensive survey by Skylight and City Square Associates sought to take a measure of the nation’s practices of prayer. The sample of adults questioned (aged 18-64) delivered a fascinating and in-depth set of data, from what folk pray about to where they pray, to whether they pray for their favourite football team’s victory, and my favourite – which Star wars character they would most like to pray with if offered a choice of Obi Wan, Ben Solo, Yoda, Rey, Han, Leia, Grogu, Luke, and C3PO.


Unsurprisingly, Yoda came out on top with 23% of the vote, with Baby Yoda (Grogu) in second with 15%. Obi Wan came third, with 10%, and the rest were negligible. Han only received 3% of the vote, and Luke, 4%. I was telling my stepson about this last night, and before I could even read out the list he’d gone for Yoda, as if he were the only obvious choice. For me, this poses a question – why do we seek gurus?


The recent debate on the value of Contemporary Worship resounded with warnings against celebrity leaders, but what is a guru or sage if not a celebrated leader? Every religion in every era has seen such leaders rise up; I’m not sure it’s an avoidable state of affairs, regardless of the inherent risks in platforming someone so highly.


I understand why there is resistance to celebrating the gifts of individual leaders – because when that person falls, everyone who looked up to them is damaged in some way. But is ironing out the church landscape so that nobody’s head stands above another a godly idea? This controlling and rigid reaction stems from fear rather than faith, requiring exceptionally gifted individuals to play down what God has given them instead of following the call to serve. 1 Peter 4:10-11


As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.


If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen


The gifts we are given by God are manifestations of grace and are not to be treated lightly. I use the King James here because the language captures the strength of the message – if anyone speaks (prophesies), let them do so as the oracles of God!


Whether we like it or not, God has ordained that we have leaders in the church, and much is required of the person with that gift and responsibility. Unavoidably, a good leader will be much loved by the congregation, a great teacher will draw crowds, a gifted worship leader will be given a platform, and a wise person will be sought out by many. It is wrong to iron out this marvellous landscape, in which each person has much to offer if encouraged to use their gift with confidence and faith. Otherwise we enforce a form of spiritual communism.


In the context of the Star Wars story, Yoda is a true master of the abilities he’s been given, and his unique command of the Force draws Luke to seek him out as a teacher. A Christian seeking to grow in their effectiveness would do well to find such a mentor – somebody who has put in the time to master their gifts, and who is willing to take them on as a mentee.


The subject, then, is mastery. Each of us should be on a lifelong quest to master our gifts. The person gifted with teaching should be an inspiration; the prophet should shoot gracious arrows that hit the bullseye; the one gifted with wealth should be marvellously generous to those in need, and those graced with hospitality should put on the most splendid parties! I don’t want to be part of a greyed out, mediocre church in which the precious gifts God has graced us with are starved of oxygen and never blossom. Those gifts have a divine purpose which is not ours to stifle. I want to see the variety, colours, and contours of the Kingdom of God in all its wonderful inhabitants.


Take Jackie Pullinger as an example of a true master. If you don’t know who she is, I highly recommend looking her up. At the age of 22, she heard the call of God to travel to Asia and minister the Good News. The church wouldn’t back her on the basis of her gender, so she hopped on a ship in faith and sailed round the world until she reached Hong Kong, where the Lord instructed her to disembark. Following the Holy Spirit, she entered the Walled City – a lawless den of drug-lords and enforced prostitution, run by the Triads. The Hong Kong police never entered the city, considering it a rogue territory, but Jackie walked in with her Lord and began to minister. Most famously, she prayed for numerous heroin addicts, who were instantly freed from their addiction when they were filled with the Spirit. She helped girls escape prostitution, paying for their release from the cages they were kept in, along with a host of other good works.


I met Jackie in 1996, while serving as a missionary in South East Asia, and all these years later, the memory of her words and presence are still a light to me. She exuded peace and warmth, but also spoke with authority and didn’t hesitate to challenge listeners. She radiated the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and delivered prophecies that cut to the quick – a true master of her gifts, which of course means she is truly effective in her service of God. If I’ve ever had a spiritual hero, it’s Jackie Pullinger.


In the light of what I read, see, and hear about fallen pastors and celebrity worship leaders, I feel that many have reacted in fear and reached for the iron, but that will never bring about the Kingdom of God. We need to find ways to support those whose gifts are celebrated, relying on accountability and godly structures, but we must not shut the door on the manifold gifts and blessings of God, who has chosen us to be his hands and feet. In my view, we ought to encourage the development of gifts and spur each other on to excellence, for the glory of God.


If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.


See the full results of the prayer survey here.

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