Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, and the Holy Spirit: 25 June

A vicar friend told me recently about praying with a dying soldier in hospital. A Para, he was sent inexperienced into Northern Ireland just before ‘Bloody Sunday.’ In the chaos and fear he saw what he thought was a gun pointing at him. He fired first. Life went into slow motion as a child fell, slain by his bullet. The lad had been holding a stick.

We recognise that Bloody Sunday was a big mistake for which apology was rightly due. It was against British policy. The army were there to support the police, not to carry the fight to the terrorists. Yes there were guns hidden among the civilian population. But the British army was not to attack.

British policy, British response, to terrorism used to be different from the Israeli. When the Israelis know or even think there are guns and rockets hidden among civilians, or among international blockade breakers, they go in, their guns blazing. The Israeli policy is dangerous and wrong. But it is a policy our own Government has adopted, supported by all political parties. We have gone into Afghanistan and Iraq, guns blazing. More innocent civilians have been killed, injured, bereaved than in Northern Ireland but no-one thinks a report or a re-think is needed. ‘Payments to relatives of Afghan civilians killed in error by British forces have trebled over the past year.’ Our Government has been strangely muted in their response to the Israeli piracy, because they know that they, we, are guilty of the same crime.

A new acquaintance this week said what I have often heard over recent years. ‘Our soldiers shouldn’t be in Afghanistan, but now they’re there, we need to support them ‘ A man in Bilston who organised parcels for troops said the same. ‘Supporting our troops’ is popular. Getting them out as soon as we can much less so. Will the Government carry through it’s commitment to a 25% in the military budget? Not without a change of policy.

I remember when the Afghan campaign had recently started with bombing Taliban / suspected Al Quaeda targets. There was little concern for death and destruction to civilians at or near the targets. John Arnott, the leader of the church in Toronto famous for spearheading a dramatic global move of the Holy Spirit was speaking at a Leaders’ meeting in this country. He said that God, the Father, loves and longs to look down on us and say ‘That’s my boy! That’s my girl!’ He could not say that of the bomber pilots.

John Arnott and others in this Renewal preach consistently on the love of the Father, and on the need to forgive all who have injured us. ‘Give them a gift they don’t deserve – forgiveness,’ repeats John. Even when there has been no confession on their part we still need to offer the gift. The gift may be ignored and the forgiveness incomplete, but that is clearly Jesus’ way. This applies not only between individuals but between nations. (The Law of Love applies across the world.) We need to draw out the political consequences of simply knowing more deeply the love of the Father.

This week I heard John Arnott speak again in Retford, Notts. A great message about ‘honouring the anointing’, honouring the Holy Spirit who is on us as He was on Jesus. John says that the flow of the Holy Spirit has continued since the initial ‘outpouring’ in 1994 – but is now increasing again, in both strength and breadth. Others have said that September last year seemed to have marked a fresh increase in healings, prophecy etc. Hallelujah!

A friend this week gave me dinner and mentioned that he has a ‘sticky-up’ toe, eased but not fixed by physiotherapy. I thought of offering to pray but held back, unsure how he would take the offer. The following morning I regretted my cowardice, depriving a friend of possible benefit. I thought Jesus accepted my apology and said I could now pray with him over the phone instead. Being pointed to praying over the phone was a surprise, and a challenge.

My friend readily agreed to prayer over the phone. He said the damage had been done through years of running and football. I said the Holy Spirit could still bring healing, and his body has natural repair systems which probably needed boosting. We asked for electricity down his back to boost his ability to repair the toe. He said he could feel a gentle tingling pulse. After a while his toe was flat to the ground again for the first time in ages. Hallelujah!

Hurting feet are my symptom of the moment. Last week a woman with gout in her foot reported great easing of pain and more movement after prayer for a stream of cleansing water. I thought her foot looked less purple and swollen. Hallelujah indeed! The Holy Spirit is flowing today!

Roger Harper

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