The Fire at Notre Dame ~ A Prophetic Call to Worship

I was at work when I heard about the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15th. I quickly searched the internet to watch and read the headlines. It was a surprising detour in my workday.

The emotions that followed caught me off-guard me as tears started to well up around my eyes. I wanted to cry—to really cry—but I was at work. It didn’t make sense to me. Why would the fire at a historic landmark across the world have this sort of impact on me?

Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames, April 15, 2019. (Photo credit: mhznetworks.com)

It felt like a dagger to my heart as my mind was flooded with memories of my trip to France in 2014.

An Unexpected Missional Call

I was traveling alone on a church mission to Grenoble, France and then on to Madrid to spread the word about Celebrate Recovery, a biblical 12-step recovery program. My mission partner lived in Grenoble and invited me to share my testimony at his church there.

Notre Dame, the 14th century gothic cathedral in the heart of Paris, attracts 12 million visitors annually. September, 2014

As I made my travel arrangements to France, I sensed a prompting by the Holy Spirit to plan a layover in Paris. This wasn’t a typical layover though. I was given a prayer assignment at Notre Dame Cathedral in downtown Paris.

It seemed like a crazy idea—leave Charles De Gaulle Airport in the suburbs of Paris, attend Mass at Notre Dame and return to the airport for my next flight.

It WAS a crazy idea! I had to make sure it wasn’t MY crazy idea though. I prayed about it and followed where I felt led—to Notre Dame—accepting along the way that if God wanted me there, He was going to have to put all the pieces in place.

Not A Tourist at Notre-Dame

I ended up with a short layover in Paris—only 4 hours! It was against all odds, including an Air France strike, that I was placed at the facade of Notre Dame five minutes before Mass. Although it was noon in Paris, my internal clock was very much aware of the 9-hour time difference. To me it was 3 AM.

There were long lines of tourists waiting to get into Notre Dame. I snuck into the line and was relieved when no one questioned my cutting in. Once inside I quickly realized the line was for paid tours of the Cathedral. I was able to make my way beyond the tourist area into the roped off section of the church to attend Mass.

Relieved again and a bit disoriented, I tried to follow the service in French—which I had no knowledge of. I prayed silently—in English—and followed the lead of others in attendance—sitting, standing, kneeling and communion. After the Mass was over, I stayed to pray a while longer and thank God for bringing me to this place and time—in Notre Dame, by myself, on mission for God!! God’s ‘crazy’ and wonderous idea—definitely not mine!

Inside Notre Dame Cathedral while on mission for God, September 2014.

As much as I wanted to tour the Cathedral and especially to go to the roof and see the gargoyles, I didn’t have the time. I had instructions to rendezvous with Pierre, my non-English speaking cab driver and friend of my missionary partners, in 90 minutes outside the Cathedral.

With camera in hand, I quickly got a few photos inside Notre Dame and bought some religious souvenirs. My remaining time was spent taking in the sights around the outside of the Cathedral. My mind shifted back and forth between the excitement of being in Paris and trying to prayer-walk around the Cathedral—not an easy task with a sleep deprived body and jet lag setting in.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t even time for lunch at a Paris café. My time in Paris ended with a quick stop at the Eiffel Tower for a selfie—then off to catch a train to Grenoble. (I was thankful for the Air France strike because it worked in my favor to take the train instead, and extended my brief time in Paris.)

Prayers Going up in Smoke

In preparing for my prayer assignment at Notre Dame, I researched religious history in France. In light of the religious wars and the bloodshed in the name of Christ, the Holy Spirit’s prompting to pray in Notre Dame made sense to me.

He was calling me to pray at an icon of faith in a city that had lost its spiritual roots.

Paris was the site of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572, a religiously fueled Catholic mob violence targeted toward Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants). Over the centuries, the religious climate led to animosity being handed down from generation to generation between Catholics and Protestants in France and an apathy towards organized religion and God.

My prayer assignment was focused on a call to renewal and an awakening in the people of France—to return to Christ and His church. My prayers were for healing and unity in France.

Notre Dame engulfed in flames and smoke as the spire collapses, April 15, 2019. (Photo credit: Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP / Getty Images)

So in light of my call to pray at Notre Dame in 2014, when I saw the first news stories and videos of the Cathedral on fire, I had a dreadful sense that MY prayers were also going up in smoke too. This was the sadness that carried me back to my memories of Notre Dame. My heart was breaking because for me, Notre Dame was a symbol of hope for unity and revival for God’s people in France. It was a sacred place of worship.

Out of the Ashes

On Monday night, April 15th, the night of the blaze, the news reported that church officials, citizens and firefighters formed a human chain to save artwork and relics from the church. They rescued the Holy Crown (believed to be from the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head), a fragment of the Wood of the Cross (believed to be from the cross that Jesus was crucified on) and one of the nails (believed to be used by the Romans to crucify Christ).

When I went to bed that night, the Cathedral was still engulfed in flames. The 300-foot wooden spire atop the roof had already collapsed. It seemed like there was no hope for the survival of Notre Dame.

The next morning out of the ashes hope was restored: Notre Dame had survived the fire. Parts of the roof were destroyed, but the two bell towers and much of the interior structure and ceilings were spared. Pictures surfaced on the internet showing the survival of the altar, the crucifix, and the 18th century Pietà sculpture. The majestic rose window was also spared.

Inside Notre-Dame after the fire, April 16, 2019. (Photo credit: Christophe Petit Tesson / EPA / Shutterstock)

This was surely answered prayer to the countless people worldwide praying for the Cathedral to not be destroyed. Word came later that day from French President Emmanuel Macron that he would launch an international fundraising campaign to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral.

A Prophetic Call to Worship

I was relieved to hear that Notre Dame was spared. As I reflected on this tragic event and prayed, I was reminded of the downfall of the nations of Israel and Judah in Old Testament times. The split kingdoms were ruled by godly and ungodly kings since the end of Solomon’s rule in around 931 BC. The books of 1st and 2nd Kings and 1st and 2nd Chronicles are filled with the history of God’s chosen people and the downward spriral of godlessness.

2 Kings Chapters 22-23, describes King Josiah’s desperate attempt to turn the nation of Judah back to God. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.” 2 Kings 22:2, NIV (David was not literally his father, but Josiah was from the lineage of King David.)

King Josiah found the Book of the Covenant and instituted sweeping reforms. He destroyed the pagan idols, altars, shrines, and even their priests. He led the nation of Judah back to the Lord averting disaster in his lifetime. But the sinfulness of Judah returned. Eventually Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar and the people were taken away in captivity to Babylon.

The fall of Jerusalem, 586 BC.

Fast forward over 2 centuries… Is history doomed to repeat itself or is God sending a prophetic message to the people of France (and our world in general)? Notre Dame has been spared. The people of France and His Church have a second chance to repent and return to Him. He is calling them to rebuild not only the physical church but to rebuild the spiritual church, the Body of Christ.

THAT is the answer to my prayer. It felt extremely profound and prophetic that this fire happened at Notre Dame, on holy ground where I prayed (and at the start of Holy Week). Notre Dame can once again become a true house of worship and not just a medieval monument. Out of the ashes His Church will be rebuilt.

Just like Old Testament times, and the prayers of King Josiah, God hears our prayers. Let’s pray for spiritual renewal to spread throughout France—healing the people and their land.

Parisians brought to their knees praying outside Notre Dame Cathedral, April 15, 2019. (Photo credit: Eric Feferberg / AFP / Getty Images)

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV

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2 Comments

  1. José & Ada Hernández Missional Journey in Spain

     /  April 22, 2019

    Ardis, THANK YOU for this wonderful reflection. I totally agree. It is a prophetic message to the Western world and we must listen. Many blessings!

    Like

    Reply
    • Greetings Jose & Ada! As missionaries in Spain, you know and live this reality on a daily basis. I hope and pray for a wake-up call in Europe. Blessings, Ardis

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      Reply

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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

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