JAMES (JIM) IRWIN, one of the astronauts on the Apollo 15 mission to the Moon in 1971, was a believer who had a spiritual encounter with God while on the lunar surface. It was a moment that would change the course of his life.
At one point on the Moon, when he was having trouble setting up his equipment for one of the experiments he had to conduct, he stopped and prayed, “God I need your help right now”. James Irwin then experienced the presence of God’s spirit in a way he’d never felt before. His wife, Mary, later commented, “The Lord showed him the solution to the problem and the experiment erected before him like a little altar. He was so overwhelmed at seeing and feeling God’s presence so close… at one point he turned around and looked over his shoulder as if He (God) was standing there.” In a 1991 article after Irwin’s death, The New York Times reported that he would often tell church groups he “felt the power of God as I’d never felt it before” in that moment.
The Apollo 15 mission transcript also shows that, while Irwin was exploring the Moon’s landscape with Commander Dave Scott, he was reminded of ‘a favourite Biblical passage from Psalms’. Speaking by radio to Mission Control in Houston, he quoted the verse, “I look unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” – before adding in good humour, “But, of course, we get quite a bit [of help] from Houston, too”.
In the business of setting up his experiment on the Moon, James Irwin stopped, turned to God and prayed. In doing so he enjoyed God’s manifest presence with him and gave room for God’s power to work in his life. He understood the truth of those words from Psalm 121 verses 1-2: ‘I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.’
Let me encourage you in this busy Christmas season to do the same, take some time to pause and spend time with God. Lift up your eyes (Psalm 121) and call on him to help you in the circumstances and situations facing you. Spend time in His presence, read His word, and you may be surprised how He releases His power to help you!
Keith Saynor, Pastor, Grace Church Caversham