To honor and remember Andrea O’Brien
by Elizabeth Fulgaro
“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
August 14, 2015 marks the 3rd anniversary of when the Lord visited my friend, Andrea O’Brien and gave her the assignment to start a new Christmas worship movement called, Carols At The Capitol. Andrea passed from life to LIFE on June 2, 2015 and our hearts ache with missing her.
The last time I saw her was Mother’s Day evening May 10th. I had been invited to cook dinner and bring it over. Andrea and I had not had a chance to really talk alone with each other for a week or so. There had been a welcoming, loving frenzy around her at the Danville National Day of Prayer event three days before and thus no time to really connect personally and talk. Now alone on her family room couch I was listening closely to all Andrea was intent on sharing with me. She was so ill.
About midway through our two hours together she looked at me quite seriously and said, “Will you do something for me?”
“Sure,” I answered.
“Will you speak at my funeral?”
I felt tears well up at the edges of my eyes. “Yes, Andrea. Of course….What would you like me to talk about? What would you like people to know?”
She did not hesitate with her response. “Tell them about how I am an intercessor. Let them know about the powerful intercession with which we have been involved. Many don’t know this about me. I want them to know.”
“Ok, my dear friend. I will do it. It would be an honor to do this for you.”
We continued our deep conversation until she was too weary to continue. We hugged. At her request, I left her reclined on the family room couch. To her chagrin (amazing hostess that she was) she was too weak to show me to the door.
Ever since she had made this request, I had been pondering what exactly she meant by it. I was honored beyond words to be asked to do this, but I also was praying, asking the Lord how it was to be done. The Holy Spirit had put this topic on her heart and now she had passed the assignment to me. Since it was His idea, He knew what was to be said, how to say it, when and to whom.
However, speaking at her Memorial was not to be. Though day after day through May I had prayed for the Lord to orchestrate her passing so that I would be able to attend, she passed from life to LIFE less than 3 days before our son and I left on a long-scheduled trip to Europe to visit old friends. The memorial would occur while we were gone.
Our Lord could orchestrate anything! At the airport, He had orchestrated for me to lift my cell phone, with its ringer set to “silent” out of my purse at the exact moment Andrea’s eldest daughter, Allie, was calling in response to a text I had sent. This call was a treasure to both of us! He had even orchestrated for the plane to be over an hour delayed, so I was not in the air yet and could receive Allie’s phone call. Yet, He had not enabled me to attend Andrea’s Memorial, let alone speak there as she had asked. What was I supposed to do with this message she had asked me to deliver? Lord, what do you want me to do with this?
Sharing the role powerful intercession had played in her life did not seem like it would be a surprise to most of those at the memorial. Didn’t they know this about Andrea already? I mean didn’t people know that being a strong intercessor went hand in hand with her faith and all she did for her Lord in faith? In fact, intercession was integral. Intercession gave everything else she did its foundation. Intercessory prayer was that upon which her actions for the Lord were built. People knew this, didn’t they?
Hmmm…Maybe not. Just in case, perhaps I could or even should write about my dear friend, Andrea O’Brien, as the powerful intercessor who she was. Thus as the airplane lifted off the San Francisco runway bound for Europe taking me away from Andrea’s Memorial, the Holy Spirit led me to write what follows.
Andrea O’Brien, Powerful Intercessor for the Most High God
I was blessed to have Andrea O’Brien as a dear, close and trusted friend for over 15 years. We had met in Moms in Prayer (then called Moms in Touch) group for the San Ramon Valley Christian Academy, gathering weekly to pray for our children and their school. Beyond a wife and mother, first and foremost Andrea was a daughter of Most High God and she knew it. She didn’t just believe in the existence of God. She believed God had created us for relationship with Him. She understood that the original relationship with the Lord, which He had intended, had been damaged by Adam and Eve’s choices (with negative repercussions for all of their progeny). They had made their own decision regarding what was right and wrong instead of submitting to God’s leading. In so doing they had asserted they wanted to be their own god, thus separated themselves from the One True and Only God.
Therefore Andrea understood that our relationship with God during this temporary life is not everything it was always meant to be. Faith in Jesus and the choice to follow Him makes all the difference because it takes advantage of Jesus’ offer to restore our relationship with God to what He had always planned. The full benefits of this restoration process would not be enjoyed until heaven, but it could begin and move forward mightily now. By faith in Jesus and what He did for us we became part of His kingdom which was definitely to be enjoyed now and simultaneously not fully yet.
The choice to believe in and seek to follow Jesus gave Andrea’s life its purpose and direction. Andrea spent her time seeking to hear from and listen to her Lord because she understood in order to be a follower of Him, she was to imitate the example He set through His own life.
She knew that Jesus –even though Son of God and thus equal with God (for He was fully God Himself)—set aside His own will to do only that which He saw Father God doing. Jesus exclusively did the will of His Father. Thus in order for us to imitate Jesus, we needed to listen for the will of God as whispered in our hearts by the Holy Spirit and set aside our own will to embrace and carry out His.
To be in a state of listening for God’s instructions accompanied by a readiness to obey is a form of communication with God. Prayer is what we call the various forms of communication with Him. Thus to be in a such a state of listening so that by His grace and the activity of the Holy Spirit we can hear and obey is to be in a state of ongoing prayer.
Sometimes our obedience to the Lord is to listen and then pursue specific good actions which we believe He is leading us to do now. Other times, He leads us not in the doing (yet), but in partnering with Him yet a little while in prayer.
In this type of prayer we frequently are not praying necessarily for ourselves, though sometimes we are praying specifically for individuals. Other times we are praying for communities, nations or the entire world. Sometimes the prayers are uttered silently in the depths of our hearts. Other times we literally declare out loud into the atmosphere around us that which He has led us to believe He has purposed in heaven (in the spiritual realm) and desires to birth into the world (into the natural realm) where we live. We continue to declare the impending coming of these things in faith until we see the evidence of the fulfillment of His will in the world around us—until that which we believe He has purposed and planned in heaven for earth has been accomplished by His power. Sometimes this prayer is in a group setting. Other times it is when we are alone with God. Sometimes it is for minutes, hours or days. Other times it is for years or even a lifetime.
When we pray in this way, we are partnering with our Lord and actually imitating Christ. Scripture tells us that once Jesus ascended into heaven following His death and resurrection, He became seated at the right hand of the Father with all things under His feet (under His power and authority). Yet even as the worship around Him as Lamb of God and King of kings is ongoing, Jesus simultaneously continues to pray for us right now. Scripture tells us Jesus is “interceding” for us from this position at the right hand of Father God. Stunning! God on the throne and from that position He is praying for us!
This is the essence of intercession—of intercessory prayer. The word “intercede” literally means to intervene on behalf of another. Even though Jesus enabled full restoration of relationship with God through the actions of His death on the cross and resurrection, we must each still choose Him. Meanwhile, He continues to stand in the gap between heaven and earth to pray for us.
Clearly, since Jesus enthroned as our heavenly King continues to intercede for us, intercessory prayer also must be an integral part of His divine and perfect way of life for us—where we intervene before God on behalf of others and the whole world. By the example set by Jesus, this confirms intercessors are not to just pray for themselves, neither do they pray their own will. Intercessors listen for God’s will in the moment and then pray forward what they perceive to be on God’s heart. We pray; we obey; the Lord releases His power and then He often works through us in the process to fulfill His will for every person now through eternity.
Through Jesus, we have received position (authority) to partner with Him in this prayer. As believers and followers, though still temporarily very much still in this world, we are no longer of it and have been spiritually seated in the heavenly realms with Jesus even now. As Jesus intercedes for us from His position at the right hand of God, so we also pick up the spiritual sword He has given us in the Word of God, listen for His leading and pray with Him in one accord. We are praying on earth as in heaven, in essence by our God-powered and God-directed intercession calling into being (by the power of God) that which He desires to birth on the earth by the authority He has given us as His children and heirs.
Ultimately, all intercession is about the Lord’s great plan to draw all people to Himself in Spirit and truth, enabling those who seek Him to receive the restored relationship and eternal life with Him which became possible through the work of Jesus. Compelled by nudges from the Holy Spirit (which is called the prophetic) regarding what to pray when, intercessors choose to sacrifice personal time and energy to partner with God in prayer for His good purposes to be fulfilled in the lives of all He loves (which is every single person). Then often but not always, eventually intercessors can be called to specific tangible actions related to that for which they have been praying, through which God works to bring sovereign His will to fruition. Such was the case for Andrea with Carols At The Capitol and the National Day of Prayer gatherings in Danville.
At her core, Andrea O’Brien was an intercessor for her Lord. She was a powerful intercessor, because her intercession was led by His Spirit and thus it was empowered by Him. She did not pray for her will, but sought to know and pray for His. Intercession was key, foundational work to which He called her on an ongoing basis. It preceded and accompanied everything else she did and by her intercession she not only prayed the Lord’s will forward, but sought His specific steps for every day of her life.
Andrea relied on the Word of God, the Bible, more than any other tool in her intercession, using it in her prayer, letting the Holy Spirit lead her to specific verses or bring them to mind at particular moments. This was because Andrea knew what the Lord promised about His Word. First, His Word was Truth—the revealed will and ways of God. In addition, one of her most quoted verses about the Word of God was Hebrews 4:12:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb. 4:12 NIV)
Andrea understood the power of our words and the authority with which we operate because she understood the power of the Lord’s Word. She understood how in John 1 He declared in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. God is Almighty. It is through His Word that all things were created. He spoke and what He spoke came to be. We are made in God’s image. Thus she understood that in our words was the power to build up and create and the power to destroy.
Sound is vibrations. Thus sound released has a physical, emotional and even spiritual effect on the world around us. Stated another way that which we put out through our words into the atmosphere can shift the atmosphere either in a direction which invites more of the presence of God and the effects of the magnification of His Spirit in our midst, or pushes us toward a more worldly perspective, where powers contrary to God have the upper hand.
Andrea wanted to welcome and exalt God alone. She wanted to impact the atmosphere—the invisible spiritual realm—and the world for God. Andrea was a warrior for her Lord. Her allegiance was completely to her King of kings and Lord of lords. She wanted to be an authentic follower of Jesus, which meant she only wanted God’s will. Thus in an effort to discern His direction for this moment and her life, Andrea’s method of operation was to worship (often accompanied by fasting) to let the Lord know she was seeking Him. By her worship and fasting she sought to honor Him and acknowledge that she knew He was the One with the power, plan and answers. He was the only God, the Most High One who alone was worthy of her attention. He was more important than anything else and she wanted Him to know it.
Consistently, alongside worship and fasting, Andrea could be found reading His Word and waiting for Him to speak to her through it. This was not just at weekly worship services. More often it was daily before Him privately on her own. She knew we were created to worship Him and by her worship and sacrificial fasting she wanted to simultaneously honor Him for this place in her life and invite Him to have His way fully with hers.
All of this goes back to a part of God’s truth, which Andrea knew well. We live in a reality where there are forces at work which are natural and supernatural, visible and invisible, physical and spiritual. The truth is there is a spiritual reality around us at all times, beyond that which we can see which is more powerful than us in nature—there is God’s good and then there is well….the other side, which is the opposite of good—both super-natural (beyond what is possible naturally for us as human beings). Everything visible was created out of the invisible. The invisible spiritual existed first. Then God spoke and what He spoke was created in the visible realm.
God has a will. God has a specific plan. Andrea knew this with her whole heart and being. There are still circumstances and situations God wants to cause to come to pass in the visible realm today. Andrea longed to always be His faithful servant, partnering with Him in worship and prayer for release of His power to accomplish His purposes. Andrea wanted only God’s will—His plans and His ideas—and not her own. Thus worship of God to honor Him as in-charge thereby putting Him “on the throne” in our lives, along with intercessory prayer simultaneous to study of His Word undergirded everything which Andrea did.
We change and grow, but God does not. He remains the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. This means how He is recorded to have been with the Israelites in the Old Testament and how Jesus is recorded to have been while on earth with His disciples, is how we can expect Him to be with us still today. We read the Word. We learn more about Him and how He has operated in the past. We absorb His promises as the Holy Spirit honors our seeking of Him through His Word, by writing the deep truth (the revelation of God) from what we are reading on our hearts. Our faith grows. We understand the One in whom we have chosen to believe a little more every time. We comprehend better His purposes and He lets us know how we can serve Him and why by previous examples.
The Word and worship, worship and the Word (often accompanied by fasting) these were ways Andrea employed ongoing to seek the Lord more and inquire what He might want her to understand, how she should pray and what He might want from her.
Andrea tended her private relationship with the Lord in this way, but she also knew the importance of being in community with other like-minded believers. We are described as the many parts of His Body where Christ is the Head (the “brains” of the operation). None of us can function completely separately from each other. We are connected.
She sought to know Him more through organized group Bible studies. Thus Andrea augmented her personal study, worship and prayer. She knew if we seek He promises to be found by us! She knew we can never fully plumb His depths—never know Him fully—so we would be lifelong seekers, ever trying to learn more about Him.
Through participation in a local group called the Blackhawk Bible Study got her first real drink of the cool, refreshing, invigorating, enlivening Living Water of the Holy Spirit. In autumn 2003, she felt led to write and lead her own Bible Study upon which the Lord later bestowed the name: Daughters of Praise. Every week she spent hours in fasting, personal private worship and intercession asking God to tell her what she should teach, in which order and how to write it up. Simultaneously she interceded for those He was calling to attend her study.
God was faithful. Every woman who attended grew mightily in her understanding of the Lord by the power and direction of the Holy Spirit. At the same time even as she led the group, her own understanding of and commitment to worship, intercession and the Word grew. At our weekly Bible study gathering times, under her leadership we were encouraged to practice together what we had been learning. This included: the power of words because of the power of His Word (the power which is on blessing and cursing—one positive and the other negative), the power of declaration, the mandate to be intercessors, the call to worship and the critical importance of listening for His will as the foundation of everything else. As the group continued, we experienced a shift from praying more for husbands, children and schools, to praying for our nation, nations, the world, His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as in heaven and for the expansion of this Kingdom. (That means more people coming to faith in Jesus Christ in a way which they began to imitate His life—following His way,—too.)
Only after prolific worship, followed by intercession did we settle down every week to delve into His Word and learn more. Worship and prophetic intercession preceded our study. We wanted to invite Him to have His way with us during our study time. We wanted to welcome Him in by our worship. And we wanted to join with His purposes through intercession, praying forward only that which we believed He was showing us.
At her core, Andrea was an evangelist. She understood her Lord’s ultimate plan and wanted to fulfill His place for her in it until He called her home. She wanted everyone to know and choose her Lord. She wanted governments to bow to Him and let Him be their King by establishing and enforcing laws which matched His way. With her Lord she knew to expect the unexpected and that He made the impossible possible. She believed and did not doubt.
This increasing habit of a lifestyle of ongoing personal and corporate worship linked with prophetic intercession (praying forward what she sensed was on God’s heart) carried over into Andrea’s life and the personal lives of the rest of us at the study. Once Andrea grabbed hold of what she thought His will was, then she would declare it, confident in His ability to bring whatever His will was into fulfillment. Understanding that God’s Word was the most perfect and powerful of all, she would speak out what she perceived to be God’s plan in agreement with Him and wherever possible, link specific Scripture to what she thought the Lord was looking to accomplish through it. Then while she interceded for God’s will to be done on earth as she perceived was already His plan from heaven, she would listen to whether beyond declaration there were specific steps God ordained her to take toward the visible accomplishment of what had been declared.
I was a beneficiary of her study of the Word, worship and listening for His will—what He was doing and wanted to bring forth (prophetic). I obeyed a prompting of the Holy Spirit to bring forward a song the Lord had had me compose years before so that we could worship to it at our Bible study. Andrea sensed the Lord was using that song as a prompt for our small group to lay hands on me and pray (led by Andrea who was led by the Holy Spirit) that I would begin hearing new worship songs from heaven which would go around the world. Since that day I have written well over 400 new original worship songs, over 100 of which have been professionally recorded and indeed they have been shipped and listened to on every continent. It was Andrea who sensed the Holy Spirit wanted prayer for this for me that February day in 2004. Her obedience to lead the others in prayer has born huge fruit. This was also how Carols At The Capitol was birthed after the Lord visited her and gave her the assignment (and she heard and believed) the night of August 14, 2013. She sensed what God wanted done experiencing His very presence with her giving her the assignment. She dared to believe what He told her and act upon it as He led. As she did, He opened doors to enable that which was His will. Thus, that which He had “prophetically” revealed to her (His plan of that which was to come) went into fulfillment. (On the second Saturday of this December 2015 will be the 3rd annual Carols At The Capitol celebration.)
Andrea was aware that by the Holy Spirit we are now the ones who partner with God that all might know Him. There is no spanning the gap between us and God which existed from natural birth to natural death without Jesus. It could not be spanned by our well-intended efforts. No amount of good deeds creates a ticket to restored paradise-like relationship with Father God. There is no way we could personally cause our spirits to be released into God’s presence when at natural death the physical body becomes a shell devoid of life. We had neither the power to stop natural death, nor the power to cause our spirits at that moment to soar into God’s eternal presence where everything good he has ever desired to give us awaits. Without Him there is no way for us to bridge the gap between the visible we know and the invisible which is around us, but always beyond our grasp. We could not wish into existence this restored relationship with God. We have no ability to able to grab hold of and ultimately receive the fullness of all for which HE has created us. Jesus made clear the only way to Father is through Him.
Andrea knew this. She comprehended completely that eternal life following physical death was a gift, which could not be bought or earned—only received. It was a free gift from a gracious God through Jesus when we chose to consciously, actively place Him back on the throne of our lives, actually looking to Him to lead us according to His way versus our own.
Though God-honoring (good works) were the result of receiving the gift, (God-honoring works are naturally occurring evidence that we are have put Him back “on the throne” or in authority over our lives and are trying to live His Way), the receipt of the gift of restored eternal life so that death is no longer the end and we were no longer separated from our eternal destiny with God was by Father’s grace alone. Jesus was and is the Gate through which we would enter in.
Andrea united herself to her Lord’s purposes that all would have opportunities to encounter Him, know Him and choose Him, so they would receive the eternal inheritance in Him for which they were created. Worship. Fasting. Intercessory prayer. Discerning His will. Walking it out. Andrea was constantly trying to partner with her Lord for His results in her life, her family, her community and the world.
How many still needed to know this?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:1-5;9-13)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)
Thus where Andrea said to me, “Tell them I’m an intercessor”, I believe this is what she wanted people to know. Her life was consumed with her Lord and His purposes. She was consistently listening for she wanted His plan, not her own. She looked to partner with God through declaration and Spirit-led action for fulfillment of His eternal purposes. She sought to discern her God-given part which would contribute to His plans designed in eternal heaven to be birthed into this world in which we live. She would do this heartily until His appointed time to take her fully home to Himself, which we now know was June 2, 2015.
It was this consuming God-focus with ongoing worship, fasting, listening and intercessory prayer, which made orchestrating the two first National Days of Prayer (2014 and 2015) in Danville, California a perfect fit for the calling God had on her life. It is why the Lord knew He could trust her when He gave her the assignment of Carols At the Capitol.
Andrea strove to run the race that her Lord set before and run that race faithfully, persevering to the end. When her life here was done she longed to hear His words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I believe with all my heart this is how He greeted her as she bridged from our here and now into eternity.
We will each leave this life as Andrea did at His appointed time. Our work here will be done and we will enter into His eternal presence. Andrea left behind the fragrance of Christ, so that more could know of Him, experience Him and ultimately find Him. What fragrance will each of us choose to leave behind? The present is all we have to make His difference His way by the power of His Holy Spirit.
May we learn from Andrea’s example. May we each pick up the sword of His Word as we seek to listen for His will. May we worship Him ongoing and as we seek to discern His plans and declare them according to His word. May we listen ongoing and then go out in obedience to do our specific God-given part (and only our specific God-given part), so that of our generation it would be said that indeed His kingdom has come and His will is being done on earth as in heaven.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:16)
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15)
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matt. 24:35)
6… All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. (Isa. 40:6-8)
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:7)
NUGGETS OF GOD’s WISDOMGod’s Wisdom is more precious than gold. This blog by Elizabeth Fulgaro helps readers discover God’s way versus the world’s one “nugget” at a time. http://www.ascendinworship.wordpress.com Elizabeth Fulgaro is a wife, mother, writer, inspirational speaker, worship leader, composer, singer & recording artist. For books, worship albums, Bible studies and teachings written by Elizabeth Fulgaro or to schedule her to come speak to your group please visit www.holyspiritpress.org Music can be purchased and audio clips heard at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ElizabethFulgaro and on iTunes.Elizabeth is the Founder of Eagles Nest Foundation which provides spiritual support & encouragement to military and military families as well as those in physical and emotional battles (such as cancer, long-term illness) as well as those grieving a loss. For information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.eaglesnestfoundation.org
Fulgaro is also a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Financial Counselor with a heart for helping Christians understand and steward their finances God’s way.