Have you heard the old expression, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”? In other words, when you see examples of one thing, it often points, or draws attention, to something else. In the case of smoke and fire, the lesser thing – smoke-alerts us to the greater thing-fire. The same may be said about prayer. When we find numerous examples of praying people and congregations we can conclude that the prayer itself is not the end in itself, rather it is pointing to something greater. In the case of prayer that greater thing is God Himself- the one to whom our prayers are directed and the one who powerfully answers our collective and personal cries. That is one reason the growing chorus of prayers around the world are so important. They are a leading indicator that God is preparing His people for something big.
Examples of the worldwide prayer movement are not isolated. In fact, they are growing more common. The results vary, but the passionate commitment to ceaseless prayer is a common thread in the tapestry of the prayer movement. In the little town of Jefferson, Oregon, for instance, a church of 25 people and a disillusioned pastor came nearly to the end of their hope of ever making a significant impact on their city. But, after attending a conference on prayer where his own faith was strengthened, the reinvigorated pastor led his church to make prayer the main business of their church. The pastor led the way, by personally spending about 2 hours a day in prayer everyday, and by frequently teaching his people the truths he was learning. Today, just a few years later, the little Jefferson Baptist Church now welcomes 1400 people a week in worship services, in a town of only 2,000 people! The church motto is: “Much prayer, much blessing; little prayer, little blessing; no prayer, no blessing.” The power of congregational prayer literally changed the church and increased its witness far beyond the imaginations of everyone involved.
Years earlier, on the other side of the nation, the mid 1970’s were witnessing the struggles of Jim and Carol Cymbala as they hoped to keep their ministry in Brooklyn from folding under the pressure of their surroundings. Jim, the pastor, seriously considered resigning the church and leaving the ministry, until one day he sensed the Lord instructing him to lead the dying inner city church to join in constant prayer and leave the results to God. Starting with a handful of members on a Tuesday night, Pastor Cymbala led the first prayer meeting with unexceptional results, but they continued to pray each week. As they prayed, the attendance at the prayer meeting grew and the ministry effectiveness of the church grew with it.
Today, Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City still gathers on Tuesday nights for intentional prayer, but attendance has grown from 12 people to well over 3,000 people each week. The prayer meetings begin formally at 7:00pm but the 4,000 seat worship center is always nearly full by a little after6:00pm, as people begin gathering at 5pm to pray in preparation for the prayer meeting! On Sundays, attendance has grown from less than 50 people to over 10,000 every week. In addition, the music ministry of the church, led by the Pastor’s wife, is one of the most celebrated in the nation today, with multiple best selling albums and Grammy awards. The Cymbala’s have steadfastly maintained, that all of the visible success of the church is a direct result of the Tuesday night prayer meeting and the culture of prayer that permeates the church.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the country, a church made a strange decision back in 1999. They decided to pray 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As a result, the International House of Prayer in Kansas City has not stopped praying ever since. They have prayed continuously around the clock for almost 15 years! Today, they are a hub for teaching on prayer, attracting people from around the world who want to experience the 24 hour, 7 day a week ministry. The Kansas City Church’s stated reason for this radical commitment to prayer, is their belief that they are called to participate in the worldwide prayer movement.
Perhaps the most surprising manifestation of the worldwide prayer movement is the one drawing college students around the world to all night prayer meetings. For over a decade a quiet revolution, which began in a stunning vision on the Cliffs at St. Vincent at the Southwestern tip of Europe, has spread around the world. The vision given to a young pastor while camping by the cliffs included the mental picture of an “army” of youth rising for Christ in post-Christian Europe. The 24/7 prayer movement led by the unassuming Pete Greig – nicknamed, “The Punk Monk” because of his non-traditional ministry to the street kids of England, has continued in “prayer rooms” around the world. His vision at the cliffs of an army of young people for Christ across Europe is being fulfilled through the prayer rooms beyond his plans or strategies.
Perhaps a direct result of this multi-year commitment to reproduce prayer rooms, where Churches and Christian discipleship groups of all kinds gather for prayer, is the impact for Christ. In 2012 church attendance, which has been in free fall for decades in England, experienced a measurable uptick. In other words, according to Greig, for the first time in years, church attendance in England, last year, slightly increased. Imagine, for more than 10 years, an interdenominational, international non-stop prayer meeting has continued unbroken through more than 100 nations. It is nothing short of a global phenomenon with no corporate buildings, very little cost, no formal central headquarters, and no end in sight! It is growing like fire spreads through dry grass – it is combustible and “self-perpetuating.” It is an example of the restrained power of world wide prayer!
The examples of a worldwide prayer movement are becoming more visible nearly everywhere. Where is it headed? Perhaps only God can fully answer that, but the common denominator seems to be a passion in the hearts of people around the world to pray for God’s will to be done on earth. There is a common desire for spiritual awakening in the Body of Christ and a burning passion to see the nations evangelized. In other words, prayer is not an end in itself. It is pointing, and leading the church, toward something else. The prayer movement is leading us more powerfully into the presence of God!
Jesus himself said, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Is the worldwide prayer movement the spiritual rallying cry of one last great harvest of the nations before the return of Christ? It seems possible. Throughout Scripture, during desperate times, prophets have called God’s people to pray. The prophets of today are issuing the ancient call –
“You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest….”
Will you join the world wide prayer movement? All you have to do is pray.
It’s interesting that as you look at “church planting movements” and “disciple making movements” is that lengthy prayer in completely integrated into the movement. People who have so much are so tempted to be prayerless and therefore less likely see and participate in the kind of prayer that exemplifies these kingdom movements that flow from a “prayer movement”.