This lovely story was told by Stephanie Heald in 2007 and we felt it is worth sharing some of it again. God is still at work in Auchterarder and we know we will be hearing more encouraging stories from this beautiful little town in the future.
Stephanie now owns and runs Muddy Pearl Book Publishers based in Edinburgh.
“I stepped into the old church, unsure of what to make of this whole situation. Another week of continuous prayer. Another week in Scotland. And another Sunday evening crammed with last minute preparations.
At last the room was ready. In walked a couple middle-aged ladies…soon, the room was filled. With the elderly. With young children. With families. This was going to be a place of meeting with God. Holy encounters.
Before I knew it, the silence had been sliced and I saw the hearts of these people. This little town in the hills of Scotland was shouting up to God. And they were excited. It was like Christmas morning. A gift had been given to them. They couldn’t wait for their hour that was pencilled in on the timetable outside the entrance.
My eyes were opened. As people flowed into the room throughout the week I was constantly encouraged. Challenged. Individuals came with broken hearts. Broken lives. They came with prayers on their lips and tears in their eyes. And they were drawn to their knees. A first experience for many. A call back to prayer. A call back to God their Father.
Soon, nothing much mattered. The format of the room. The paint-filled brushes that had been left to dry overnight. The sand all over the floor. It didn’t matter. God was meeting with people. As they took time out of their days and nights, their Father cradled them in his arms.
Back in March, Julia, assistant minister of the Auchterarder Church of Scotland and an old friend, read Red Moon Rising, made a connection with a comment in my Christmas letter, and asked me up to explain what a ‘week of 24-7 prayer’ was to her core team. They quickly became inspired and set about planning their own. The week was here at last and I felt I should go and help. The promise of a cottage at Kippen Hill with a woodburning stove was enough to persuade a couple of guys [Dan and Aaron]from the Boiler Room Community in Guildford to come and help…
At Auchterarder we were welcomed by children doing cartwheels in the tulips, a stray peacock on the patio, supper by the wood-burner from the kindest of people, and a newspaper billboard announcing LANG TOON WEEK OF PRAYER. Prayer is big news in these parts. Like many rural parishes, everything is a lot quieter… and few young people. But the leaders and two or three prayer warriors have been hard at work – they’ve run Alpha, seen a few new Christians, and started a new family service. And now they wanted to see God move, and to pray…
What happened over the next few days is still unfolding in my mind. At first there was a job to be done: a prayer room to finish, we knew this. We shared ideas, planned the services and met new people. And then God slipped in. First an unmistakably hot hand on my shoulder as Dan and Aaron prayed for me. Then, hesitating up in the towering pulpit, I saw faces leaning in to take in all I shared. What was happening? They were listening with ears and eyes and hearts to God’s word. Longing to meet God. Longing to pray. Then I saw, He was everywhere, in confidences over coffee as eyes filled with tears, in glimpses of joy at the adult baptism. In the gentle launch to the prayer week: people shyly began to pray, to sing, until some bubbled over, almost squeaking with excitement. He was here…
And there were tears. Some could barely speak a word as we asked if we could pray with them. They wept, kneeling by the altar, or buried in a beanbag, or stretched out in the art corner. Lots of tears.
And then came healing. Relationships restored, renewed as people prayed for one another as they passed the baton of prayer hour after hour and day after day. The hearing followed shortly thereafter. People heard from God, for themselves, for their town, for Scotland. Church leadership gave approval for the pews to be removed, after five years. There were surprises too. BBC Radio Scotland asked to run a live interview from the prayer room. From Auchterarder!
What I’ve seen in this lovely prayer room is that this is for everyone. Elderly ladies and Elders of the Church. The preacher, and the children from the local primary school. You don’t have to be cool to pray. You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to be artistic. You just have to come as you are. Prayer is a good talk between friends. Which means just being who you are, telling God how you are, and listening to him, in your very own way.
I’d like to finish this story by passing off the narrative to Dan Jones. He’s one of the guys that was lured up to Auchterarder by promises of wood-burning stoves. He witnessed one of the more impacting instances of God moving in the prayer room. Here’s Dan:
“My favourite story comes from one lady who was praying in the shift before us one morning. As we chatted about her time, she slipped in the fact that she thought she had started praying in tongues! We asked her what she meant and so she explained how when she was praying on the Monday (this was Wednesday), she suddenly noticed that she was no longer speaking in English, but another language, yet her heart felt alive. It was all so natural. The other cool thing was that she was one of the people who was baptised on the Sunday… This lady had just met with God in her own time and in her own way. I love it!”
You can read the whole story at https://www.24-7prayer.com/blog/756/a-trip-to-the-lang-toon-by-stephanie-heald