The Gift of Praying Together

How do you pray?

Do you normally pray on your own, in your own space?
Or does your church have a weekly or monthly prayer meeting? Does that sound like an evening of boredom and awkward silences? Or maybe you’ve had great experiences of corporate prayer and such times are thriving and soaked in the Holy Spirit!

What I’ve been mulling over for a while now is that yes praying together is modelled by Jesus and the early church:
“And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” – Acts 1:13-14 ESV

But that it is so much more than a good thing to do, but rather it is a gift from God!

Bonhoeffer states that “the physical presence of other Christians is the source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer” and that “It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community”.

Having grown up in a highly individualistic society, being fed the belief that I can do everything on my own, it has taken years of being around communities dedicated to praying together to break down my individualistic mind-set that had seeped into my personal faith.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that praying on your own is worse than praying together! It is actually utterly good and necessary!

Pete Greig, in his book How to Pray, says that “You must seek solitude and silence as if your life depends on it, because in a way it does”.

We need our times of solitude. We need that intimate, secret place with God to grow close to him. Without my morning time spent sitting on my bedroom floor with my first cuppa tea the rest of the day often feels sluggish. Time alone with God is a priority of mine – it is the bedrock of our relationship!

But we also need times to come together to pray out loud (not just all sitting in the same room quietly contemplating, though there is space for that too!). In this space God takes each of us deeper and reveals new and adventurous aspects of his character. It brings a richness that I have found nowhere else than in kneeling alongside other Christians, each of us pouring out our hearts to God.

In this place we can be inspired by one another, listen to one another, learn from one another, and best of all we get to agree with each other! We get to partner in with others prayers and say “yes and Amen!
So often you’ll find that what God is speaking to you he is also speaking to another person in the room and then confirmation arises! God is on the move – he is listening and he is participating with us!

But my favourite by-product of speaking my prayers out with others is the accountability. That we are able to feedback answers to prayer because more people are aware of what God has placed on our hearts.

Recently I was visiting a House of Prayer in Dundee and during one corporate morning prayer time I prayed that there would be no anger on the roads that day. By the evening some really bad weather had set in and one person came to me and said, “I’m so glad you prayed about the roads this morning because there were nearly three accidents on my way home, but everyone was safe and there wasn’t any anger”. Were those crashes avoided because of our prayers? Who knows! But we were able to turn it back to God, to praise and celebrate his goodness and protection! We were far quicker to recognise his hand over our day and over the city because we had talked to him together!

Charles Finney hits the nail on the head when he said that “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love on another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.”

Do you want to be in a prayerful community? Do you want to know God in a new way? Are you up for the challenge? Then go, gather, pray together, and always remember our fellowship is a gift of grace, a gift from God!

Words by 24-7 Prayer Scotland Intern

Wasteful Worship

This is Part Two in our series on A Beautiful Waste.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38-42

I remember the first time I heard a worship song that had the phrase “we waste it all on you” in the chorus. To be honest, I was a little offended by it. “Worship isn’t wasteful, worship is purposeful!” I said to myself while determining not to listen to the song again. Reflecting on it a few years on, the reality is, there is something wasteful about worship… isn’t there? Particularly if we time-sheet our day and keep productivity diaries. (Who does that? Definitely not me… ….)

We are, more than ever, living non-stop lives. As a society we glorify the self-made leaders who sleep less that five hours a night, have a 5am daily two hour workout routine and have made their first million before they reach thirty years old. We so often celebrate that kind of success, but at what cost?

What do we lose in our endless pursuit of such a goal?

Here’s a good measure.

Compare that pursuit of success with spending ten minutes telling God he is a good, good, good, good Father. How does it feel? Like a waste of time? I mean, He is God, so He definitely knows that already! We don’t need to tell God that He’s a good, good Father do we? In which case, surely we’d be better getting on with the stuff of life! That is what worship really is anyway right? The whole of life stuff?

Yes, worship is about lifestyle, the way that we serve God in our daily lives, offering our bodies as living sacrifices.

And yet, there is something distinctively different and of eternal importance in choosing to give our time and our attention to focus on Jesus. To sit at His feet as Mary did (Luke 10:38-42), to sing to Him in His presence, to delight in Him and remind ourselves of his loving kindness towards us. Even when we know that there is work to be done. Especially when we know there is work to be done.

Why?

We were made for these moments. Moments of intimacy, knowing God and being known, reflected in the very nature of God as three persons.

We find perspective in these moments. When we stop, the world doesn’t fall apart. In fact, more often I find that I become more aware of where God is at work around me when I set my attention on Him.

And ultimately, it’s for him, not for us. He is absolutely so worthy of all of our worship!

Words by Zak Robb, the gatherings, worship, and creative leader for Central Church in Edinburgh

The Prayer Course: More than a Formula

“…it taught my non-praying church to pray… More than a formula – through Pete’s discussions – it assisted people in having permission to pray.”

This is what Church of Scotland minister Nathan McConnell had to say about 24-7 Prayer’s The Prayer Course (prayercourse.org) after running it in his church Downfield Mains (https://www.downfieldmainschurch.org) in Dundee.

Nathan told us how he went into The Prayer Course a bit wary. He thought it could potentially be a good supplement for the Alpha Course which they had recently finished but he was concerned that another video series might bore people, or just not feel relevant to them.

However, his concerns were soon dispelled as people gathered one night a week to watch the video sessions, coming from outside of the church as well. And for those who engaged with the course, it made a significant difference in their prayer lives.

“Honestly, we didn’t know how to pray as a church,” Nathan admitted. “The Prayer Course laid a foundation”

One example is a young man who, at the start of The Prayer Course, confessed that he just couldn’t pray out loud but by week 4 was praying in tongues!

A highlight for Nathan was when they had a joint time of prayer with other churches they are networked with across the globe. Not expecting a large number, Nathan organised an on-line prayer gathering in his home with these other churches and invited anyone who want to join in to come along.
Forty-five people turned up to pray for 1 1/2 hours with and for complete strangers in other nations! Packed into the living room, sitting on the floor, yet happy to be there.

People have grown in their confidence, praying for one another and sharing prophetic words with one another. And they now have time in their worship for prophetic prayer ministry and healing prayer where they have seen God answer their prayers and heal people!

We asked Nathan if he would recommend that others do The Prayer Course. His response?
“Do it! And, pastors, take it seriously. If you want to move your people forward, The Prayer Course will give you a platform.”

The Prayer Course has been downloaded over a million times and just this week, 24-7 Prayer launched the new, fully updated, free, downloadable Prayer Course!
There are eight sessions, leaders guides, thirty different accompanying prayer tools, and it follows the same format as Pete Greig’s newest book How to Pray so that the Prayer Course and the book can be used side by side if so desired. For more information go to prayer course.org.

Scotland Goes to The Gathering…

It’s a good three weeks since we all returned from Birmingham for The Gathering, this year’s annual 24-7 Prayer gathering, and I find myself still processing all that God was doing and speaking, in my own heart, and to us as a movement.

The theme of our time together was the “Upside Down Kingdom”, with teaching and challenge brought to us from those who are living it, so maybe it’s a small wonder that I’m still processing, as well as still inspired and encouraged.

A definite highlight for me, as always, was seeing friends from around the globe and hearing what God is teaching them personally and what He is doing through their lives in their communities. From sitting on a sunny step and eating a Boots meal deal lunch with friends from Iceland; to hearing Ralf from Neubrandenberg, Germany share from the stage what God is doing on their housing estate The Datzeberg and then being mobbed by those wanting to pray for him and the Polylux community; to hearing Daniel & Rachel from China share about their year of preparation to take their Order of the Mustard Seed vows and how the process of preparation restored their deep love for those they are ministering to; to watching our very own Carla Harding be commissioned in her new role of 24-7 Prayer GB director! Being part of this global family is so precious to me, where lifestyles and cultures and languages are so different yet our hearts are melded together by Jesus, the One who is still the main Vision.

There were several big takeaways for me but the common theme throughout them all was around hope, learning to dream big again, to pray the audacious prayers again and to not carry a burden of responsibility for those dreams and hopes, but to simply “go with God”, the One who really does the work, who truly has the power to transform lives and who is a joyful God whose happiness is not dependant on me and what I do. How freeing!

A definite highlight for us as the 24-7 Prayer Scotland Team was that for the first time ever, our entire team was together at The Gathering! And if our calculations are correct, there would have been around 50 or more Scots present at The Gathering this year – more than any other year since Edinburgh hosted The Gathering in 2010!

We would have loved to have tried to track down everyone who was there and hear their testimonies to share here with you but it would have taken far too long. So here are a just a few, and hopefully it will give you a glimpse into what God was doing and speaking amongst us as a 24-7 Prayer family.

“A big highlight for me was having space with no distractions to focus in on God, to be with Him and listen to what He was saying. And my big takeaway – Jesus says ‘I will build my church’ and asks us to ‘make disciples’.” Ruth Hagan, Orkney, 24-7 Prayer Scotland Team

“A highlight for me was the space to worship God filled with a group of people who were passionate about His presence and hearing His voice! And one big take away was around my own leadership – learning to acknowledge areas where I project onto others, helping to identify my own shadow so that I don’t allow it to negatively impact how I lead those around me!” Zak Robb, Worship Pastor at Central Church, Edinburgh

“We went to The Gathering for the first time as a church leadership team, and one highlight for me was definitely the flow of prayer, prophecy and praise each time we gathered – so life giving and naturally supernatural. It seemed like God was doing something remarkable in every nation, and I was so encouraged at the sense of His Church on the move all over the earth! There were so many challenging messages and calls to action, but I was really impacted by Danielle Strickland’s message on ‘mountains and mustard seeds’. This explained the tension of life and ministry in the Kingdom so well, we all carry a huge vision but it must be worked out in our ‘mustard seed’ actions of faith every day. The Gathering also dropped so many gold nuggets in our laps as a leadership team, of vision and direction that we had already been sensing all year – being intentional in our discipleship with just a few people (like Jesus), gathering around tables, being vulnerable and accountable – so many Holy Spirit confirmations for us to take home was fantastic!” Simon Dennis, Pastor at Sheddocksley Baptist Church, Aberdeen

The final highlight we want to share is related to the above photo. At every gathering, we have an evening of insane generosity where items that have been donated by individuals and communities for this very purpose, are auctioned off for ridiculous amounts and the money goes to several causes within the 24-7 Prayer movement. The auction theme this year was denim jackets and 24-7 Prayer Scotland had the joy of seeing our amazing, hand-stitched, outrageously creative, Scottish-themed denim jacket be sold along with some others for the sum total of £7,000 so that our dear friends in Manenberg, South Africa can create a lovely home for young women who are in vulnerable situations and need help getting their lives together and set back on a path that leads to life. The jacket is being modelled in this photo by a friend from Sweden who loves Scotland! Just another small glimpse into the love and generosity within this truly international family of prayer, mission and justice!