Sleep, Eat, Repeat…

24-7 Prayer Gatherings – they are always fun, always inspirational, encouraging, challenging and renewing. Always a special time of prayer, worship, learning and being together as a tribe. But every few years one comes along that feels significant to the life and direction of the movement.

This was most definitely the case for Belfast ’19 a couple weeks ago. There was and is now a sense that we are beginning a new chapter in this story God is writing. Yes, some of that will be related to the transition of leadership that happened on the Sunday morning (if you have not yet heard the big news, you can read more about that here). And what a deeply beautiful, joyful, celebratory transition it was!

But this sense of entering a new chapter is deeper and more far-reaching than just this transition of leadership. It is more akin to further out and deeper in.

Alain Emerson spoke the first night from 1 Kings 19 where Elijah, after a major victory, flees into the wilderness, exhausted, frightened and discouraged. This passage has been reverberating within me ever since and the sentence “Arise, eat, for the journey is too great for you” feels particularly significant for this moment in time.

God is speaking something to His people across the globe and it has to do with preparation and where He is to be found.
There are small but encouraging signs that the prayers we have been praying for many years for revival in the Church and in our own hearts, for spiritual awakening in our nations, have been heard. The signs may be small, like the “size of a man’s hand” to quote Elijah’s servant, but they are there.

But are we ready?

How many of us would admit to being exhausted right now, maybe discouraged, maybe even frightened? Are we truly in the best health, the best state of mind, the right posture of heart to receive and take part in a move of God in our world?

God told Elijah in the cave that He was about to pass by. But when He did come, it was in the quiet whisper.
Are we in such a place that we will be able to hear Him when He does come in that quiet whisper rather than the noise and hype we often associate with “revival” or “awakening”?

From this place of being renewed by God and meeting with Him in that quiet whisper, Elijah impacted the roles and positions of influencers and those in authority, he gathered those who were still devoted to God, he rewired an entire culture and history.

So what do we need to do to get ready?

Sleep, eat, repeat. Sleep, eat, repeat. “Arise and eat for the journey is too great for you.”

We need to learn rest. We need to feed on God’s goodness and presence. We need to posture our hearts, minds and bodies towards Him in such a way that our ears are trained to hear and recognise the quiet whisper and every part of our being is ready to run long and hard in a sustainable way without burning out.

This sleeping and eating may in reality look like middle of the night prayer slots and fasting for some of us. It may look like a letting go and stepping back into a place of quiet and hiddenness for a while for some of us. It may look like a pruning of activity and more time given to waiting on God for others of us. And for some of us it may look quite literally like rest and feeding ourselves on the things that will renew and refresh us physically.

But for all of us, it is about preparation and posturing ourselves for when that quiet whisper comes and changes everything.

“Neighbourhood Watch”

[Our area has been] scourged with theft, break-ins and a general feeling of fear and apprehension.”

on holiday and was spending my days with the anxiety of returning to my house and finding it broken in.”

we were broken into in January and had our car stolen”

Still have nightmares after I woke up one night to find one of them beside my bed robbing me. I wear hearing aids…

“Lived in this area for a while and it never has been like this…”

started taunting them and calling them names. One boy then pushed my son onto the road”

“he’s just a drunken piece of scum”

“…quite a huge part of the society is ‘disgusted’ by beggars so waiting for the society to take care of homeless/elderly/sick is naive.”

These are just a few of the comments on Nextdoor, the community group page I am a part that exists for the purpose of connecting those living in our specific part of Edinburgh.

The concern, even fear, expressed in these comments is very real lately. I wouldn’t say I feel unsafe. Having spent a good few years of life visiting and doing ministry in American cities like Chicago, Queens, Brooklyn, LA, the rise in crime and “unsociable behaviour” in my little community doesn’t frighten me as much as makes me deeply sad.

So, it’s time to start prayer walking. As other Nextdoor on-line community members talk about the need to become more “aware, vigilant, watchful” I hear this as a call to prayer.

“I’ve posted watchmen on your walls… Day and night they keep at it, praying, calling out, reminding God to remember. They are to give him no peace until he does what he said…” Isaiah 62:6-7 The Message

But as I was reflecting on my resolve to begin prayer walking at least one evening a week, I felt challenged by God around our tendency to pray in response to crisis or negative events after they have happened, rather than committing to pray for the flourishing of our communities whether anything negative is happening or not.
I asked myself if it would even cross my mind to prayer walk if I lived somewhere peaceful, perhaps affluent, where on the surface at least all seemed well? Perhaps not. Yet, even somewhere so seemingly perfect, is there not still pain, sickness, broken hearts, a different kind of fear and oppression? Is there not still people who Jesus longs to have relationship with?

So is my new resolve to prayer walk my community partly selfish, a spiritual guise for looking out for my own sense of safety and well-being? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just what I needed to drive me out the comfort of my own four walls and begin caring for the well-being of my community, to begin actively calling for God’s kingdom to be established in the land and in the people amongst whom I live, that it would be said of Gilmerton:

Old men and old women will come back… sit on benches on the streets and spin tales, move around safely with their canes — a good city to grow old in. And boys and girls will fill the public parks, laughing and playing — a good city to grow up in.” Zechariah 8:4-5 The Message

For tips on prayer walking your community, check out the 24-7 Prayer website here.

Elgin Prays 24-7

Rebecca Kail shares with us what happened when she responded to the nudging of God to facilitate some 24-7 prayer in her community of Elgin and this past April churches united to pray for 48 hours!
Here’s her story…

Wow! Prayers were answered, reconciliation took place, people returned for a second or third hour, and throughout the whole of Saturday, a group of young people (with no connection to our prayer weekend) sang God’s praise immediately outside the prayer room. Forty-eight hours of prayer with over 50 people (plus others at the opening and closing events) from four main denominations (Baptist, Catholic, Church of Scotland, Episcopal), at least six local independent congregations, and a youth group. Even tourists joined in and left keen to bring 24-7 Prayer to their own communities! And a whole heap of appreciation was expressed for this time of prayer, with requests to have more 24-7 Prayer events.

And yet, days beforehand, only a handful of people had signed up to pray…

God had been nudging me about 24-7 Prayer for a while. ‘Make it ecumenical,’ he said, ‘and right in the centre of Elgin’. ‘Yes, but how?’ was my response. I wasn’t a church leader and didn’t have a congregation to mobilise. All the 24-7 Prayer information on their website says that a committed team is the most important thing. ‘Start by mentioning it to people,’ God said. So I did. After a while, someone I barely knew offered to help, and another couple joined us, and that was the team! A friend suggested St Giles’, the most central building in Elgin, as the venue. Amazingly, when I emailed a request to the minister (who I had never met), he agreed enthusiastically.

So we sent round posters and notices to all the local churches with the pertinent information such as venue, dates and the on-line sign-up link provided by 24-7 Prayer when you register your prayer room on the website.
Next was finding worship leaders and both individuals asked said yes – hurrah! And we were thankful to gain a couple of extra volunteers to help us man the prayer room across the 48 hours.

We chose a wide range of prayer stations to make sure there was something for everyone – quieter areas for contemplation and reading then activity areas for making prayer bracelets, adding to the prayer wall, contemplative colouring, hanging the names of family and friends on a prayer tree, shredding sins and forgiving others. Both the local and world map prayer stations proved popular, with many writing up prayers or adding the pre-prepared prayer.

And many said how encouraged they were to see local Christians uniting in prayer for their communities.

We were delighted to see everyone, at the praise and worship events and in the prayer room, whether they booked in or just turned up on the day. And we received encouraging feedback from participants such as these comments:

“A fantastic time to come apart and focus on God”

“Wonderful ways to pray… and prayers were answered as well”

“To make prayer a tactile, visual, wholistic experience was quite new to me. I loved it.”

“God’s spirit is here and His anointing is very evident.”

“So much to pray for: 2 hours disappeared in no time”

“What a wonderful idea! A lovely experience for our whole family”

“A beautiful sense of prayer. Thank you for listening to the prompting of the Lord.”

“Looking at others’ prayers for our community, nation and world was humbling.”

“Wonderful to experience unity and fellowship with other Christians from quite different backgrounds.”

“We wish to encourage more people to come and meet with God next time – our community and our world is in such need of prayer”

“Please could we have all this again?”

Of course, in retrospect, we learned what can be done better in the future around communication and explanation of the concept of 24-7 prayer. That said, the team only needed to step in to keep the prayer going between midnight and 5am. And those who prayed during these quieter times treasured the tranquillity. For myself, outside of a prayer meeting, I doubt I’ve ever prayed for more than about 15 minutes at a time. With all the prayer stations, I prayed for whole hours and looked forward to going back for more.

This weekend built on and added to the prayers of all those who have sought over many years to encourage more prayer and greater Christian unity in Elgin and throughout Moray. All of us in the team hope that these prayers will continue to be answered, and that other congregations will take up the baton of periods of continuous prayer and invite others to join them.
We are the church, let’s pray together!

So if prayer is on your heart and you’re wondering whether to start a prayer room, you can do it! With a tiny team, few financial resources and minimal social media skills, we managed to bless our community with this opportunity to pray.

Refuel – a Work of Unity

Crystal shares about some of her experience at Refuel this past July. It is a slightly longer post than our usual but it is a topic we feel is timely and important and therefore worth a bit more space.

We had the immense privilege of serving at Refuel again this year and we are already looking forward to next year!
If you haven’t heard of Refuel, it is essentially a Highland gathering of people from across Scotland (and beyond!) who love Jesus and desire to gather with others to worship, pray, learn, discuss, relax, eat and hang out together in an atmosphere that facilitates deeper unity. Refuel is non-denominational, completely volunteer run and is an all family, week-long event held within the beautiful grounds of Gordon Castle Estate in Fochabers. If you haven’t been along yet, join us next year. It really is great fun!

This summer we were given the opportunity to do some seminars which is always a joy as we see people discover new things about God, themselves, and their relationship with Him as well as about prayer. If even a few people walked away with greater freedom, excitement and inspiration for their own prayer lives, and encouragement and fresh ideas for their church community’s prayer life, then we feel like all the work and effort to be there was more than worth it!

This summer at Refuel the focus was unity. When I first heard this I got excited. God seems to be doing something around unity in His Church right now across the globe and so the timeliness of such a focus made me expectant for what God might do in our hearts towards one another at Refuel.

I had been asked by Muddy Pearl to talk a bit about prayer and a favourite book at one of their book-themed evening events at Refuel, so I decided to work the week’s theme of unity into the talk as I am increasingly convinced that prayer is the starting place for unity in the Church.
Unity in the Church is something that I have long carried in my heart. I can remember even as a youth watching documentaries, stories and the news about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and longing to go there to somehow help to bring not just peace, but reconciliation and restoration. Young and naive? Maybe. Without proper knowledge and understanding of all that has contributed to the tumult over the years? Most definitely. But I know that desire and the grief I felt within mirrored the heart of God.
And in recent months this longing to see unity amongst the people of God has become more “like fire shut up in my bones and I can not help but speak“, to quote Jeremiah.

Therefore it was easy to choose the book I would talk about. I chose Heart Fire by Johannes Hartl as the words contained in this book around prayer and unity have gripped my heart from the moment I first read them:
…when you pray, what Jesus prayed for become important to you. And this was his prayer request the night before he died:”that all of them may be one” (John 17:21). If God increasingly calls his church back to prayer, it will also be a call that we pray in unity: in a unity that does not trivialise differences, rather one that respects differences whilst meeting in that which unites us all.’
Where, if not in praying together, can fraternal reconciliation begin? …anyone who really prays will pray for that which Jesus prays. In the night before his death Jesus asks the Father for unity among his disciples. He’s still praying for that today. May his prayer be echoed in ours, day and night. The question of Christian unity is too serious, its history too blood-drenched, to leave it to those who simply debate it at conference tables. Only in praying together will we find the power to overcome the divisions in our hearts.’
Jesus is monogamous, and he has only one bride. Although her visible unity is broken, all who believe in Jesus belong to this bride. Loving the bridegroom should be accompanied by an ever-increasing respect for the bride whom he only chose once.

I think that last line can be the most challenging. How do we have an “ever-increasing respect for the bride“? Especially when we see such brokenness, mess, scars, bruises, flaws and it is difficult at times to see the beauty that Jesus sees?
That’s where prayer is key. As Johannes says, when we really pray, what matters to Jesus matters to us. True prayer takes us beyond our limited vision, our biases and prejudices, the emotions we struggle with; it removes us from the seat of judgment where we can so quickly enthrone ourselves and dislodges the pride within us, bringing us to a place of humility and openness before God, his heart weaving with our hearts, giving us his perspective, the ability to see and love more like him.

Johannes tells the story of time he spent sitting at the feet of an elderly nun named Barbara who was filled with a simple yet profound love and adoration for her Saviour that had been cultivated by hours spent in his presence in prayer. Above her dining table hung the words she had penned: “Lord, make me worthy to serve your Church when she is down.
It is easy to love and respect the church when she looks good. But what about when she doesn’t look good, when she has stumbled and even fallen?

What I am more and more convinced of, especially when looking at the lives of those like Barbara, unity is ultimately about Jesus. If we try to have unity for the sake of unity alone it will never happen. It will only happen when we love Jesus so deeply that what matters to him, what hurts his heart, seeing him receive all that he desires, matters more to us than our own opinions, preferences and comfort.

I feel like we caught a glimpse of this unity at Refuel. Not only through the teaching on unity brought throughout the week through various speakers, but in conversations over coffee, shared meals, burdens and struggles shared, prayers spoken together, worship declared side by side – differences not ignored or trivialised, but discussed with open hearts, unifying around the one thing we all had in common – a love for Jesus.
Then on the Friday afternoon we gathered in the centre field to witness those choosing to make public statements of their love for Jesus through baptism. There we all we were, representing various beliefs around baptism, yet we were all rejoicing and celebrating together the visible, transforming work of the Jesus we all love in the lives of those being baptised. It was a powerfully beautiful moment.