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Powered by the presence of God

By Mark Barker.

The following article represents one church’s approach to corporate prayer. We recognize that not all churches would want to travel this particular route, but we publish the story to provoke readers into reflection on their own prayer habits and those of the churches they lead. Ed.

In setting a new vision for the church, one of the strap lines we have focused on is our desire to be a church that is “powered by the presence of God”. It can become very easy to end up trying to do things in our own strength. Perhaps unwittingly we can start to think that we know best for the church or what other people ought to be doing.

However, our plans, our hopes, our vision are totally worthless if they are not of God. If the church, or the vision, is powered by you or by me, we might as well give up now and go home. Instead, our longing is that the church is powered by God, and for the church to be powered by God we need to be seeking more of his presence amongst us.

Prayer is an acknowledgement that we cannot do it on our own. As Colin Dye has put it, “Prayer is the creative powerhouse of God….prayer effects real change. Prayer transforms lives, churches and communities. It is without doubt one of our single greatest spiritual weapons.”

So, in setting out a vision for the church, one of the key things we began to look at was our commitment to prayer as a church. We recognised that if we didn’t do this we would be like a mighty ship trying to paddle its way through the sea, our efforts getting us nowhere. But prayer is the powerhouse of the church, and through prayer the power of God will be released to take us where his wind blows.

We recognized that there was much prayer already happening, whether individually, in prayer partnerships or in small groups, and we wanted to encourage such prayer and to provide people with information to help them pray more knowledgeably and directly for the church, while also encouraging them to spend time listening to God and waiting on God’s Spirit to lead and speak to us as individuals and as a church.

However, in addition, we began what we have called Powerhouse Days. The first Monday of every month is set apart as a day of prayer. No meetings are held that day as we focus on prayer. The church is open for people to come and pray at any time, but there are also certain times during the day when we have the opportunity for people to come together to pray:

·        6.45am - when we encourage those who might be off to work or school to come along and pray, and as an enticement we finish with breakfast (nothing fancy, so that people aren’t drawn away from praying - a bacon buttie sets people up well for the morning!).

·        9.15am - for those on the way home from dropping children off at school or at our pre-school. This also involves all the church staff as this is a time when we pray every week together.

·        12.30am - for those for whom a lunchtime prayer group would be the easiest, perhaps during a lunch break from work.

·        4.00pm - this is led by our children’s pastor and is an all age prayer time, so, having picked children up from school, parents or carers with their children can drop in, have a cup of squash and a biscuit, and then there are activities to help the younger children pray.

·        8.00pm - for those getting home from work or who prefer an evening.

Each prayer time is for a maximum of 45-60 minutes so that it does not feel a burden, each is also led by a member of staff, and in these prayer times we try to be creative in our ways of praying. We also give time to listen to God and any scriptures, words or pictures that people feel God has given them are recorded in a prayer diary and regularly reflected on.

As I write this, yesterday was our August Powerhouse Day. Acknowledging that a lot of people are away, but not wanting to stop praying, we focused our group prayer into the evening session and, considering it is the holiday season, it was great to see about 40 gather to pray last night. It would be wonderful to see the whole church gathering to pray as we commit to seeking more of God each month, but from prayer meetings that had anywhere between 3 and 15, we normally now have 80+ coming to pray over the course of a day.

Each month we have a prayer focus (yesterday’s was “Refreshment and Renewal”) in order that our prayers are focused, encouraging people to come and join in praying for specific needs of the church, but particularly praying for the presence of God to power the church as we seek his directing and will for us, and for the vision of the church to become a reality. We also give out sheets with particular prayer pointers based around our vision to help people who may struggle to know how or what to pray.

So this month we prayed for refreshment and renewal in three areas: the community, the church and ourselves. To start with we gave out squares of chocolate, remembering the verse from Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good” and on a story I heard from another church of how they gave away bars of chocolate in the community with invitations to church. We used this image as a starting point to pray for our own community, that God will pour His goodness and love upon it and that He will use us as instruments of His blessing.

We then had cups of water to drink - a sign of refreshing, and, using the image of the river found in Ezekiel 47, and the living water of John 7, we prayed for the church to be refreshed and renewed.

Finally, we put out cushions and invited people to find a space on their own in church where each of us could spend time waiting on the Lord  - Isaiah 40:31 “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” - seeking his refreshment and renewal in our own lives.

Recently we have pondered whether more people would come if we focused our prayer into one group session, but God challenged us through Judges 1 that it’s not about numbers, but about obedience. The men of Judah were obedient to God and had victory, while the other tribes of Israel did not listen to God and compromised the promise that God had given to them. So we are committed to continuing with Powerhouse Days, to prayer spread throughout the day. We may never know what difference our commitment to prayer makes, but God is at work in power within the life of individuals and the church, and I am sure that our Powerhouse Days are a key part of this.

Mark Barker

Vicar of the Parish of St Stephen's, Tonbridge

Ministry Today

You are reading Powered by the presence of God by Mark Barker, part of Issue 38 of Ministry Today, published in November 2006.

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