Prayer didn’t make sense to me till someone a bit older and wiser challenged me to just pray. I’ll be honest, I was ready to decline until the offer of a free cooked breakfast appeared. Getting up at 6 for half an hour of prayer and a fry up appealed more than some drony woman leading us in long, flowery intercessions at church (sorry mum!)
The first thing that became obvious as we started these weekly breakfast meetings was that prayer was so much bigger than I’d ever realised. We prayed in different places, with different groups of people, sometimes out loud, sometimes in silence. Sometimes we’d be stood with music blaring and people shouting, the next week we’d break bread and pray using scripture.
“Whilst my enjoyment of fried eggs and sausages never changed, my appetite for the prayer did”
Whilst my enjoyment of fried eggs and sausages never changed, my appetite for the prayer did. We’d pray about stuff going on in life, stuff we’d seen in the news, people we knew – it was stretching every prayer muscle I had – and I loved it.
One day one of our clan brought and shared a poem they’d been emailed: it was called The Vision and a guy called Pete Grieg from 24-7 Prayer had written it. Now If you haven’t read it before, stop reading this and read it right now!
Quite simply Pete Greig / 24-7 Prayer / The Vision wrecked my life. Up until that point I was quite happy plodding along, being comfortable and thinking about myself. Yes, I believed in God, attended church and stuff – but I was far more of a fan than follower – I’d enjoy the worship on a Sunday then head back to school the next day as though nothing was different.
The Vision spoke to me, because it wasn’t just a call to my generation, it was a call to me – someone out there had prayed that Vision for me. They prayed that I would be a radical hero, that I would be a dangerously cool prayer warrior, that nothing would hold me back. I started to live this. Not just in the way I prayed, the way I lived. I wanted to support this prayer movement but was too young to set up a standing order, so my dad let me use his account and I paid him my Saturday job wages. For the first time I felt like I was investing in the Kingdom of God.
When I became a youth worker a few years later, one of the first things I got involved in was setting up a 24-7 prayer room. We organised a week, but due to our Eldership’s rules either my co-worker or I had to be on site at all times. I would arrive at 4am and left at 4pm; 12 hours of prayer a day for 7 days. I was petrified. An hour of prayer seemed daunting: the proposal of 84 hours in a shoebox room filled me with dread.
But God spoke to me in so many ways and through so many different people during that week. I painted prayers on walls and floors; meditated on scripture without a time limit; listened to monks chanting with simple candlelight; even did a bit of dancing! The time spent in prayer that week probably equalled the sum of all prayer in my life up until that point, but as I gave God the space He filled it.
“The time spent in prayer that week probably equalled the sum of all prayer in my life up until that point, but as I gave God the space He filled it”
One of my favourite moments came through a CD which featured a war cry. The disc had been playing in the prayer room on repeat, and every time the cry went up I felt shivers. So we moved into the main building of the church and did the war cry. My co-worker swears she heard a loud crack, I felt like something had lifted from the church. As people turned up a few days later, everyone sensed that God had done something, and out of our prayer a project beyond my imagination was born. A project that took our prayer out into our community through deeds and action.
I’ve discovered something through all these experiences. Every time I think I’ve got my ideas of prayer “sorted” and squeezed in a box, the box shakes around and then explodes in a cinematic way that would make James Bond look tame. I’ve also discovered that ideas born in prayer carry God’s Kingdom so much further than I ever could with my own imagination.
My prayer journey was kick started with a challenge, just pray. It grew with the vision of 24-7 prayer, a group of people who’s vision and resources changed the way I saw God & prayer. And it flourished as I gave God the time and space he deserved as part of a community that was ready to reach out.
And so I issue the challenge to you. Just pray.