This article was originally published in Edition (6) of Prayer Magazine,  Apr-Jun 2006.

C is for Chains – (Prayer Chains)

No, this is not about tying people in knots in prayer, nor about making prayer a form of slavery.   It is about connecting us together in prayer.

The advance of technology has made Chains of prayer more accessible to many more people.   Last October I received a short text message on my mobile phone from a friend at a Conference, telling me of a credible threat to Christians in Alexandria, Egypt.   I was miles from a computer or from a prayer group.   The threatened event was to occur on the “Night of Power” during the Moslem Feast of Ramadan – just after Friday prayers – in 90 minutes!   Christian homes and businesses in Alexandria had already been daubed in readiness for a massacre.  

What could I do?   I compiled my own message and sent it by text to everyone on my mobile whom I knew would drop everything and pray.   And I prayed!   Praise God He answered prayer, the troops were sent in and calm restored.   Even the perpetrators were arrested!

Imagine what could be done to make prayer effective if we had ready-made chains of prayer in operation for urgent needs?

Every church could have its prayer chain for emergencies.   How – ask people to commit themselves to be available.   The prayer chain is activated by the coordinator who receives one phone call, checks out the information from the original source, and then makes up to five phone calls (depending how many are in the chain), each of whom in turn makes another five phone calls.   Within a maximum of fifteen minutes 26 people have been alerted to pray.  This is a kind of pyramid prayer chain.   Or if the folk have mobile phones or computers on broadband, and agree to have lines open all the time (even in the middle of the night), one message sent to multiple recipients in one action becomes possible.  

When we enter into a commitment to pray we will find that prayer becomes more meaningful and relevant.   And the immediacy of this kind of prayer makes us more involved in the needs of people – even ones we may never meet.   Through this kind of praying we help change the world

 

C is for Concerts of Prayer

I am often asked what a Concert of Prayer is - “Is it something with music”?   The answer is yes, and no.   A Concert of Prayer consists of many things.

The term stems from the 18th Century when some Scottish Ministers wrote letters to each other in 1744 about having concerts for prayer – by which they meant agreement to pray in unity.   Jonathan Edwards, the American Revivalist preacher also picked up the term as meaning “Explicit agreement and visible union of God’s people in extraordinary prayer”.

Today it is applied to a type of prayer gathering, which brings God’s people together from different denominational and cultural backgrounds to engage in a period of concerted prayer, using different styles, creativity, music and proclamation.  

In the United States there has for many years been a ministry called “Concerts of Prayer International”.   One of my close friends leads this for the whole of New England.

A Concert of Prayer in its modern expression is a public event.   It can be for a small number like 30 or a bigger group like 3,000 or 30,000 people.   It will consist of prayer and praise songs, praying with Scripture, and in different group sizes.   So, in its original sense a Prayer Concert would begin with quiet meditative prayer between us as individuals and God for two minutes.   This would be followed by prayer in twos for each other for four minutes.   Then small groups of four would be formed (by joining two groups of two), praying for the church – for up to six minutes.   That in turn would be followed by two groups of four joining together to pray for ten minutes for the nation.   A break for some prayer singing would then be followed by reversing the process.  

Starting with the group of eight, pray for the world and its needs for eight minutes.   Break into groups of four and pray for four minutes – each taking a nation or a missionary or both to God in prayer.   Then in twos, pray for each other and your ongoing life of prayer and service – for two minutes.   Finally pray on your own, asking God to speak to you and through you.

Each focus on prayer would be prefaced by a verse of Scripture which would be used in prayer.   Conclude the time with a time of corporate prayer by picking up a subject that the Holy Spirit has emphasized as being important for that occasion (like something in the news), and conclude with a time of praise.

There are many variations on this method of corporate prayer.   If you are having a city-wide prayer gathering, you could focus on different institutions (like local Government, Education  or the Police) or localities in the city.   Preface each with a short introduction, or hand out briefing papers.    Have a time to pray for the street or tower block where you live.   Break into triplets to pray for non-Christian friends – sharing the name of one person each (one minute each) - then praying for each other’s friend as well as your own (six to ten minutes).   Be open to introduce creative ways of prayer – with the aid of posters, power point, overhead projector or objects to help focus the attention of everyone.   A huge map of the city or the nation on the floor can become a focus – to gather around it, stand on it, or lay hands on it!  

Why not have a prayer concert focused on stories in the news?   Spread the pages of a newspaper around small groups and pray over the news on the sheet.   Or use the Weekly Prayer Alert available from www.prayer-alert.net .

C is for Conversation

Prayer is Conversation with God, and in a conversation, it is two-way.   I speak with God as a man does with His friend, and He communicates back.   Simple really!

The trouble is so many of us relegate prayer to a rushed exercise – we rush off our SOS prayer, or try to mumble our oft-repeated prayers of blessing.   But, we fail to remain in God’s Presence (if we ever get there) to find out what His answers are, or what He has to say, or what is on His heart.

Scripture is full of examples of people who conversed with God.   Abraham did so over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18), when he pleaded for the lives of his relative Lot and his family, and for the righteous people of the two cities.   Moses did so during his encounter with God in the burning bush (Exodus 2), and in leading the children of Israel out of Egypt.

Samuel learned as a boy to hear God’s voice whilst he was serving in the temple (1 Samuel 3).   “Speak Lord for your servant is listening”, he responded.   He heard who God’s choice was for king and had the responsibility for anointing Saul (1 Samuel 9). Later, as God shared his grief over Saul’s disobedience (1 Samuel 15.10-11), he interceded with God over Saul and Israel’s plight all night long.   In the next chapter God told him who was to be Saul’s successor, and, as God led him, he anointed David.  

In the New Testament we also have many examples of God conversing with people.   The disciples were with Jesus for three years and for them conversation was prayer, and prayer was conversation!   The Acts of Apostles has examples of God speaking with Peter, Saul of Tarsus, Ananias, the disciples meeting in Antioch, and of course with John, the writer of the book of Revelation.

These are not exceptional examples because they are in the Bible.   Many of God’s children today enjoy such a relationship with Him where prayer becomes conversation.   We share what is on our heart, and He shares what is on His.   As we pray, He gives insights that human beings couldn’t possibly have without God’s revelation.   Many are the times when, not knowing what to pray for, God reveals specific things.

If you have never enjoyed a conversation with God like this – try it.   But as with human relationships, we need to spend some quality time with Him to find out how enjoyable that could be.   As you do so, choose an issue that you are concerned over, and ask God how He sees the situation.   Tell Him what you feel.   As you listen to Him you may find an impression, a picture or a sentence coming in your mind.   Pray that back to the Father.

Then ask Him if there is anything He would wish you to pray about that is on His heart.   You may be surprised!   It will possibly be outside your frame of reference and be to do with a situation half way around the world – or in your own town!   Be ready for God to challenge you about your response!

The best conversations are not to do with issues or situations, but with each other.   Exploring what each other likes, needs, wants and feels.   Try that with God also.   Be quiet in His presence.   ‘Soak’ yourself in Him.   Let Him speak with you.   Then, as things develop, tell Him what you think of Him.   Or go for a walk in the countryside, by the sea, or along city streets, and talk with Him about what you see.   Even driving a car can be liberating.   We can talk with God anywhere!

 

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