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

Standing at the entrance of our church, I cast an eye down the street, first one way then the other. ‘They’ll be here soon, I thought. I know how we can pray around the town. One team will be going to the schools, standing at the gates and pray for protection for our children. One team will walk down the main shopping street, praying for prosperity for the business’s, and another (if enough people turn up), will go and pray a blessings over the various churches regardless of denomination. That will cover everything I thought’,  a really good way of Doing things.

I’d only been asked to be prayer co-ordinator of our church a couple of months earlier, and I felt a little over my head with all this prayer stuff.  We were a church with a strong team of people who prayed every week, eloquent and spirit filled (at times!!!). We knew just what was needed to pray for, often tears would flow. Oh yes, tonight was going to be a good time of praying round our town.

I looked at my watch - 7.25pm, ‘I was still alone but it’s okay everyone always comes at the last moment, that’s what they do in church. Everyone is so busy and they’ll be here in a minute, probably rushing to church right now’.

I’d been planning this week of prayer in the life of our Church for weeks now. It had been done the year before by someone else and it went really well. We had an Alpha Prayer Meeting last night, A prayer walk tonight and tomorrow was back inside the Church with some worship.

I’d been involved in Alpha for a couple of years and felt frustrated that not enough people were becoming believers. God had spoken to me and said ‘Get to prayer to see more fruit for your labours’. ‘Pray and you’ll see more decisions for Christ.’  That seemed simple enough, not that I had a great prayer life. I’d only been saved 5 years, and came to faith in a hurry.

I looked down at my watch again, nervously glancing up the road one way and then down the road the other, looking for anyone from the Church. I said to myself ‘It’s okay Steve, they’ll be here in a moment, someone will come I know they will, they better had, I’ll be so mad if they don’t. Of course they will, there’s over 200 of us, of course some of them will come.’ I looked down at my watch - 7.30pm. One of my favourite TV soap operas was just starting. I remember thinking ‘If I left now I could see the end of it., no a few more minutes’.

It was 7.40pm. ‘There is no one coming!!!!!!!!! I just can’t believe it, where are they all, where are the leaders, where is the pastor, where are the youth, where is anyone??’.

I was livid, furious, frustrated. ‘Christians, call themselves Christians, I’m off home, I’ve had enough, I’m glad they didn’t come. It would have been a waste of time anyway. God doesn’t answer. Let’s be honest it won’t make a difference...’  How quickly I had descended into the pit of discouragement and unbelief.

This tirade of abuse to God, about God, blaming God, was building momentum, rising within me to a point I was literally verbalising it now. People would have thought I was going mad. Stood on the church steps, moaning to myself audibly, and then it happened, the one thing I now didn’t want to happen, the worst thing that could happen now I was in this mood – Someone Arrived.

She was one of the ladies from the Thursday night prayer group. Faithful, sensitive, quiet in spirit but a true prayer warrior.

‘NO, NOT NOW……….. please God I just want to go Home’. Still God was silent; no spiritual thoughts could get through my wounded soul.

‘I’m not too late am I’ she said, ‘have the others already gone’

I tried to speak softly, ‘No, no-one else has come’

‘Oh, Oh that’s a shame’, she could see I was pretty unhappy. ‘Never mind we can go together, we don’t need anyone else’

‘NO, I don’t want to go’ I thought ‘I want to go home’, then another thought ‘When two or more gather together then there am I among them’

‘Oh please God don’t do that to me’, ‘Don’t lay that one on me, please’

Then she spoke again ‘Never mind, when two or more gather together then there am I among them, Jesus will go with us’

‘Yes of course’ I said and tried to smile at her and thought to myself ‘but I don’t want to go, God, please let me go home’

That was the last thought I had as I joined this faithful woman of prayer on the planned prayer walk around the town. I grumbled at God almost every step, ‘What’s the point’, ‘What difference could this possibly make’

‘Where shall we head first ?’ she said.  ‘Well, I had planned to go to the schools first………’ and before I could say anymore, she was off ‘The school gates, yes, that’s a great place to start’.  As we went she prayed, when we got there she prayed, as we returned she prayed, prayed for the children, prayed for the people in the houses, prayed for the people at the bus stop, prayed and prayed, while behind her and sometimes alongside her, I groaned and moaned, grunted and growled, whimpered and wailed… at God.

I have found as a very young Christian that God is good at working through our moments of temper even when we pray, He’s good at listening even when your prayer isn’t worthy of an answer. He likes us to be real, but I have to admit my level of grumpiness deserved a good slap from God and certainly not what was about to happen.

We continued our walk towards the shopping area. Past the first few shops, praying for prosperity for the business’s, and then we turned into the main street of Colwyn Bay. It was paved for pedestrians, with bench seats situated every 20 yards or so. Flowers trailed from the high poles that had been erected for this purpose. The sun was still shining down although it was getting quite low in the sky by now.

There was a group of about 6 young people on the second bench on our left and the lady with me began to pray for them. She really did know how to persevere; she really knew how to press in. All I knew was how to complain and feel sorry for myself. Why did I ever get into this ministry – Prayer – I must have been mad, no one else wanted it, and now I know why?

Just as I continued in my self confession of how God was getting it wrong and I knew what we needed to do with these Christians. Just at that moment where I didn’t really have a lot left to say to God it happened.

It wasn’t a ray of light, or a Damascus road experience, But I believe God spoke to me and said ‘Next year, Steve, I want you to do the same again, but this time, stand with another church and I’ll expand it’

The thought came into my mind like a knife cutting across everything else. It wasn’t what I was thinking, it hadn’t entered my thoughts at any point during that day, week or month. It was a completely new thought.

‘Did I just make that up or was that you, Lord?’ I never said a word to the lady I was with. I didn’t really know if this was a God thought or my own thought. But that one sentence I have continued to hold onto and pray into ever since.

I can’t remember how long we prayed after that but I remember leaving that lady at the church steps that evening, sensing already I was holding something God had given me, something he had entrusted to me.  It was a revolution to me, just an ordinary guy, doing an ordinary church activity, that went wrong, but then God steps onto the scene and suddenly everything changes.

People have often asked me, ‘How did you know it was God who spoke to you?’ My honest answer is that I didn’t know for sure at that moment and I also knew it would be a long time before I would know for sure if it really was God who had spoken to me.

Needless to say, taking a year then to pray about and plan standing with a Church in our town, in prayer, we haven’t looked back since.  That year many more people showed up, we prayed prayers of faith and prayer walked our town together.

In the years since, Prayer Week as it became, spread to twelve churches, then the in 2002 approx. 350 churches became involved and we produced a website.  In 2003 we received our first international registration.  That same year, we estimated that over 1,500 churches were involved.  We organised a Worship and Intercession tour with Godfrey Birtill, and had around 40 speakers, teaching on prayer and leading prayer meetings across the nation on a rotational basis – it was crazy – but good.

By Prayer Week in May 2005 (Last Year), the concept had grown so much, that we have stopped counting how many churches are involved, we get reports from all over the world, and the website hits are through the roof.  We’ve also stopped organising preaching tours, as groups do that themselves now, and we are constantly overwhelmed by the numbers of people involved, Prayer Week has become a focal point of Church life now in many denominations.

Just a couple of months ago, we held our first Prayer Week preparation Conference, and people came from all over the UK, to see how they could further implement Prayer Week in their region.  I think it hit home to me at that conference, that those same steps where I had grumbled to God, because of the lack of support for a Prayer Walk, were now inviting people from all over our Nation to further a vision, given in one sentence from God to an ordinary elder in a Baptist Church (me). 

It only goes to show, that if we listen and then do, what God says to do, he can use anyone, and the extent of what can be achieve for His Kingdom, is limitless.

Prayer Week is :-

Christian standing with Christian

Church standing with Church

Nation standing with Nation

 

Prayer Week is What you Make it

Why not join in between May 7th – 14th 2006.

Every Blessing

Steve Houghton.

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