“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” (Acts 12:5)
What is the single most important change that could be made in the churches of a given area in order for them to experience the power of God in a significant way? Or, to bring it closer to home, “What would it take for the power of God to show up in YOUR neighborhood?
If I compare the corporate lives of followers of Jesus in New England to what I see going on in the life and work of the early church, the missing piece seems to be the place of intentional and fervent prayer. Back then, it seems like they prayed over everything. They prayed for days before the launch of the new church (Acts 1). They then “devoted themselves…to prayer” (Acts 2), prayed through persecution (Acts 4), put prayer on the top of their leaders’ job description (Acts 6), prayed for healing power (Acts 9), prayed open the prison doors for key leaders (Acts 12), discovered missionary workers (Acts 13), unleashed armies of consecrated church leaders (Acts 14), and prayed through their painful separations (Acts 21).
Many good things are taking place in lots of churches that give prayer a prominent place. Prayer is included in worship services, is offered to seekers at the end of services, is provided for in mid-week gathering and small groups, special prayer teams are formed for pastoral leaders, and church member are called upon to intercede through prayer chains, prayer partnerships, and prayer teams. Some or all of these things are or have taken place in our own church, and I am sure in many others.
What is missing, it seems to me, is the sense we get from the deliverance from prison of the Apostle Peter in Acts 12. It is simply this: the united intercessory prayer on behalf of the whole united church for critically important needs tied to the continued advance of the gospel. The good news is that just such coordinated prayer is beginning to take hold in many parts of the country. For example, Whatcom County, Washington and Euqene, Oregon have begun effective systems for intercession in which dozens of churches are uniting to mobilize intercessory prayer for their regions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
I am encouraged that just such a prayer movement is about to be launched in my own area in southeastern New England. This coming September TOGETHER We Pray is gearing up to enlist 35 or more congregations to facilitate continuous united prayer by the Church in the greater Rhode Island area for the advance of the gospel. So far 12 pastors have committed to enlist their church in this prayer movement as the word begins to spread.
The organizers’ vision is to see a prayer movement in the RI-area in which believing members of every RI-area congregation are engaged in coordinated monthly intercessory prayer, filling each hour of each day every month of the year. To do this, they will be enlisting pastors and Prayer Coordinators from participating churches and providing resources for mobilizing, training, and resourcing praying Christ followers to make sure that every single hour of their church’s day in the month will include the intentional prayer from their church’s intercessors.
“How could I possibly pray for a whole hour?” many will ask. But the TOGETHER We Pray people expect to be giving lots of help to make it happen. Advocates from 9 different spheres of life will provide specific suggestions for prayer, as well as regular reports of praise to be included and make these 60 minutes, in the words one book title, “The hour that changes the world.”
From the realms of education, government, and families, to those of churches and families, and others in between, the people of Rhode Island and adjacent Massachusetts and Connecticut towns will be asking God to exalt Jesus’s kingdom reign in nine of these specific arenas of modern life. Along the way, they will join together to pray for new outreach initiatives being undertaken in their churches. In short, they will be praying “in one accord” – just like in the Book of Acts.
I can’t wait to see the results.