This article was originally published in Edition (5) of Prayer Magazine,  Jan-Mar 2006.

The business gurus are often quoting statements like ‘the most important thing is that the most important thing is the most important thing’. A good tongue twister but if you take time to reflect it makes sense.

What is the most important thing as far is God is concerned about the people and nation of England (the part of the UK highlighted in this edition of Prayer Magazine)?  I would suggest that it is as many people as possible come into a position of knowing him as their God (Psalm 100….).so that each can play their part in working with His Holy Spirit to ‘bring in His kingdom’ in their own lives, within their families, friends, in the workplace, in the community and in our nation. God is into the business of transformation. His purpose is to transform our minds, attitudes, hearts and habits. Through a transformed people God is then able to change communities, cities and nations .

And the heart of this is prayer. God is looking for a relationship with him that will transform this nation – His world. Effective mission will not work unless prayer is at its foundation. Why?  Because that has how God has created the DNA of our relationship with him. Prayer is an important weapon that God has given His people (Eph 6.12; I Cor. 10:4-6)

God’s call today to His church is to

  • wake up as our society drifts further and further away from our Christian values and heritage
  • return to the heart of Jesus mission which was to preach the good news, bind up the broken hearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, release for prisoners etc (Isaiah 61:1-4)
  • rediscover how the early church operated (with worship, learning and prayer at its centre) and so moving from  maintenance to engaging with our communities
  • put Jesus at the centre and recognise our unique relationship with Him that should lead us in humility to seek His face, pray, turn from our wicked ways and so enable him to ‘heal our land’ (2 Chronicles 7.14).

God’s mobilisation of His prayer army

Over the last 15-20 years particularly, God has been mobilising a ‘prayer army’ across many nations of the world. And he has not forgotten us in England. This ‘army’ is made up of ordinary Christians, from all denominations and streams  – women, children and men – who God is calling to the place of prayer in homes, churches, workplaces, in the community, in government and on the streets.

I have often likened it to a tapestry picture that God is weaving with many different colours and textures of threads and textiles – and as we only see the ‘rough side’ we see many lose ends! Some of what is happening is hidden and some is more public. 

Here are some examples of how God is mobilising

Church leaders – to pray daily, weekly, monthly - across denominations and streams – for their churches and for their communities. From that place of prayer God is able to then place prayer at the heart of each church, as well as at the heart of creative community engagement leading to inspirational joint prayer initiatives,  effective social action projects, fruitful evangelism, pioneering church planting, etc.

Young people and children. It is wonderful to hear how God is working through our children, which sometimes are forgotten when prayer meetings are held!  I was profoundly impacted in talking with some church leaders when told that their 12-15 age group were the ‘prayer warriors for the church’.

Ordinary Christians taking their stand as ‘watchmen on the walls’ of

the land – with groups gathering to pray for streets, villages, towns, boroughs, cities, counties, regions of England – with prayer walls, prayer towers, 40 days of prayer.

our governmental leaders (local and national). Over recent years we have seen prayer breakfasts for MPs, prayer mobilised at the heart of Westminster and Whitehall (as well as in the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly) and effective prayer mobilised in many cities/towns for Council decision-making leading to effective partnerships.

Round the clock praying. Certainly not new as God has used this many times before (mostly notably the 100 year Moravian prayer meeting).  But with the 24-7 prayer and mission movement that God started here in England over 5 years ago (www.24-7prayer.com) the Holy Spirit has led many hundreds of prayer rooms to be established and weeks of prayer to take place. In 2005 a number of Christian organisations and initiatives were independently led to call for a year of prayer. Currently the Methodist Church have called all their chapels to be involved in a year of prayer to summer 2006.

(www…….. Methodist website). And in the 24-7 boiler rooms (places of prayer, mission, justice and pilgrimage 365 days a year) we see God taking his church back to the heart of mission.

Into the very heart of our society. This area has seen extraordinary growth in recent years as from the place of prayer God has been leading his people engage with current issues

In areas of social action eg drugs, reduction of crime, prostitution;abortion

In targeting our key pillars of society eg the family, police, arts, media and entertainment  industries, education etc.

In the marketplace.

and enabling us to rediscover the important link between prayer and evangelism which was at the heart of Jesus’ own ministry.

To link with the Global Church

As the Global Day of Prayer movement gains in momentum – the first one held in May 2005 (this year June 3/4th is GPD weekend www.globaldayofprayer.co.uk) we anticipate more and more churches joining in and larger ‘stadium’ events taking place as we reach out from England to pray for our needy world.

Praise quote from a psalm….

‘When the church becomes a house of prayer people come running’ (Taize )

The fact remains that for many in our churches prayer is still a forgotten ‘art’. Though, of course, there are some glorious exceptions to this where prayer meetings are vibrant, prayer is taught and modelled and where churches are growing in their effectiveness and outreach.

One of my passions is to see the UK church become a praying church with all streams and denominations making prayer a priority in their life and mission.

By that I mean that each church could become a ‘house of prayer church for all nations’ (Isa…..)where the prayer moves from just being a ministry to ‘those who are into that sort of thing’ to each person whatever age and stage of life making dependence on God, seeking His will and then doing what He asks a part of their daily lives.

From my conversations around the nation, I know that many church leaders and churches struggle with prayer. Where does it fit? How do we mobilise?  And there are real tensions with that arise within churches and between churches. For instance issues of theology, different ways of praying, how to handle the prophetic as well as tensions in many churches between ‘those who like to pray’ and leaders. We need to be mature enough to dialogue and come to agreement as to how we can stand together.

Why is prayer so neglected in so many lives, homes, churches, organisations???

Is it because we are all too busy, too active and living lifestyles that don’t allow us any time to connect with God personally – let alone with others in our community, workplace, church month by month? May be we need to learn again how Jesus put God right at the centre of his life and built into his life strategic withdrawal times (eg. Mark 1.35; Lk 5:15-16) and told his disciples ' Mk 6:30-32 Come… with me… by yourselves… to a quiet place..

Is it because really deep down, we don’t see prayer as important. Again if we look at the life and example of Jesus and what he taught about prayer to his disciples we learn that prayer needs to be the first step in all that we think, plan and do.  May be we need to stop and reassess prayer in the light of this teaching of Jesus and ask him to reignite our hearts and minds?

Is it because the way prayer is done, modelled or led in our context is not exciting, relevant - to our lives, work situations? Prayer meetings in churches where leadership is passionate about prayer are not boring!. To pray effectively we need motivation (from the word of God), encouragement (from how God is answering prayer) and information (what are we supposed to be praying about). Many of us need to explore different ways of praying in our rich Christian heritage that have been forgotten.

Some marks of a ‘house of prayer church’ :

Prayer is visible through teaching and preaching.

Prayer saturates every aspect of Sunday (and midweek) services

Leadership are committed to prayer.

Prayer is an agenda item for all church gatherings

Prayer is part of Christian education:

Prayer becomes the first step - not the last resort. Instead of being reactive the church becomes used to taking the initiative in prayer.

Praying for others is an integral part of church life- with different opportunities given for corporate prayer, creativity in prayer encouraged, prayer mobilised for community/workplace

‘The UK will never be reached until we create open, authentic, learning and praying communities that are focused on making whole-life disciples who live and share the Gospel wherever they relate to people in their daily lives’   (M Greene – www.licc.org.uk/imagine)

As Mark Green puts it so starkly ‘There are 60 million people in the UK and more than 50 million of them don’t know Jesus. …Some 4.5 million people go to church once a month or more. That is 4,499,988 more than Jesus started with – certainly enough to reach our nation’  (Imagine 2)

Are we desperate enough to want to see England/UK/British Isles impacted afresh with the good news of Jesus Christ? 

Are we desperate enough to realise that we need his grace, his strength, his direction if we are going to stem the tide ?

Are we desperate enough to come humbly to the feet of Jesus to seek His face, his ways, his plans and to do what he asks us to do?

‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send workers to his harvest field’ (Luke 10.2)

Jane Holloway

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