Prayer for your community
It is hard to look at the news without being appalled by some event in one of our cities. Last night in the UK, there was a shooting in Plymouth which left five people dead including one child. We hear of knife attacks, gang warfare, teenage girls being groomed for sex, small children addicted to drugs before they’re born. The list of horrors is endless.
But if there is one thing we should know, it’s that when Jesus Christ is invited into the situation, He changes the landscape. When Robbie Dawkins planted a church in Aurora, Chicago, the crime rate was one of the highest in the USA (62 homicides in 2010). As his team committed themselves to prayer and as they led gang leaders to Christ, in just two years the crime rate dropped to being one of America’s lowest (zero homicides in 2012).
And then there is the example I read about in Pete Greig’s book ‘How to Pray’ (Hodder & Stoughton). He tells of a member of their church called Jonathan who works in London and arrived unusually early for a meeting in Westminster one August morning.
With two and a half hours of time to use, he was walking across the River Thames on Westminster Bridge, towards the Houses of Parliament and he found himself thinking about the terror attack that had taken place the previous year. I quote:
‘As he did so, he sensed a new and imminent danger so powerfully that he began to pray for protection (not something he would usually do), and continued pacing those streets and praying for an hour.’
He was struck by both the strangeness and the urgency of his call to prayer and he recalls walking and praying around that area, calling up to God for the safety of those who work in Parliament and nearby offices, the hospital over the bridge and countless numbers of commuters. He finally stopped walking at around 7.30am and called into a coffee shop near the bridge.
Only seven minutes after that, one hundred yards from where he was sitting, a terrorist drove his car into cyclists and pedestrians in the exact place where Jonathan had first felt the sense of approaching danger.
Who, other from God, knows what the actual impact of Jonathans prayers were? However, whereas the attack a year before had left fifty people injured and five dead, this incident killed no one and only resulted in minor injuries for three people, all of whom received assistance within seconds because the vehicle immediately behind the attacker just happened to be an ambulance.
Subsequently, it emerged that CCTV footage of the area showed that, just prior to the attack, the attacker had been driving round and round those very streets, the streets that Jonathan had been walking and praying for the very protection that was clearly delivered.
How many people that morning were impacted by the prayers of someone they will never meet, to a God they have barely heard of and believe in even less?
Then there is Ffald-y-Brenin.
Ffald-y-Brenin is a Christian retreat centre in Wales; they welcome people into their community, either to stay for an extended visit, or as a day visitor. They set their day around a daily rhythm of prayer which guests can either join with on line or can join in person.
Among many other things, they offer themselves as a ‘thin’ place where people can encounter God, but they also pray into all kinds of situations for their local community. They pray blessing over the well being and productivity of the local farming community, local schools, villages and work places as a matter of course, marriages, all kinds of businesses, churches, but they also invite prayer requests of all kinds.
It wasn’t long after they started praying in this way for reports to start flooding into them about the extraordinary results they were having and the blessing the community was receiving. Ailing businesses started to flourish and prosper, farmers started reporting absurdly high levels of productivity not only for their crops, but in their livestock as well. When the lambing season came round one farmer reported astonishment at the incredible number of healthy births of quads and triplets among his sheep. Farmers normally hope for plenty of twins but now that was being exceeded by a long way.
Inspired by the impact of Ffald-yBrenin, similar communities are being set up all around the world. One that was set up in Liberia had this to report:
‘Before Local Houses of Prayer we just used to meet in one group to pray for a particular situation. Now church members have identified prayer partners in many groups to pray for issues and individuals. Facilitators in training are calling and giving stories of transformation, street children have returned home, broken marriages are being restored, jobless are being employed. Praise God for local houses of prayer.’
The opportunities are endless. It’s time to start committing time and space to invite our Lord in to our world, then watch the glorious adventure unfold!