27 June 2017
As part of our continuing series of stories relating to events and activities for Thy Kingdom Come 2017, the Revd Sue Paterson (Vicar, The Priory Church, Deeping St James) reflects on a week of shared 24-7 prayer...
Deepings Churches Together held a week of 24-7 prayer as part of Thy Kingdom Come 2017. We started at Pentecost and ended on Trinity Sunday (we felt that it was potentially problematic trying to start a week of prayer that clashed with a bank holiday at the beginning and then half-term thereafter).
It has to be said that most people, not having experienced a 24-7 prayer room before, were initially both sceptical and hesitant. Before the launch service at Priory Church, hardly anyone had signed up, and nobody at all from the Baptist church where it was to be held. It looked like we were set for an almighty flop. It didn’t help that we had no core team to draw on, and I fully expected to have to cover a fair few night slots myself, and so I cleared my diary in advance accordingly.
The launch service drew about 20 people, however, and through beginning to discover the varieties of praying through the prayer stations we had that night, there was some curiosity to explore further. I was content to hold my nerve, remembering that the first 24-7 prayer room I ever ran had only filled three of the 168 hours in advance! Sure enough, once people grasped the system, it all soon got much easier. We operated a system whereby you had to sign up for an hour or multiple hours, during which time you had the space entirely to yourself. The only exceptions were the very frail or vulnerable. Usually, it doesn’t work inviting more than one person at a time, as the temptation is to chat: but an hour alone with God is both challenging and exciting.
We filled the former crèche at Open Door church with art materials, icons, posters, CDs, candles, books, coffee and comfy chairs, and invited visitors to explore prayer through different media. The resultant artwork and prayers were posted up on the walls, pinned to fabric or simply offered to be found lying on the table. As the week progressed and bookings kept coming in, it became clear how much people appreciated being able to take time out, to de-clutter, and to listen to God as much as to speak to him. People from all the local churches started asking for more than an hour... for several hours... for a night slot... and by the end of the week the room was amazingly atmospheric, bathed in prayer. We closed reluctantly at the end of the week with a simple Celtic service, anointing each other for service in the world and praying for God’s blessing.
There is a strong call to do this again. And one of the beautiful things about the whole experience is that although the idea of 24-7 prayer comes originally from one man’s dream to have teenagers praying across Europe (“Your young men shall dream dreams...”), a 24-7 prayer room can be done by anyone, in small rural areas as much as in inner-city nightclubs, by young or old, singly or in massive exuberant hordes. We chose small and intimate over huge and heaving, and God honoured it with his presence. As a tool for mission, it would be hard to beat.
Further information on The Priory Church at Deeping St James may be found at the church website.
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