It is just after 9pm on the last Friday in the month. There are a few cars parked in the churchyard at Clifton Parish Church. A sign on the door has says “Ring to Pray” and a doorbell is provided. The door is open, as it is still early.
As I walk in the room I immediately notice the posters and information sheets all over the walls. There are photos, scripture texts, reports, statistics and memory-joggers to give a focus to prayer. A map of York also seems to be a focal point, and a white board is propped up in one corner with a pen. Some individual prayer requests have already made their way on to the board – I find I can actually read some of them!
There is a modest sized group of people ranging from teens to seniors. Some people are sat others are standing, some have bibles out. There is a friendly atmosphere and a little chatter going on. It feels more like a family pub than a church.
All of a sudden some guy stands up and says “it is time to pray”. As an introduction a short encouraging Bible reading is aired and then one or two people just share how prayer from the last “Knights of Prayer” event has been answered.
The night is broken into sections of approximately an hour (although there seems no way of predicting that with a wristwatch). It seems almost as though the subject changes only after we have come to a peace about what we have prayed for. The first hour we are told that we should pray as Paul told us:
1 Tim 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority,
There is a photo of the Queen, the Prime Minister, the leaders of political parties, the US President and we pray for these world leaders. Photos of the local MP and MEP complete the set and a list of names of government ministers and local councillors gives us ammunition for prayer.
At one point the leader says “let’s approach the board and each pick the name of a government minister and spend five minutes praying for them, their family, and their office.” We all find names we never heard before and somehow get to know these faceless politicians as we pray for them.
The drinks and snacks are on tap, and it seems cool to just get up and get a drink and some pretzels or a muffin or whatever is on the snack table. No one is put off by the movement or the ‘crunching and slurping’, because a lot of the praying is quite noisy and some of the people are walking around the room while they pray.
In fact when we talk about walking, some are stood, some are sat, one woman is kneeling down, and one guy is looking something up in his Bible. There is no formula in use for how prayer must take place, except that there is a constant referral back to scripture and the guidance it gives on prayer.
As the night goes on people leave and others arrive. Some stop an hour, most probably stop three hours or so, and the ‘hard core’ make it through the whole night. Even at 3am people were still walking in (although they had to ring the bell). There were several different One Voice churches represneted there.
As the night goes on there seems to be some intimate prayer going on in one corner for someone who clearly has some sort of need. Then an oil bottle is produced and a drop is applied to their head and prayer continues whilst others are praying for someone else.
Next one or two others ask for prayer and it is clear that they receive something that changes the way they look. Someone being prayed for falls flat on the floor. ‘That’s Ok, it happens sometimes’ a guy next to me says.
Then we all join hands and pray for each other, before all stopping for a few minutes for a drink together.
As the night continues we pray for Alpha Courses, Youth Work, YOYO, YWAM, the poor, World affairs, disaster victims, the media, local church leaders, ‘One Voice’, local mission initiatives and loads more.
The two things that stuck in my mind the most were the hour in which we prayed for the prodigals to return – for those who had stopped coming to church; and also the hour of spiritual warfare when we really challenged the status quo in the atmosphere over York.
Well, it was different! No one can say it wasn’t an experience.
I actually feel like a made a difference tonight.
What I can’t understand is how I managed to stay awake – but I did.
Dear diary – remind me next month, I think I might come again!