In May 1999, like many others seeking to increase the prayer life of the Church, I suggested a week of prayer for our church, Prince's Drive Baptist Church in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. One of the suggested events during the week was a prayerwalk. I was disappointed to find only one woman who had shown up to walk our town and pray for it.
Beginnings of Prayer WeekAs I walked the town, God began to speak to me about standing in “Agreement in Prayer.” It was almost as though I heard him say, “Stand with another church and I will expand it.” Later, I suggested this idea to our church leadership, who in turn encouraged me to approach a church nearby, Bethel Christian Fellowship in Old Colwyn. In May 2000 we shared a week of prayer together. A team from Covenant Centre International in Florida, USA, taught us about prayer during this time.
Other churches soon heard about what we were doing and asked if we could join together in prayer the following year. In May 2001 more than twelve churches and prayer groups stood together for our nation. In addition to having our central venue in Colwyn Bay, we sent out teachers, intercessors and worship groups to towns where churches wanted to hold a meeting of their own.
Soon after this week of prayer, ministers from other towns and villages across North Wales asked if they could join for 2002.
We contacted other network leaders and were soon sharing what God was doing with prayer leaders across the nation. After one particularly significant meeting in Cardiff, most of the recognised prayer ministries across Wales supported this weeklong gathering of unified prayer.
We invited speakers from around the nation to come, share and teach about prayer. Much of our vision is to see the nation pray for the light of the gospel to shine brightly again in our land. Denomination heads have been supportive and eager to offer help wherever needed.
In May 2002grew into the “National Week of Prayer” for Wales. Between two hundred and four hundred churches participated. In May 2003 over 1,400 churches across the British Isles, Ireland and seventeen other nations stood together in prayer for our nations. Participants understood the importance of joining in one accord for the purpose of seeing the lost reached, the gospel shared and the harvest of souls.
In May 2004 we prayed for ten thousand churches. We saw over four hundred villages, towns and cities across Britain commit to join together in prayer. Churches in over fifty different nations worldwide registered as well.
In May 2005 we ceased counting and simply trusted God to enlarge the place of our tent accordingly. With the inclusion of a Global Day of Prayer we can see that what God has orchestrated is coming to pass before our eyes. And it is awesome.
We look forward to May 2006 in anticipation of what God will do. Prayer Week continues to be a tool to gather people in prayer across denominations, cultural barriers and national barriers.
Importance of Prayer Week
Some may ask why we have Prayer Week. From this, many other questions flow: What purpose does it have? Shouldn’t we be praying all year round? What do I do? How do I encourage others around me to participate? Will this week of prayer actually make a difference?
With the growth in Prayer Week, we sometimes find it difficult to keep up with the demands that come with organising and encouraging people to participate in the week’s activities. Our foundation lies in testifying to what happens when people take the time to pray. And not only to pray, but to join together and pray across church divides. We must enter into ways of praying that we may not always feel comfortable with. We must press on for the purpose of moving God’s heart to respond to the cries of the people.
Participation in Prayer Week
When we join together in prayer, something we cannot understand, comprehend or take hold of happens and we are forced to say, “This happened because we prayed.” Although prayer is often a thankless task, God hears every prayer and cry and responds in his timing. My greatest encouragement is knowing that when I stand before God, he will have heard everything in my heart. He will know it all: every moan, groan, laugh and tear. And I am sure that many of my prayers will be answered long after I am gone.
It is God’s will that we pray. It is his will to respond. It is his will that we join together for prayer. Prayer Week provides a stimulus to gather those who do not usually involve themselves in prayer each week. It provides the focus to bring churches, towns and even whole regions together to pray and gain strength from one another. It helps us learn more about each other. Through unified prayer, barriers fall, fears dissolve and more prayer rises to heaven.
Focus During Prayer Week
Joel 3:11-14 says, “Come quickly, all you nations from every side, and assemble there.
Bring down your warriors, O Lord! Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow—so great is their wickedness! Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.”
These verses have been our focus for some time. They express the only prayer request we have ever asked people to include during Prayer Week, namely, to pray for a great harvest. Beyond this, we ask that those who gather in prayer will know their region, town, church, family and self. We then respectfully suggest participants ask the Holy Spirit what they should be praying for.
Prayer Week is what you make it. It is whatever God lays on your heart to do. For some this means a prayerwalk through the streets with Christians from other churches and denominations. In our home church last May, we opened a prayer center that was open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Other local congregations took the opportunity to hold their weekly prayer meetings in our church. This was a great blessing to all.
The imagination and creativity of God’s people never ceases to amaze me. One of our elders and his wife organised twenty-four hours of the reading of the scriptures. Every minister in our town took part by reading in thirty-minute time slots. The testimonies that came from this time moved us all to tears. Many said of this time, “I didn’t want my time to stop. It all seemed to go so quickly.” Many stayed in the room we were using for hours at a time, listening to God. We followed this time with twenty-four hours of nonstop worship through song.
Participants in other towns invited the public to send in prayer requests; some went to the streets to ask if passers-by needed prayer. One team even had a prayer stall in the local market for the week. There are countless ways to encourage others to join you in prayer. Our DVD, “Your Kingdom Come,” shows a variety of ways people took part in Prayer Week 2005. In Gloucester people from various churches gathered on top of a cathedral tower to pray. In Newcastle organizers hired a coach and had a prayer bus tour the city, stopping at strategic points as they went. In York there was a nighttime torch light parade. Another team climbed the mountains on the Isle of Man with a God-given strategy on how and what to pray. The CD is available at http://www.prayerweek.com/.
There are different ideas to get people of all ages praying. It takes just one person with the drive, passion, fortitude and God-given heart to galvanise people in entire towns, regions and even nations. You could well be a person like that. Dare to believe that what God has given you is what he wants to happen in your church.
For the past seven years I have been standing on the words of Romans 4:17b: “…the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”
Although people still question the importance of Prayer Week, I can testify to the fact that what we are doing throughout this nation and surrounding nations is vital. Prayer Week can be anything we want it to be. It is what you make it.
A God-given Initiative: Prayer Week 2006
Prayer Week 2006 will be held 7-14 May. Alistair Cole, prayer coordinator for Elim Pentecostal Church, told me about the plans birthed in one man’s heart for his home county of Derbyshire during last year’s celebration. This man, Greg Hall, saw people gathered in the top corner of his county, on the border with Yorkshire. There they began a weeklong journey across their county, praying along the way. They stopped every night for a “Prayer Celebration” that was hosted by a local church in various towns. By the next morning, the group was larger than when it began.
For this year’s Prayer Week, Hall said to me, “It would be very good if we could link to other county [prayer] walks in the area. It would be good if we could have a common start with people in South Yorkshire. Then, they would go north and we would go south. The overall purpose would be to stimulate and encourage a wave of prayer and mission throughout the county, as well as all of the normal aspects of prayerwalking.” To partner, contact Hall at [email protected].
Many others have a vision to prayerwalk their home county as well. What will you be doing for Prayer week 2006? For ideas on beginning or participating in the week, visit http://www.prayerweek.com/. There you can download Prayer Week logos and leaflets for your own use. There are also many testimonies of what God has been doing through this even over the past few years. Our prayer is that God will inspire you to participate in this unified week of prayer.