Prayer as Mission at the Living Rock

As we prayed around the circle, my eyes were drawn to the heavily pierced teen who sat on the edge of our group, knees drawn to her chest. Her turn came, and wanting her to feel comfortable, I said, “you don’t have to pray out loud if you don’t want to.”

“I’ve never done this before, but no, I’m gonna do it!” She exclaimed. And then proceeded to share one of the most heartfelt, vulnerable, and impassioned prayers I’ve heard in a long time. A holy silence followed, as none of us felt like we could speak into the sacred space she created.

As couple years ago, we at GOHOP wanted to find some kind of Missional/service expression as part of our rhythms of breathing in (prayer), and breathing out (being part of the answers to our prayers). Because there are already many fine organizations in the city engaged in mission, it made more sense for us to partner with one of them, rather than start something on our own. So we approached the Living Rock, an organization that provides services to at risk youth in our city, and asked them, ‘how can we serve you?’

‘Prayer!’ Was their answer. We were expecting to wash dishes or stack chairs, but quickly realized that our unique contribution (prayer) was the best way we could serve alongside the Rock in mission.

Consequently, for several years now, a team from GOHOP shows up Wednesday at the Rock at 11:30. We do pre-service prayer for their weekly worship Gathering. We participate in the Gathering, sometimes leading worship or teaching. And them after the Gathering is over, we hang out with the youth and staff, and see if any of them need prayer. Then, from 2-3, we retire into their prayer room and spend an hour in worship and intercession for the Rock and youth in the city, often with Rock youth or alumni (they age out of the programs at 26) participating.

And of course, in the summer, we park the Prayer Truck behind the Rock and spend several weeks praying for and with the kids outside.

It’s my conviction that longevity in front line service to the marginalized needs to be fuelled by a rich prayer life. This last weekend the Rock celebrated 28 years of service in the city, and we are grateful for the privilege of (prayer)walking together some of those years with them.
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Prayer and Mission

One of the distinctives of the 24-7 Prayer movement that have made so much sense for us here in our inner city context of Hamilton is the synergy of prayer and mission. As we’ve taken prayer out of the prayer room and Into the alleys of our city, we have encountered Jesus in surprising and enlivening ways.

And I’m happy to say that 24-7 Prayer is in the middle of releasing a video series called Prayer and Mission.

Brian is a great champion for prayer and missions. He led a prayer missions team for seven years on Ibiza, Spain, reaching out in clubs and on the streets to party-goers from across Europe.

Have a look at the first two videos:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gbNiQuSWnRE

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=U8xdGcZ6tPI

The rest of them will be rolling out this week, so I would encourage you to tune in and allow God to attune your heart to His mission in the world.

Day 6 – Prayer Spaces in Schools

After years of sacrificial service to the local schools, the Stanford Boiler Room now finds they have an open door to be the loving presence of a people of prayer in a couple schools in their town. One school itself built and commissioned a “Contemplative space”, right amongst the classrooms. The team from Stanford designed the prayer installation, and mans the prayer space three lunch hours a week. Today we had the privilege of joining them.

It started at 9 am with an hour of prayer for the school, back at one of the Community Houses. Then an hour and a half time for preparation. This time we prepared prayer drawing activities (how do you draw your prayers to God?), and links of paper, representing friendships, on which they could write the names of their friends, things they like about their friends, and attach, with a bit of cellophane tape, their own fingerprint to. After the prep, them it was off to the school. We brought photo ID, were buzzed in, and after we signed in wore visitor badges.

Then at the contemplative space, after tidying it up a bit, we spent another hour in prayer for the school before lunch hour began and the kids arrived. Over the lunch hour we chatted with kids, gave out Canada pins, and encouraged them to engage the prayer space.

In the afternoon, Hannah, Nicola and I found the local market, and then cooked soup and homemade bread and pavlovas for a Community Dinner which was followed by, you guessed it, another hour of prayer. On top of the three hours of prayer, guests are encouraged to pray for an hour in the Community House on site prayer room. I was really stuck by and pleased with the ratio of prayer to service, which demonstrates how this community believes that prayer IS mission….

Oh, and I’ve gone two whole days without bumping any curbs!

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This is Why I Love My Job…

A testimony from a youth group who included prayer time at the Vine (our prayer room) in their missions trip to Hamilton:

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“Okay, let me get to the absolute highlight. The hour we spent in the prayer room was an unexpected and powerful God-encounter. I mean, I guess we expected to encounter God somehow in prayer, but this was deep. Laurie Castellani, from YWAM but working with GOHOP, led us in some different kinds of prayer, some stuff we’ve never done before. We sang scripture freestyle, we prayed out loud all at the same time, we read different parts of scripture out loud all at the same time, we joined in other people’s songs and readings. It was out of our comfort zone, but really cool to try these new ways of connecting with God in prayer.

Then we asked for a volunteer who wanted to get prayed over, and we listened to God to hear words for this person, or pictures or just asking God to show this person something. We prayed over two people, one of whom was a 13-yr old boy. He asked us to pray against spiritual apathy in his life. The Holy Spirit just exploded! We are not a particularly charismatic church, so again, this is kind of new for us, but it was amazing! The words that other teens were hearing from God just went straight to this boy’s heart. His life was changed. I felt something very significant happen in the spiritual realm as we prayed and prophesied.

So then the team decided that they wanted to pray for everyone in that same way. On Thursday evening, after a full day of work, then hearing from Pastor Ace, we sat down to pray. We started at 8:15pm and didn’t finish until after 12:30am. Seriously, these teens prayed for over four hours and they were totally into it the whole time! Some of these kids wouldn’t have even spent 10 solid minutes in prayer ever in their lives and they prayed for over 4 hours! It was a miracle and everyone was enjoying hearing from Holy Spirit so much. We prayed and prophesied over each person. Lives were changed and deep things happened.”Jill, it was amazing. The Holy Spirit just fell on us. We went into this with nothing planned and no idea how we would be praying or anything. I think this turned out to be a great thing. I sure couldn’t have planned what happened there. 

I’m so excited how this will carry into our youth ministry this year. The kids are making plans to have a monthly prayer night to pray over each other and pray for the world. It’s so powerful when God is doing it IN THEM and not just through the leaders. Praise God for meeting with us, for being gentle with us and for providing a place like The Vine to experience Him in new ways. God bless you and your team. Thanks for making those arrangements to open up specially for our team. It sure was a God-appointment!

Come, Lord Jesus

Usually for the first hour in the Prayer Truck I’m on my own. I take the opportunity for quiet meditative prayer. My favourite breathing prayer these days is “Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus”. I sit quietly on the trucks edge, focus on my breathing, invite His Presence, invoke His name, and prepare myself for His coming.

Soon He comes. “Is it okay if I sit here?” It’s Zach*. Early for the free breakfast run by the youth centre next door. He hopes its eggs, because he’s trying to control his type 1 diabetes. “Do you mind if I take my insulin shot here? Some folks can’t handle the needles.” Later he lets me pray for his feet, badly affected by the disease.

Later on He’s back. This time disguised as Jose from Guatemala. Chatty and gregarious, Jose shares about his Abuela, 100 year old grandmother, and how beautiful his home country is. We drink bottled water together and pass the time.

Even later, He returns as Marcos, with gold teeth and dreadlocks. He pops by and shares about how he “reclaimed” some land that is owned by the city and awaiting development. He’s grown a massive garden on it. “I don’t have to buy food in summer anymore!” Marcos exclaims proudly.

I feel like Abraham near the trees of Mamre, sitting at the entrance of my truck in the heat of the day, extending hospitality to passers by. In the Genesis story, the writer seems confused. Are they guests? Are they The Lord? The lines blur for me as well. I’m supposed to be there ‘ministering’, but instead each new friend leaves a bit of themselves, a precious gift, as did Abraham’s mysterious guests with their promise of a son.

I am grateful for His presence, His visits, and His generosity towards me.

Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.

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*names changed

Making it Special – with Missional Sensitivity

The other day, my friend Lori and I worked on her birthday invitations.

We sat at our table at McDonalds and filled in names and dates on the cards.  Lori is turning 50 this year, and we couldn’t let the milestone pass by without a big brouhaha.  When I first began to think about her party, I pictured it in my head.  Fine linen invitations, with a lovely cursive font.  Crisp white tablecloths, wine glasses.  China dishes.  Fine cuisine.  We would make it special…

 My party fantasies began to fizzle when we began to talk about invitations.  “What would you like, Lori?” As we began to shop, I realized very quickly what I liked and what Lori liked were very different. “These ones!” We were in the kids party section of the card store.  “The ones with the squirrel!  When are we going to get the tablecloths and plates?  The dollar store has some with colors!  I want Chinese food for the dinner!”
Fancy and special?  Our definitions were different, and I realized if I planned the party in a way that pleased my aesthetic and culinary sensibilities, Lori would be left cold.  So we bought squirrel cards.

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 This has specific missional implications.  As we are making friends who are different from us culturally or socio-economically, when we are entering into their world and loving them there, we have to lay aside our preconceived notions of what good news is.  Filet mignon is not good news to Lori.  Egg rolls are.  I realized that my initial birthday fantasies were patronizing and paternalistic.  I needed to get into Lori’s world and let her write the definitions.  Then and only then can I demonstrate the love and life of Jesus in a way that will reach the heart.

Visiting the Mother Ship and Finding Hope

When meetings took me to Kansas City, I extended my stay a couple of days.  I can’t come to KC and not go to IHOP (www.ihop.org)!  It had been years since I had personally visited the Mother Ship, the ministry that had to radically altered my walk with God and the course of my life’s direction, and I was eager to plug in and fuel up.

The Global Prayer Room (the one we see on the live webcast, and called the GPR by locals) was orderly and beautiful.  Comfy chairs. Quiet congregation.  Fantastic music and singing. Passionate prayer.

My response was not what I expected.  I felt out of place and disconnected.  I persevered for a couple hours, and then with some relief escaped to meet Kirk and Dee Bennett, IHOP leaders who have walked with us over the years.

Over dinner I explained to them GOHOP’s journey, and when I was done, Kirk picked up his phone.  “You have got to see Hope City,” he said.  “Let me get you there.”

The next morning I was picked up, whisked off to a sketchy neighborhood, and dropped off at a low lying, run down building with bars on the windows.  Founded by IHOP, Hope City (www.hopecitykc.org) is an inner city house of prayer that runs a prayer room, but also serves free lunches every day, provides laundry and shower facilities, and groceries each week to their impoverished neighbors.

Their prayer space was a striking contrast to the GPR.  Ramshackle room.  Aged sound equipment.  One of the singers was a young mum, and sang with her baby on her lap.  Another was heavily tattooed, and intermingled rapping with the singing and prayer.

In the back of the room, scruffy men snored softly.  An elderly woman with apparent dementia rocked happily back and forth to the music.  The main prayer leader was a wise and wizened African American grandma, whose heart was broken for the younger generation.  Children in grubby clothes scrambled over the seats.

Ah, this was more like it!  I settled in, finally feeling at home.