Prayer: 24-7, now and then, or never?

A really good article taken from the New Wine magazine 2012

by Ian Nicholson

What do Christ's Soldiers in Kenya have in common with Churches Together in Ilkley or the Millersville Intercessors of Pennsylvania? Is there a link between Elhogar Cristiano in Madrid, Crash Japan and the Generating Station in Malta? What could connect a caravan in Guildford, with a hotel room in Turkey, a school classroom in Uganda or a tin shack in a South African township? The answer is that they have all participated in an unprecedented movement of continual 24-7 prayer, which is expressed through various networks, and is building in momentum year by year. All boundaries of class, culture and style are being crossed as the global church prays continually, night and day, as never before.

In my hometown, Guildford, we have now hosted about 50 weeks of 24-7 prayer during the last decade in many churches, but also shops, cafés and schools. Within 24-7 Prayer in the UK and Ireland there has been a rapid growth in the number of prayer rooms in the last two years, partly triggered by years of continuous prayer in Scotland and Ireland. During 2012, as the Olympics and Paralympics bring the nations to
our door, thousands of churches will be uniting in a giant, unbroken year-long prayer meeting, Kingdom Come UK (KC:UK/KC:IRL).
As we embark on this exciting and unpredictable journey, I want to highlight three keys for keeping our personal prayer lives fresh and alive.

'I am both aware of the power and necessity of prayer but also how fallible and ordinary our prayer lives can seem'
1. Keep it simple

As a leader in a prayer movement I am both aware of the power and necessity of prayer but also how fallible and ordinary our prayer lives can seem. Life is frantic, work is relentless and it can be frequently disheartening when Sunday morning's good intentions seem to dissipate by Monday!


Jesus recognised this struggle in warning his disciples that 'the spirit is willing but the body is weak' (Matt 26:41) - but they still failed to stay awake to pray for the critical hour in Gethsemane, as the future of humankind hung in the balance.

We should not be discouraged that it is frequently a struggle to maintain a regular prayer life; infact, perhaps we should take it as an encouragement that small steps in prayer can bring extraordinary changes to our relationship with God. The most common barrier to 'ordinary' believers participating in a 24-7 prayer room is that they have never prayed for a whole hour and don't think they could ever last that long - it seems too daunting! The reality is that prayer is the simplest, most accessible and life-giving activity known to humankind - you are ready and equipped! Prayer can be a few minutes on the train to work, a regular walk in the park at lunchtime or a few minutes of quiet at home once the children are asleep.

A growing number of friends set their alarms for midday in order to take a few moments to pray the Lord's Prayer. Bob from Northampton emailed recently to say, 'I had recently taken up the idea of programming in the Lord's Prayer at 12 every day on my phone, when I found myself talking to a street fundraiser outside Marks and Spencer. She was a student and mentioned that she used to be a Christian before going to university. We started chatting about Jesus and prayer and the problem of evil, when the alarm on my phone beeped. I explained what it was and suggested we could pray together. So we prayed for God's kingdom to come. Celia now wants to return to God and she will let
me know what happens!'

Don't be daunted or discouraged by the demands of prayer - see it as a journey of discovery and keep it as simple as possible. Small steps will make a significant difference.

2. Seek friendship

'What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us' AW Tozer.

How we view somebody determines our relationship with them. No-one wants to spend an hour with a hypercritical tyrant, or a patronising and self-centred bore. When I was a new Christian, God usually felt distant and impersonal. However, after a time of seeking God and encountering his Spirit, I found my prayer times transformed; they became times of friendship with my Father, who loved me just as I was, not how I thought I should be. As I considered Jesus' teaching and parables relating to prayer it became clear that his priority was relationship. He took time to be alone with his Father and only did what he saw his Father doing. He commanded would-be pray-ers not to babble with many words or put their religious credentials on public display (Matt 6: 5-13). In response to the disciples' request to 'teach us to pray' (Luke 11:1), Jesus' first word of instruction was simple: Father.

'The reality is that prayer is the simplest, most accessible and life-giving activity known to humankind'

Prayer is,
first and foremost,
an encounter with our Father.

In Finland recently someone commented that 'The presence of God was so intense that I almost couldn't keep away from the prayer room.' A young person in the UK made a simple but life-changing discovery: 'I am seeking God and he is speaking to me!' The most common stories from 24-7 prayer rooms around the world are simply that people have felt God close to them, and been changed as a result.

Recognise that God's priority for you is to be friends with him; ask him to reveal more of himself to you.

3. Express yourself
One of the most encouraging discoveries about prayer for me over recent years has been an appreciation that different personality types can express their prayer life in different ways. Some people respond well to having a very fixed and solitary routine while others prefer variety and creative stimulus. 24-7 prayer rooms often have zones with different emphases such as minimalist and simple areas, or a paint-strewn and messy creative space.

The New Testament has examples of prayer alone and in groups, loud and bold as well as quiet and reflective. There are daily prayer disciplines and patterns, spontaneous prayer encounters, prayer in rooms, on streets and roof tops, in prisons and in the marketplace. Being a fairly spontaneous person, I find I need variety and stimulus as I pray, but also benefit from the constraint and commitment to pray regularly as part of a prayer room.

Prayer is about relationship and it is also about expressing who you are. Think of fresh ways to pray that fit with your lifestyle and personality.

Encounters and adventures
'This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father who is in Heaven, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven...' (Matt 6: 9,10).

If we are honest we all struggle
at times to pray, but as we spend time together with the Father his kingdom will come, as seeds of faith, compassion, mission, justice and renewal are planted in our lives. You can spend an hour in prayer, pray the Lord's Prayer, prayer walk, get students praying, unite prayer across cities or plant a prayer stake - the opportunities are endless. As we embark on KC:UK/IRL there are a host of online resources available to help you get started: www.247prayer. The Father is ready and waiting - keep it simple and enjoy yourself!
For further information email

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