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Prayer: a Sign of Hope

Think for a moment of how many types of prayer initiatives there have been in recent years. Right now, for example, we are in the middle of the Ramadan prayer season for the Muslim world. Has there ever been a time in history where so many followers of Jesus have prayed for the world’s Muslims?
And has there ever been a time in history where God has been at work among Muslims in such a sovereign way, revealing himself to seekers through dreams and visions?
I sometimes wonder what some of the old 17th century Puritan leaders would think if they could see what was happening in the world today. As they read their Bibles, they saw many promises as yet unfulfilled, concerning what God wanted to do in the world. They understood that these promises would only be come true when God’s people prayed. They held on to scriptures that talked of the glory of the Lord covering the earth as the waters covered the sea (Hab. 2:14); or that all the nations would come and worship before God (Ps. 86:.9).
They believed that revivals and awakenings would see the Kingdom of God extended in successive waves, in answer to the prayers of God’s people. And so they stressed the priority of prayer.
Jonathan Edwards, a late Puritan preacher in the 18th century, invented the concept of concerts of prayer. That had little to do with music and performances, but was based on the original meaning of the word ‘concert’ – as in ‘a concerted effort’, something done together with others.
Concerts
A prayer concert was based on the promise: ‘if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven’ (Mt. 18:19,20). Taking that at face value, Edwards realised that concerted prayer was a real powerhouse! He began to organise people from different churches across a city to come together to pray – and revivals broke out on the west coast of America. Today we call that period the Great Awakening.
Around the same time, In Herrnhut, Germany, the Moravians experienced their own Awakening and began praying through the day, through the week, through the month and through the year, for almost a full century! This was the powerhouse that released the Modern Missionary Movement.
Compared to today, these prayer movements involved relatively few people from very few countries. I don’t think there has ever been such a broad and varied global prayer movement as there is today!
In more recent years, we began to see a renewal of some old concepts, such as concerts of prayer. David Bryant revived this concept on both sides of the Atlantic. I was involved with him in the late eighties conducting prayer workshops in Holland.
In England, Brian Mills promoted the concept of prayer triplets, where believers came together in threes, each in turn bringing three other names to pray for. Prior to the Billy Graham and Luis Palau campaigns in England in the late 80’s, prayer triplets were active across Britain, and many were coming to faith in Jesus even before the campaigns had started!
Prayer walking was an activity we engaged in as ywamers back in the 70’s, walking through neighbourhoods and cities, praying quietly for God’s Kingdom to come among families, in schools, in businesses, in government buildings and in police stations and so on. It was not such a broadly practised concept in those days. However it led directly to the Marches for Jesus, firstly in London in the late 80’s, then jumping across the Channel to the continent, and eventually going worldwide. These events were called at the time ‘the longest prayer meetings in history’ – sometimes kilometres long! The global climax was on June 25, 1994, then called the biggest prayer prayer meeting in history, involving many millions simultaneously.
One year earlier, the first ‘30 days of prayer’ of Muslim prayer focus during Ramadan was held. This year is the 16th such season (15 solar years, 16 lunar years).
Out of Africa
As the century drew to a close, a remarkable prayer movement surfaced among young people responding enthusiastically to calls for prayer and fasting. Some fasted for up to forty days. Early in the new millennium, Pete Greig and other young people took the lead in initiating the so-called 24/7 prayer network, spreading contagiously across national and denominational borders. Boiler rooms seemed to sprout like mushrooms.
The term Houses of Prayer came into currency over the past decade in Europe, often being championed by mainstream pastors. Mike Bickle injected a fresh intensity into the name IHOP (International Houses of Prayer), resulting in a fast-growing global network. Bickle has more recently teamed up with Lou Engel and The Call, gathering hundreds of thousands of young people in stadiums across America for prayer and repentance.
Meanwhile, the Global Day of Prayer has emerged out of Africa after filling stadiums in every capital city of that continent. This year 60 million engaged together in prayer in 205 nations on Pentecost Sunday! That far outstrips the March for Jesus events!
So, what does this mean? Either God is simply teasing us, and business will simply continue as normal. Or, we are on the verge of something never before seen in history!
What do you think?
Till next week,
Jeff Fountain

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