168 – A Week of Prayer & Worship

In January 2016, at a PCC meeting, we did an exercise to consider how we would prioritise 9 of our core activities in the church. In pairs, we organised 9 statements into priority order – and it was heartening, and unsurprising, to find that every pair put ‘Develop the Prayer and Worship life of our church’ as the top priority.

On the back of this, we began to dream about an audacious scheme to organise a week of prayer and worship running up to Pentecost on 15th May. We dreamed about how amazing it would be to mobilise our congregation to spend 168 hours in unbroken prayer and worship! Then, in the middle of March, I received a letter with the crests of the Archbishops of York and Canterbury on the envelope. When I opened the letter, I discovered an invitation to all the churches across the country to join together in a week of prayer running up to Pentecost – I took it as confirmation that our audacious plan was something we should go for.

Initially, I was planning something with considerable resources required – leading a prayer course; doing some training and teaching on different spiritual exercises and the like… But as time progressed we realised that all we really could manage was to open the chapel, put out a sign up sheet, leave some guides to prayer, a flip chart and a blank chalkboard wall with chalks and hope for the best…

We created a simple excel sheet detailing every hour from midday on Sunday 8th May to midday Sunday 15th May. We put in the regular worship services and prayer meetings, and then left lots of blank spots for people to sign up for. We also made an online sign-up sheet with 24-7 Prayer – which had the benefit of emailing reminders to those who had signed up…

We gave lots of freedom for people to interpret the space and time as they found most helpful. Some sat in contemplative prayer; some wrote up Scripture verses and prayer requests on the chalkboard or flipchart; we held ‘noisy worship’ at midnight one night – where we pumped up the volume on the AV system and put on worship music videos; we held ‘fire pit worship and prayer’ sessions in the church gardens.

We used a mobile phone or a hidden key to allow people to get access to the prayer room / chapel at any time of the day or night – and though this involved a few sleepless nights for the vicar – it worked pretty well…

When all was said and done, we counted up how many of the hour-long slots had been filled, and found that around 140 of the 168 slots had been filled by people, either individually or in groups, praying and worshiping in our church building. Amazing!!

One person reported the hour of ‘noisy worship’ as being the most profound experience of the presence of God they had ever had! I think we’ll be repeating this again!

One member of our church, Bosede Owa, spoke about our experience on this video produced by Lambeth Palace about the national prayer initiative ‘Thy Kingdom Come’:

Thy Kingdom Come 2017 Invite from Frogspawn Creative Limited on Vimeo.

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