Brilliant. Simply brilliant. One of the best things we’ve done since launching CCB eight years ago. We should do it more often. And we probably will.
Last night was a half night of prayer. We’ve done it once before. Years ago and though we were smaller back then, even then it wasn’t well attended. But last night was terrific.
We took the decision to have a half night of prayer because we’ve got a mission week of events coming up. We did it because we wanted to make sure that our confidence for the mission rests in the goodness of God and not the brilliance of our event programme. (It really is very good!) Over the years we’ve refined what we try to do and how we try to do it when planning our mission events. And we’ve got quite good at it. There’s a very real danger that we’ll be really rather pleased with ourselves and trust in the nature of the events to draw a crowd, in the skills of those who speak and in the administrative abilities of those who plan the events rather than in God. And so we needed to do something that expressed our determination to trust Him. What better way that to pray? It also means that God gets the glory. If things go well; people come, things go smoothly, the gospel is preached and people respond in repentance and faith then God gets the credit. And rightly so.If we don’t pray I can’t see why He’d take the risk and bless our efforts. If we’re going to rob Him of His glory, why would he grant us success?
If we were students, as some if us once were, we’d have made it a full night of prayer. But since most of us have to get up in the morning and do some work, we made a concession and called it quits at midnight! By that stage I’d temporarily lost the faculty of sight. But wonderfully it was restored before I got on my scooter to return home. Once there, I simply couldn’t sleep. In the past I’ve had sleepless nights of worry and anxiety about the administration of forthcoming mission events. But this time I couldn’t sleep because I was still excitedly paying for the people I want to invite and I want our family to invite to various events. I’ll post the details of our mission in a while so you can see for yourself why I’m excited!
Last night’s prayer was so good for the following reasons
1. Lots of people came; sure we peaked from 8-9pm and from 9-10pm, that was to be expected but lots of people made a special effort to be there and join in
2. Lots of people prayed; it was wonderful to hear people who I don’t normally get to hear praying speaking to our heavenly Father. It can be really nerve-wracking to pray in a large group which includes people who you don’t know very well. But people did. And it was thrilling to hear others pour out their hearts to the Lord in dependence as they expressed their requests.
3. Lots of stuff got prayed for; I produced a fifty minute guide of what to pray for in ten minute chunks but people let their imagination go and prayed creatively in response to the suggestions. I’m sure that there’s stuff that we forgot to pray for. But when someone prayed that the bouncy castles at the kids’ party, Balham’s Big Bounce, wouldn’t deflate I knew that people were engaged with the issues!
4. Lots of people got prayed for; we prayed for those speaking, those organising and those we’re inviting and wonderfully we all had lots of people who matter to us for whom we prayed. That’s as it should be. We so easily forget to pray for the people whom we long to see engaging with the big issues of life. When I wrote down a list of people I’d love to see at our various events it was huge. It made me realise just how many connections we have with people as a result of involvement with local schools, groups and so on.
5. Lots of people stayed; we all love to be comfortable, Jesus’ call to self-sacrifice is uncomfortable and yet many heeded it. We went right past our bed time. And there are people at work right now more tired than they would otherwise choose to be because they decided that this was a way to take up Jesus’ cross at this time. That’s so encouraging.
6. Lots of people prayed more than they otherwise would have done; I think it’s in Don Carson’s book on prayer where he says that we won’t pray if we don’t plan to pray. He’s right. About most things usually. But the half night of prayer gave people an opportunity to pray for longer than they would otherwise do. And to do so with others. And that’s good if it represents our heart’s desire to be dependent on our Father. It’s less good if it represents our self-righteous desire to be seen to be praying. But I didn’t detect that.
All in all, last night was so encouraging. There’s a sense in which I’m less concerned about how the mission goes now. Obviously I want the whole of Balham to hear the gospel, repent and believe. But to see our church community in prayerful dependence before the God of mission was wonderful. And long may it last.