Emmanuel recently underwent a 14-day “Prayervival”. On April 30, a challenge was issued to the congregation to join together in committing to an hour of prayer a day for 14 days. They were asked to fill out a commitment card and bring it to the altar. The goal was three-fold: first, to get our people to join together in unity to pray for one another, our church, our community and our world; second, for them to experience the life-changing power of prayer; and third, at the end of 14 days they would continue in significant prayer due to a lifestyle change.
We began May 1 with the entire staff going to Red Lodge for a day of prayer. The power experienced as a staff is difficult to explain. But for those who were there, the Holy Spirit was palpable, unity was unmatched and the hearts and minds of the staff were joined together in a way we have not previously experienced.
For most Christians, an hour a day is overwhelming. Many told us they had never really prayed outside of mealtime or when they were in distress. To address this challenge, they were advised to break it up into 15 minute increments in the morning, over lunch, in mid-to-late afternoon and before they went to bed. For most, it made the goal attainable.
Here’s what we didn’t want: we did not want this to be a legalistic ritual of checking off the box or doing their spiritual duty. As we wanted it to change the rest of their lives, we provided daily tips on our website and social media including ideas on who they could pray for or scriptures to pray back to God. We helped them understand if they missed a day or prayed less than an hour, start fresh the next morning and try again. All of these were avenues to move them to a real commitment to pray.
Additionally, we held a prayer meeting on the National Day of Prayer and we concluded the 14 days with a conference on spiritual warfare on Friday night and Saturday morning. It was no surprise to us that many saw an increase in spiritual attacks and distraction as they made every effort to increase their time in prayer. Teaching them what to do and how to respond to these attacks was a crucial conclusion as they strive to continue in their strengthened faith. To leave them without the tools for victory would have been short-sighted.
The results we’ve seen have been staggering. The testimonies that have come out of that focused prayer time have increased the faith and spiritual growth of hundreds in the congregation. Each week we collect response cards at the end of the service and over and over we’d read a prayer request followed up the next week, or in subsequent weeks, by God’s answer to that prayer. People came to Christ, others were baptized and still others committed to serve in ministries throughout the church. Hope has been restored. Hearts have been mended. One of our life groups began praying for the financial provision of a member with significant medical debt. God provided for that need in a dramatic and complete way. Another life group began praying earnestly for the marriage of someone connected to their group. The situation seemed hopeless and beyond repair. They continued praying after the 14 days ended. Recently they saw God move in that relationship with a complete change of heart in the couple.
There is no doubt this intentional prayer focus changed the lives of the people of Emmanuel which inevitably changed the church as a whole. We’ve seen the power of God unleashed in one situation after another. This is not the end of the story of our “Prayervival”—it is the beginning. Emmanuel will continue to focus on individual and corporate prayer.
Martin Luther once said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” We wholeheartedly agree.