It all Started at the Prayer Summit . . .
Every January, pastors and ministry leaders from around the Willamette Valley retreat to a secluded, little spot on the coast. There are no sermons. There is no strategic planning. There is no recruitment for this cause or for that. No, the sole reason we gather is to pray a special kind of prayer; together-prayers: the kind where we quiet our hearts, and combine our diverse petitions into one.
Together-prayers have preceded most of the great moves of God throughout the ages, which should come as no surprise. The Bible is filled with assurances of the Lord’s faithfulness “when two or three are gathered;” and when those two or three are agreeing for God’s blessings on the community they already serve and love, special things happen. Competitions dissolves. Theological disagreements fade. Friendships are born. And God speaks.
One of those together-prayers happened at the coast in 2014, when in an open room, more than fifty pastors and leaders sought God together. The prayers they prayed and the answers God gave are still altering the spiritual landscape of our community before our eyes. Here is what happened.
Instead of simply praying for the community, as was the Prayer Summit’s Tuesday night tradition, the pastors quieted themselves before the Lord and asked Him to speak. Then, they waited.
After their time of silence, they regrouped and began to share what God had spoken. It didn’t take long for two major themes to emerge: prayer and proclamation of the gospel. Two different people believed the Lord was specifically highlighting Colossians 4:2-6:
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for our message, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Clearly, God was speaking. He was urging these pastors and their churches to keep increasing in prayer, and to declare the Good News together.
Increasing in Prayer
Easter was coming, and following the Summit, those leaders took the opportunity to put Colossians 4 into practice. In the weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday, they led their churches around the valley in focused prayer, asking God for favor in their Gospel proclamations. They made bookmarks and distributed bracelets with Colossians 4:2-6 imprinted on them, as specific prayer points and tangible reminders of God’s direction. People from more than 40 churches joined in agreement for an increase of prayer and a bold witness.
Soon, a new favorite phrase entered our lexicon: “pray for more prayer.” And we did. Following the three weeks of Colossians 4 prayer toward Easter, prayer leaders continued to meet. Momentum was increasing. However, while short-term spurts of prayer were effective in their own right, what they really hoped for was a strategy for sustained together-prayers all around the valley.
Soon, a strategy emerged for a community-wide effort to cover the region in around-the-clock prayer. It would not happen at a single location, but rather in homes and churches all over the valley.
One Church - One Day
The effort was dubbed, “One Church - One Day”, and the idea was simple. Churches would sign up to cover one day every month to pray, both for their own church and the community. People in each congregation would take shifts until all 24 hours were covered. All it would take, then, to cover the whole valley in continuous prayer, was 31 churches to join the effort.
But what made the plan especially intriguing was the prayer guide. If we wanted to pray “together-prayers” across various times and locations, we would need to agree on what we were praying. Thus, we compiled prayer requests from strategic teams of Christ-followers who already worked throughout the community. Teachers gathered to discuss prayer needs for the Education sector. Firemen and police officers formulated prayers for First Responders. Coaches met to discuss prayer for athletics. And soon, we had requests from 10 different sectors. The list of requests went out to every church who signed up, and before long, a whole host of churches were praying united prayers.