If you haven’t yet seen the brilliant new 24-7 Prayer animation asking the question why we pray, then I present it here for your viewing enjoyment.
And while I’m really enjoying the responses to the question as to why anyone (“even atheists”) should pray, I think we need to also ask the deeper question, ‘Why 24:7 Prayer?’ Now many will answer, ‘No particular reason–but it helps us pray! And so why not!’ And that’s okay as far as it goes. But I think we can–and for the more iconoclastic among us, need to–do better. Or at least I do, given that I’m on my way to YWAM Harpenden on Friday in the hope of seeing non-stop night-and-day prayer there started as soon as possible and continuing until Jesus comes back. So here are my seven reasons for 24:7 Prayer.
#1 It’s a HEAVENLY REALITY
And [in the heavenly throne room] they do not rest day or night,
saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty. Rev.4:8
In Revelation, John is given a vision from Jesus himself – a vision given not only to encourage John in the midst of his suffering on Patmos ‘for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ’ (Rev. 1:9), but to inspire the church throughout the ages to stand strong in the face of persecution one side and compromise on the other.
In the vision he sees, in breathtaking clarity, the heavenly throne room of God. Around the throne he sees these wonderful ‘living creatures’ who ‘do not rest day or night’ because they are worshipping God. As John watches, the twenty-four elders begin casting down their crowns and joining in with this non-stop worship. And as he continues watching, ‘ten thousand times ten thousand’ angels also begin joining in.
Jesus taught us to pray to God,’Thy kingdom come.. on earth, as it is in heaven’ (Matt. 6:10 KJV). If God is to be worshipped on earth as in heaven that means offering up prayer and praise that continues day and night without rest.
Jesus exemplifies this for us. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, he ‘ever lives to make intercession’ (Heb. 7:25) – which is to say even after his ascension He is still constantly involved in non-stop prayer!
If we are to imitate Christ in our prayer, and bring the kingdom of God on our little patches of earth as it is in heaven, then there is no better starting point than establishing night-and-day prayer.
#2 It’s a BIBLICAL PRACTICE
Now the first lot fell to Jeohoiarib, the second to Jedaiah…
1 Chronicles 24:7
The idea of praying non-stop for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, strikes some people as excessive – perhaps the sort of thing that a corrupted medieval monasticism might indulge in, but far too absurd a thing to be compatible with simple biblical Christianity.
But if you turn in your Bible to 1 Chronicles chapter 24 verse 7, you will find something very interesting. What initially appears to be nothing more than the beginning of a dull list of names of no enduring significance turns out on closer inspection to look suspiciously like a sign-up list for a 24:7 non-stop prayer room. The twenty-four priests are each allocated a slot in the Temple to ensure that there would continually be someone there in that house of prayer – just as we seek to fill weeks with prayer by dividing each day into twenty-four hour-long prayer slots.
So there is biblical precedent for what we are doing. More than that, as you read the Chronicles of Israel’s history, you see that whenever the Davidic order of non-stop worship is restored – whether by Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah or Josiah – there is a subsequent time of spiritual breakthrough, deliverance and military victory.
And we cannot make the excuse that such non-stop prayer was a thing for Old Testament Israel and not for the New Testament church, for the activity of the church in Acts begins with nothing else but non-stop prayer, as the followers of Jesus “all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).
So not only is there biblical precedent for non-stop prayer, but a strong biblical argument for night-and-day prayer.
#3 It’s PROPHETICALLY FORETOLD
I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem,
Who shall never hold their peace day or night. Is.62:6
Isaiah is perhaps the prophet that Christians know best, famously foreseeing that the Messiah would be ‘wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities’ so that ‘by his stripes we [could be] healed’ (Isaiah 53:5).
Perhaps less known is Isaiah’s vision that ‘in the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established… and all nations shall flow to it’ (Isaiah 2:2). Yet this vision frames the whole of Isaiah’s prophecy. It sounds the book’s first note of hope in the bleak context of a Temple so corrupt that God says ‘[the Temple’s] incense is an abomination’ (1:12). And it provides the connecting theme which ties the whole book together, that of the true nature of God’s ‘house of prayer for all nations’ (56:7).
When he comes to the details of this house of prayer, we hear God speaking from the perspective of eternity of how he has set ‘watchmen… who shall never hold their peace day or night'(62:6) because they are ‘making mention of the Lord’ in non-stop prayer.
Now someone might argue that if we look closely, God says that he sets watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem – not of the YWAM Harpenden chapel, or the 25 Portugal Place Cambridge prayer-room! But such an argument misses Isaiah’s essential point: as the final chapter declares, ‘Thus says the Lord: Heaven is My throne, and earth is my footstool, Where is the house that you will build Me?’ God is too big to be confined to Jerusalem. Which means that to see the fulfillment of the promise of Isaiah 62:6, we need ceaselessly praying watchmen not only in Jerusalem, but in every city.
Which means we need night-and-day prayer in YWAM Harpenden, we need night-and-day prayer in Cambridge — we need every Christianity community to be dissatisfied with just showing up once a week to hear someone preach and accept the call to love God with all our hearts in 24:7 prayer and worship.
#4 It’s APOSTOLICALLY ENCOURAGED
Pray without ceasing 1 Thess. 5:17
Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonian church is so simple, it shouldn’t need any explanation.
Pray without ceasing.
What does that mean? Well surely – pray without ceasing.
But because our Western culture is one in which individualism reigns supreme, when I read that statement I assume that Paul is telling me to pray without ceasing. And then I think to myself, ‘Oh, but I need to eat and to sleep and…’ and so on, and I immediately dismiss the idea of literally praying without ceasing: ‘It’s impossible.’
But imagine if we read Paul’s letters as being written to a community of Christian believers, who understood that only together could they fulfill their calling to be the Body of Christ. Imagine if when we read Paul telling us to pray without ceasing, we realized that although as individuals ceaseless prayer might be impossible, as a community it’s almost easy: you would only need 24 people praying an hour a day; you would only need one-hundred and sixty-eight YWAMers praying an hour a week; you would only need 29% of Harpenden’s 30 thousand inhabitants (or 7% of Cambridge’s 130 thousand or 3.6% of Luton’s 240 thousand or less than 0.017% of England’s 50 million + population) to be praying Christians prepared to spend one hour a year contributing to ceaseless prayer…
When you think of it like that it sounds a very plausible idea for us to have ceaseless night-and-day prayer in Harpenden — or in any community.
#5 It’s HISTORICALLY PROVEN
The historian Edwin Orr writes that ‘History is silent about revivals that did not begin with prayer’. But unfortunately history is filled with examples of revivals that began in prayer and then fizzle out all too quickly as the praying comes to a halt – because if prayer is merely done to bring revival, then once revival begins what need is there for continued praying?
Fortunately, history does also tell us of some occasions where the praying didn’t cease once revival broke out. The Moravians, for example, were a group of German Protestants divided (as Protestants so often are) by religious factionalism. But God is merciful – and in 1727 they experienced a dramatic visitation of the Holy Spirit. They then organized themselves to set up a watch of continuous hourly prayer – which went on for over a hundred years.
As the Moravians prayed, this small community became the launch-pad for the first large-scale Protestant missions movement. The story is told of two Moravians moved by God to go to the slaves in the West Indies. The slavers would not grant missionaries access – so they sold themselves into slavery, declaring as they left home their desire that ‘the Lamb receive the reward of His sufferings’.
Also worth mentioning is a man called John Wesley, who met some of these pious Germans whilst on a ship in troubled waters and was impressed by their fearless prayerfulness. He then went to a Moravian prayer meeting in London in 1738, felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’ – and the subsequent revival is well-known.
Who knows what the history books might say about us? – if we were to establish continual night-and-day prayer in our communities?
#6 It’s PERSONALLY TRANSFORMATIVE
I was just a 2nd year student doing Mathematics – or perhaps it would be fairer to say, trying and failing to do very much Mathematics – when I wandered into a 24:7 prayer room to pray.
I was a Christian, but not particularly involved in either my church or my college CU. I was a Christian who found it a struggle to pray. I came on a Tuesday evening to pray with some friends, thinking that I could hopefully get back to my room before it was too late – I needed to finish an example sheet that was due the next day.
We began to pray. We prayed for our city. We prayed for our university. We prayed for ourselves. We prayed for our friends. We prayed for those who weren’t our friends. We sang songs of praise. We read scripture. We continued praying. We prayed for the kingdom of God to come. We prayed for hours and hours.
I had never prayed like that before.
In the early hours of the morning I returned to my room, still inwardly praying and praising as I went. I returned the next evening, dragging along with me as many from college as I could persuade to join me. And again, on the Friday evening. I started leading evangelistic Bible studies, with a friend who had also been part of that group praying on that Tuesday night. At the end of the year I switched from Mathematics to Theology. I graduated two years later, and am still trying to convince people to join me in the 24:7 prayer room.
And I never finished that example sheet.
All because of a week of night-and-day prayer.
#7 It’s HAPPENING NOW
Let whoever has ears, hear what the Spirit is saying… Rev. 2:7
The call to non-stop prayer is being sounded throughout the world in this generation in a way like has never happened before.
Consider this: In September 1999 Pete Greig started his first 24:7 prayer room, intending for it to go on for a month, and for that then to be the end of the matter. That ‘first’ (although, as we have seen, not really first at all) 24:7 prayer room got to the end of its first month and had too much momentum to stop – it ended up going for six.
When finally things were brought to a close, they found that the idea had spread by word of mouth to various other places where others were putting the idea into practice in their own contexts. 24-7 Prayer International was then set up to respond to the need to answer all the inquiries that were coming from people across the world, asking how they could set up a non-stop prayer room.
That same month – completely independently – Mike Bickle’s ‘International House of Prayer’ had just begun a meeting of prayer and praise fuelled by musicians leading worship ‘in the spirit of the tabernacle of David’. Their expression of non-stop prayer began on September 19th 1999 in Kansas City, USA, and has continued without stopping in that place whilst multiplying into other nations.
I am convinced that God is calling the church in every part of the world to non-stop prayer. I am convinced that God will establish night-and-day prayer in Cambridge. But for the next year I’m leaving Cambridge to try and be part of making it happen in Harpenden. And once that’s done, then I plan to return to Cambridge and start the process all over again.
Care to join me?