New Church Focuses on Prayer
"One of our desires this year was to be deeper in prayer in order to live out our mission--experiencing and sharing God's remedy," says Bob Abel, pastor at Remedy, a new church start in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
"We had done a Lenten series on prayer and fasting, and we participated in a 21-day corporate fast that a number of people were a part of."
Abel says the church wanted to create something that would allow the congregation to go deeper in prayer and closer in relationship with God, so it planned 24 hours of continuous prayer in April.
Most of the prayer took place in the church basement, which was transformed into a prayer space.
Turning the basement into a prayer space
"We had several people with ideas and creativity, and as we talked about it and prayed about it, we came to a desire to have it based on Isaiah 6:1-11," Abel says, "where Isaiah comes into the presence of God and is just overwhelmed by God's vastness, God's beauty, God's love, and immediately realizes how inferior he is...Then an angel comes and atones for his sin, and then he responds--here I am, send me.
"We set up the outside [perimeter of the basement] along those lines of Scripture. We had a video playing of someone quoting portions of Job, where God is asking Job questions, to get us in that sense. And then we had a huge mirror that people could write on with a red sharpie, they could do a confession on there. We also had a chalk pencil on a cinderblock wall where people could write and confess their sins." After that, Abel says, they washed the chalk off their hands with a nearby bowl of water. "We wanted to speak into the truth of confession and atonement and forgiveness."
Next, participants moved to an area focused on listening to God's call. In another area, people could write the name of someone they were in conflict with on a stone, and wash that stone as they prayed that the conflict would be washed away.
Other prayer stations included maps of Sheboygan and the world, and participants added sticky notes to the maps as they prayed for various locations. There was also a praise wall, a place to pray for people who don't know the Lord, and a space to make prayer flags.
"One creative guy built a wailing wall out of foam board, with little holes where you could stick your prayers," Abel says.
The middle of the basement was curtained off to create a contemplative space, where people were invited to listen to music, sketch, write in a journal, read the Bible, or kneel to pray.
Reaction to the 24 hours of prayer
Some people signed up for time slots during the 24 hours, but Abel says plenty of others just showed up at the church. He was surprised to discover that once they got started, most people thought an hour wasn't enough time to pray. "Once you get caught in the Spirit, time flies I guess," he says. "We felt very blessed that God would allow us that opportunity.
"When I walked down to the basement at the end of it, you could sense the Spirit was so present there in a very tangible way, and we felt very humbled and honored. To read the confessions and the praises and prayers on peoples' hearts was overwhelming."
Abel says a few people asked to bring in friends or coworkers, and that participants in a Wisconsin Classis training for deacons and elders were also able to use the prayer space in the basement. "We've had people from other churches come through, and from non-denominational churches, and people that we have built relationships with in the community."
Abel says the church basement will remain in its prayer configuration into the fall.
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