Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A. C. T. S. Prayer Stations

"And with that [Jesus] breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:22). "They saw...tongues of fire" (Acts 2:3).

Editor's note: Read with thanksgiving about what God has been doing in Orange City, Iowa:

Just wanted to let you know about our 24/7 experience. Trinity did a full week, October 22 to 29. It was unbelievable. We ended the week with an evening time of sharing about facility needs and our vision to add on, rebuild, or relocate. I won't tell you all that happened, but below is an excerpt from a chapter in a book that Jeff Barker is writing:

Leap forward nearly two decades after I joined that pastor in helping start a second service. I still attend that church. The church and I have both grown and continue to grow. This fall, we organized our first ever 24-7 prayer week. Our senior pastor got together a small team who agreed to pray, organize, invite others, and set up the sanctuary. The plan was to divide the week into one-hour blocks and invite the members of the congregation to sign up for at least one hour to pray in the worship center. We had previously prayed for one day (24-1). We did that a few times. Then we had prayed one week in which people signed up for a specific hour to be at prayer in their homes or at their work sites. Now we were ready to try for a week in the church building, in the place where we also meet together to worship. One of our team members said, "I think we should start smaller--maybe 3 days of 24 hour prayer." We thought for a heartbeat and said, "Nope. We're ready for a week. Here at church."

We created stations for prayer right in the sanctuary. The stations represented the A.C.T.S. acronym for prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. A small group of artists put together interactive visuals at each station.

The adoration station was near the piano with song books, books of written prayers, and a large wall of white paper with plenty of colored markers for making images as expressions of adoration. Think of us as kids giving Abba stuff to put on his heavenly refrigerator.

The confession station was the communion table with a candle, a written prayer of confession, and a large white swatch of paper with charcoal for making marks in representation of sin.

For the thanksgiving area, Lois, who loves to do flower arrangements at our church, made a beautiful table decoration with fall flowers and gourds. Also on the table were various colors of post-it notes for writing thanksgivings. The notes could be plastered on a large board which had been covered with black paper so the notes would visually leap like confetti. People coming to pray could join their spirits with thanksgivings already posted there, and then they could write and post some of their own.

The supplication station included pictures of missionaries our church supports, along with a basket to collect short written prayers for healing, salvation, or whatever. Someone listed our church leaders there to remind us that they need our prayers.

On the platform was an open Bible with a little post-it marker. We were encouraged to find the marked spot and read aloud a chapter or two. We might be able to read through the New Testament in a week. There was a CD player with CDs scattered around for those who wanted music as they prayed.

During Sunday worship at the beginning of the week, the stations were there across the front of the sanctuary, with empty papers and unburned candles.

All that day, and the next, and the next, I would suddenly remember, "Someone is praying now." Surely this is always true. Surely the church catholic does indeed pray without ceasing. But this was a more palpable reminder. These were people that I had met and seen in church. And they were praying for many of the same things I was praying for.

As I stopped by the building on Wednesday to check on the supplies, I saw that those papers were filling up with drawings, and charcoal markings, and post-it notes. I read those thanksgiving notes and saw those scrawlings at the confession table. I read through the requests in the basket. I saw a church full of people with passionate faith chasing after God. This was the church that cannot be seen very often. It was breathtaking and heartbreaking.

I was signed up to pray at 3:00 this morning. I was afraid I would oversleep, so my inner clock woke me up at 2:15, long before my alarm went off. I was glad that I could turn the alarm off before it awakened my family. I crept downstairs. I was thinking about what I would find over at the church building when I got there. I hoped I would find one of my students, Tracey. I had talked three of my students into each taking one hour. I couldn't be certain whether they were doing it out of respect for the Lord or for me, but they did say yes. I made some hot chocolate to give Tracey when I replaced her at 3:00. I think I was feeling guilty for urging a busy student to come alone to the church in the middle of the night. When I arrived, she was sitting on the steps at the front of the sanctuary. I wondered if she was asleep. I walked slowly up to her and began to say the Lord's Prayer, which was the way we had been instructed to pass the prayer baton. She wasn't asleep. I saw that she was writing in a prayer journal.

She joined me in the prayer, and as we got to "Give us this day our daily bread," I set the hot chocolate in front of her and she immediately reached for it. After we together said, "Amen." I said, "You may take that mug with you," and she said, "Ohhhh." She stood up and started to walk out of the sanctuary. Then she stopped and turned and said to me, "We should do this every week."

The story of the church at worship is always being lived. Every so often it can be seen.

We are making plans for more opportunities in the coming year, including the possibility of doing it for the whole (or part of the) season of Lent. Thanks for getting me started.

Blessings on your day!

Jon Opgenorth
Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa

Editor's Note: Get the rest of the story at Jeff Barker's website:

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