This is a question that I’ve heard a lot since being at FSM. It’s a valid one; after all, school is always (hopefully) unto something. You don’t go to medical school “just because.” You go to medical school because you’re planning towards a career in that field. People go to law school to become lawyers. People go to beauty college to become hairdressers and makeup artists. Etc., etc., etc. Now, God might interrupt those plans later, but that’s a whole other post…
At any rate, for a while, I didn’t quite know how to answer this question. It makes tremendous logical sense that, since I’m in preaching school, I should be graduating with plans to start a church, or to move to Siberia for missions, or to head for the nearest street corner with a bullhorn and soapbox, or something. I’ve gotten some funny looks from people when I answer, “I’m going to pretty much keep doing what I’m doing… Night Watch.” Looks of puzzlement. Looks that seem to say, That’s it? Why did you bother with the past three years, then?
In order to properly address this question, I have to address two underlying issues before I can explain what the point of my ministry school education is. Firstly, what is the significance and purpose of 24/7 prayer to begin with (specifically in my case, the Night Watch)? And secondly, what exactly classifies as “ministry,” and what am I called to within that? Then I will be able to fairly answer how FSM fits into any of that. In light of recent (wise) appeals, that I, as an avid writer but novice blogger, definitely needed to hear, I’m going to take this one question at a time over the next few days’ worth of posts, today looking at a question that I’ve wanted to address on this blog for a while now. Why 24 hour prayer? Specifically, why the Night Watch?
Firstly, God is worthy. He is infinitely holy and majestic and loving, deserving of ceaseless praise. The living creatures around the throne don’t stop praising Him day or night (Rev 4:8), and it is only fitting for this to be manifested in a small way “on earth as it is in heaven.” Though our little IHOP doesn’t look, sound, or smell much like the throne room, we get to gather as believers and join into the heavenly reality. I love being a part of a non-stop fragrance of worship and prayer rising before the throne… and I completely believe it blesses the Lord’s heart, as well. Our first and foremost calling on the Night Watch is found in Psalm 134:1-2 — “Behold, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who by night stand in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.”
Secondly, the Night Watch is a tremendously strategic time for intercession. All across our nation during the night hours, most people are asleep, a few are on shift work, but many are doing unspeakable things that they would only engage in under cover of nightfall. The night is the time when spiritual darkness emerges the most in the earth. Yet with 24/7 prayer, there is light and truth being prayed and spoken into the city, even in the midst of its darkest hours. We have a unique opportunity in the Night Watch to embrace Paul’s words to the Thessalonians very literally: “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night” (1 Thess 5:5-7). At an hour when most of the nation is either asleep (which is obviously a perfectly good thing) or blatantly particapting in sin, we get to lift our voices in prayer before the Most High God.
Thirdly, prayer is powerful. Not that our weak little words and ideas are that great by themselves, but we love a powerful, holy God who hears prayer and responds to the voice of His people (Isa 64:4). I love what Stuart, our head section leader on the Night Watch, says… We don’t know what husband stopped beating his wife because we prayed. We don’t know what drug-addict may have been touched with the conviction of the Holy Spirit and given their life to the Lord. We don’t know what hopeless teen decided not to commit suicide because there were more than a hundred people at 1:45am praying for hope and life to go forth in this city. We have no idea how many women chose not to abort their babies because prayer was lifted up on behalf of the unborn. From time to time, we find out about a few of these testimonies. But only God can say for sure what kind of impact our prayers are having through the late night and early morning hours. Prayer is extraordinarily effective to further the Gospel and the work of God in this city. And it’s something that I am delighted to be able to give my life to pursing.
Part two is to follow in the next day or two…
P.S. For those of you at IHOP, and especially those on the nights, I’d love for you to comment on what it is about the 24-7 prayer and/or Night Watch that moves you and stirs your heart. (Or whoever else has a heart for this, please share what the Lord has shown you about it.)