Before I get started, let it be known that you can download notes, MP3s, and watch videos from the celebration for free on IHOP’s website. Go to it.
IHOP’s September anniversary is always an exciting season for me. Firstly, September marks the anniversary of my arrival here in Kansas City. I was an intern with Fire in the Night who had zero intention of staying longer than three months. That was six years ago. I’m still here, still on a nocturnal schedule, and very glad of it. Secondly, my birthday lands smack on the IHOP official anniversary. Combine those factors with the overall corporate sense of remembrance, and I always find myself looking back at how the Lord has led me and what is yet to come. It’s quite the personal milestone each year.
In no particular order, here are the things that are on my heart on the back end of this time of celebration:
Thought #1: The Lord really is sovereignly raising up a prayer movement. The first time I visited IHOP, it was still in the trailers. My youth group was there with something like 50 people, and we significantly outnumbered the NightWatchers who were actually signed up to be there. (Side note: I still remember the first set I walked into–Misty Edwards, Friday 10pm, leading her song “I Will Follow the Lamb”. So great.)
About a year later, when I showed up for Fire in the Night, things had moved into the current location at Red Bridge. The NightWatch had grown quite a bit, but we still had lots of space to spread out in the room. It was considered an annoyingly crowded meeting if someone was sitting at the other end of your row so you couldn’t pace there anymore. During the day, you couldn’t probably get your own row, but you could get several seats to yourself most of the time with no problem. The IHOP staff from all sections all fit in the Tuesday 4pm intercession meeting. The monthly all-staff meeting fit in the Prayer Room. The bleachers in the FSM auditorium only needed to be opened for big conferences.
This past Saturday night, September 19th, at the official 10-year mark, 2,500 people packed into the FSM auditorium, completely loaded up the bleachers, and even crammed into the overflow room. Not all of these folks were staff, but they were all connected enough to come. In the NightWatch, if there are only 50 people in the room, it feels like an empty meeting. The idea of a prayer meeting that all staff could come for had to be given up a long time ago. And our monthly staff meeting requires use of the FSM bleachers.
This is not natural. It is completely unnatural for spoiled Western young adults to gather, live simply, fast, and pray as a primary profession — much less if they decide to stay up all night and do so. For this to not just be sustained for ten years, but to actually grow and thrive, has to be the hand of the Lord. And it’s not just in Kansas City, either. Where the idea of a “house of prayer” was previously unheard of in 1999, now I can think of at least a dozen specific HOP’s across the world — and those are just the ones I know of and can remember without thinking too hard, not even counting smaller prayer gatherings. If you want an encouraging look at just a few of the prayer meetings springing up across the US, just check it out here… This has got to be supernatural.
Thought #2: God is a really skillful leader. If you have not listened to any of IHOP’s prophetic history before, or if you haven’t listened to it in a long time, I would encourage you to go download the MP3s. The stories are incredible. The number of things that God told us about years before it would ever happen, and then fulfilled with startling accuracy, is mind-blowing. The number of things He had to set in motion, the number of circumstances He had to align, and the number of unrelated people He had to speak to, is staggering.
Then there’s the human dynamic. While I haven’t been here from the beginning, I’ve been here long enough to get to know the staff and leadership. I can testify that these are some of the coolest, godliest people I have ever had the privilege of meeting. But I can also testify that everyone here is profoundly, completely human. That means that the Lord leading any of us very far, with all of our doubts, confusions, excitability, rebellions, weakness, blindness, etc., is a miracle in and of itself. Nevermind a big group of us.
I can at least speak for myself in this. When I first heard about IHOP, I was deeply touched. Prayer and worship is always what I have wanted to do with my life, but I had no idea how to go about it. I was brought to tears with shock when I found out about the House of Prayer, and I felt like this was actually a course my life could take. My spirit bore witness. I had direction. This could be what the Lord was asking me to do.
Within two weeks, I had completely talked myself out of it.
I’ll cut a long story short, but nearly a year and two trips to Kansas City later, the Lord finally convinced me to come for Fire in the Night. I came in September ’03, convinced I was only going to do one track. Towards the end of that three months, I felt I needed to do Track II, but I would certainly never move here. The day before Track II started, the Lord encountered me and I knew I had to relocate to Kansas City. That was all well and good, but I would certainly never attend the Forerunner School of Ministry. Within a few months, I was signed up to do not just FSM, but the Apostolic Preaching Program (even though, of course, I definitely wasn’t a preacher).
Now I find myself in 2009 still in Kansas City, still on the NightWatch, having graduated IHOPU and now working for it, with a heart for teaching and preaching. I was clueless 90% of the way to where I am now, but God got me here anyway. He’s a very good leader.
Thought #3: Vision is really important. We all know this. Proverbs 29:18 says it. Any leadership book or seminar will confirm it. But it’s one thing to know it, and another thing to have it impact your own heart.
This struck me most on Saturday. I had gone to the afternoon and evening sessions on Friday, so I went into Saturday pretty tired. (Note to the non-NightWatchers reading this: beings at a meeting at 2pm is super early and painful. 2pm is only eight hours after we get off of work.) I went to the 2pm session again on Saturday, ran out with my roommate for some food to go, and came straight back to FSM barely in time to save a few seats. We didn’t get back home until 10:50pm or so, giving us a grand total 0f 9 hours at the celebration. We had a 30-minute break before briefing, a set at 12 midnight, and then a viewing of that morning’s sesison on DVD at 2:30am. We didn’t get into the prayer room in a non-platform way until almost 5am.
Now at this point, I’d had two really long days. I was exhausted. My feet hurt. I wanted to go to bed. There was only an hour left of the prayer meeting anyway.
Eventually, I decided to stick it out. Trying to do my daily reading was tough. I kept fuzzing out on the words, having to read the same verse 3 or 4 times over to actually register what I was looking at. But within 10 minutes, I began to click with the prayer meeting. Soon, it was hard to get my reading done, not because it was so difficult to stay focused, but because I was so engaged with the corporate meeting that I almost couldn’t help but get up and pace (sore feet and all) and pray for the city.
Despite my physical exhaustion, I had vision. I came fresh out of three packed days of prophecy and encouragement. I knew for sure why I’m here at IHOP, and I knew for sure what is set before me to do, both as a believer in general and an intercessory missionary specifically. Because I remembered how much the Lord cared about what I was doing, it gave me renewed zeal to actually do it. That short hour in the prayer room was one of the most enjoyable I’ve had in a good while. Vision matters. Big time.
Thought #4: Jesus is coming back soon. Enough said. It’s true. Whether “soon” means in the next decade or in the next century, the hour is late. We need to live like it.
Thought #5: I get to run with some stinking cool people. From the videos honoring different ministry and service departments, to the interviews with the original handful of intercessory missionaries, to my roommates and other fellow NightWatchers I sat with on September 19th, I am amazed at the quality of people I get to serve with. I’m talking about people with integrity, faithfulness, and a genuine hunger for righteousness. I’m talking about people who will gladly work really hard for a really long time in complete hiddenness. I’m talking about people who have so given themselves to the Word that their speech is filled with wisdom and real encouragement. I couldn’t ask for better friends and co-laborers, and I am so grateful to God for the community here.
Thought #6: I’m in this for the long haul. Whether I stay at IHOP-KC for the rest of my life (and right now, I kind of hope I do!), or whether I am given a different assignment in the future, I want to be in the prayer movement. I want to be a woman who gives herself to 24/7 prayer, fasting, the Word, and works of justice, whether I’m wearing the staff badge or not. It may look different at different times, but this is what I was made to do.
Thought #7: Be prepared to be blown away by people who are currently 12 years old and younger. I see what the Lord is doing among children, both here and elsewhere in the earth, and I love what I’m seeing. Kids are not the church of tomorrow. They are the church now. And everywhere that the leadership buys into that idea, the children are taking off in the Lord. Here at IHOP, there are eleven-year olds who already give us “old” twenty-somethings a run for our money when it comes to worship leading, preaching, and prophesying (with accompanying signs and wonders). Give them another ten years to build even on top of that, and they are going to be the most phenomenal men and women of God this earth has ever seen. There are going to be some older folks in on this too, but watch out for those kids. For real. And have them pray for you.
Ten years is a long time, but it’s also a short time. I’ve been here for more than half of it, and it has flown by. And this is only the beginning. I am in great anticipation of where the Lord is taking us next.
Here’s to another decade of a ceaseless fragrance rising from Kansas City. Help us Lord, and may Your will be done.