By Carl Stagner
Have you ever seen the altars full at your church? Isn’t it a glorious sight? But have you ever seen almost the entire church at the altars? On Sunday, September 11, this response to the powerful moving of the Spirit wasn’t uncommon. The more than two hundred congregations of the Church of God in the United States and Canada that participated in their first-ever Cry Out to the Lord prayer experience yielded more than fifty stories of blessing and transformation. Far more than an event that comes and goes and is soon forgotten, Cry Out to the Lord has reignited a passion for prayer in the Church of God.
Leading up to the event, several participating churches committed to up to a month of fasting and prayer. East Side Church of God in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, was one of these churches. Other congregations have since committed to a season of fasting and prayer. Churches that haven’t had weekly prayer meetings in years have put them back on the schedule, and others are continuing the Cry Out to the Lord emphasis in weekly small group meetings. Many churches have said they will do this again next year, while others have already planned additional Cry Out to the Lord-style prayer gatherings over the next couple of months.
“As we designed our service and began to share with our church what the service would be like, I was apprehensive about how it would go,” Rick Kohl, pastor of First Church of God in Bainbridge, Georgia, explains. “In the weeks leading up to the service, I even toyed with the idea of not doing the service…we have been here just three months now, and quickly we learned that our church does not like to pray out loud. But then, on Sunday morning, as we prayed for revival and restoration in this country, from families and schools to our neighborhood and nation, it was amazing to see what God did as we opened our hearts to his leading. We witnessed people praying out loud, reading Scripture, and participating in ways we never expected. It was awesome to hear nearly our whole congregation crying out to the Lord (out loud!) as we prayed for revival, healing, and restoration. It was truly a blessing to experience God’s presence in worship on Sunday morning!”
Churches across the country welcomed special guests to their services to pray, or to be prayed for, including first-responders and government officials. Some that didn’t have first-responders on-hand hand-delivered prayer and delectable goodies to them. Due to scheduling conflicts, some churches opted to hold their special service earlier or later in the month, and some held their service in the afternoon or evening. New believers were baptized at some churches, and many of the sick and afflicted were offered prayer and anointing for healing. A remarkable number of participating churches reported multiple volunteers praying and reading Scripture who had never before done so in public. One church reported that a challenge to reconciliation led to people getting up out of their seats and mending broken relationships on-the-spot!
There was also no shortage of creativity on September 11. At Grace Place in Hermitage, Tennessee, six prayer stations were set up and groups rotated from one to the next every ten minutes. The Church of God of Exeter, California, found new doors of opportunity opened to future partnership with the local fire department, and Ledbetter Road Church of God in Xenia, Ohio, incorporated into their service forty-eight out of the fifty-four in attendance that morning! At First Church of God in New Martinsville, West Virginia, a man dressed up as the Prophet Joel got up on the platform at the start of the service, blew a shofar, and read the prophecy from a scroll. Several churches also hosted showings of the movie War Room. But what will last in the minds of most people is the simple heart-cry of God’s people.
“What a blessing it was as I sat on the stage and listened to the concert of prayer from the congregation on the different issues,” Don Tijema, pastor of Mountain Valley Church of God in Prescott Valley, Arizona, explains. “God’s house was definitely turned into a house of prayer! What an answer to my all night prayer and fasting vigil at the church. What a challenge that was as well, staying awake and interceding for the service.”
A prayer movement has begun in the Church of God movement. The interim associate pastor of Mt. Scott Church of God in Portland, Oregon, echoed what many are saying of their own churches: “These kind of directed prayer experiences will become a much-looked-forward-too feature of the Mt. Scott worship calendar.”
Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/world-ministry-fund/.