I can honestly say I never thought Prayer48 would be such an amazing experience. The team that helped to plan it were brilliant from the first moment I asked them to help. The prayer cards were produced quickly and easily, they were distributed efficiently - thanks to everyone who took some to deliver, Joseph made some great collection boxes and he and Lucy did an amazing job of persuading the local shops and businesses to take them and the posters. Slowly but surely the prayer requests began to arrive, by the end of the weekend we had 85 of them, the majority from people outside our own congregation and it was such a privilege, as Petra said, to be able to hold each of those people in prayer. Every one of those requests was prayed for several times over the weekend!
I wondered how people would take the prayer stations; I feared they might be considered to be 'only for the children' but in fact almost everyone who came into church over the weekend engaged with at least one of the stations, the most popular being nailing prayers to the cross and the 'family tree'. I do hope all who participated discovered something new about prayer and how we might approach God in different ways. Our speaker at the launch service, Madeline O'Callahan reminded us that we don't actually need to do anything except to allow God to pray through us.
For me, one of the most moving parts was the 'sleepover' with the teenagers. We had 7 of them altogether; not much sleeping was done but they chose to spend most of the night going round the prayer stations. At around 2am I found most of them curled up inside the prayer tent reading bibles! The graffiti wall at the back was a particular favourite with the youngsters and a lot of what they wrote reveals how deep a faith they have. One highlight was watching them walk the labyrinth at sunrise (5am)! They definitely seemed to enjoy themselves, in fact one of the first questions on Saturday morning was 'when can we do this again?' It really is refreshing and rewarding working with such a thoughtful group of young people who are so willing to discuss God and so open to His Spirit.
It was also lovely to see the smaller children on Saturday morning engaging in Messy Prayer; they also loved the graffiti wall and learning about how to be a 'Mary' and sit at Jesus's feet rather than always being a 'Martha' rushing around. I was so impressed with how calm and thoughtful they were. They enjoyed singing about 'prayer like a telephone'!
As for my own experience of prayer during the weekend, I'm usually one who 'chatters' to God and I'm beginning to learn that I need to be doing more listening to Him. The peacefulness of the church at various times definitely helped with this. I'm usually rushing around so much I don't take time to be quiet! I don't think prayer is just about presenting God with our 'shopping lists', although we do need to do this as well, but also it's about listening for God's 'still small voice' to speak to us. Not so much a physical voice but a growing certainty of His presence with us.
I found Prayer48 quite an emotional experience and I genuinely didn't want it to end but I'm sure that there will be more opportunities for us to experiment with prayer, especially as we seek God's guidance for the future of St John's.
Prayer48 opened many doors for me, showing new ways of praying and praying with others of my age. I found that it was a true time of reflection for me and made me feel closer to God especially as it didn't matter if I fell asleep reading the bible because, as Sue mentioned, it's like a child falling asleep in their father's arms.
I really enjoyed Prayer48 and all the different praying: on our own, in groups and in ways we had not previously thought of praying in. We particularly enjoyed the graffiti wall which gave us space to write. I wrote "God is the foundation upon which I build my faith".
Throughout the night I built upon this faith and explored around the church doing all sorts of activities like reading the bible at 2:00 in the morning in the prayer tent, using prayer beads and writing confessions in a sand box which you then swept clean because God forgives all your sins. I hope that I can do Prayer48 again next year as it was an extremely moving experience.
Reflections on Prayer48