(LA Times) Praying perpetually to save society

In 12 years, the music has never stopped at the International House of Prayer – a leader in a small but growing movement dedicated to perpetual prayer.

Young people have flocked here from as far away as Britain and South Korea, convinced that their prayers, joined in a never-ceasing stream, can push back evil forces that threaten to overwhelm society.

“It’s probably one of the fastest-growing movements within the broad evangelicalism,” said Brad Christerson, a professor of sociology at Biola University who studies charismatic Christianity. “They’re really engaging a new generation of young evangelicals.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

8 comments on “(LA Times) Praying perpetually to save society

  1. Terry Tee says:

    Of course this is the kind of thing that enclosed nuns (Carmelites, Trappistines, Poor Clares etc) have been doing for centuries. Tucked away here in London near Marble Arch, around which traffic pours day and night, is Tyburn Convent, there there is always at least one sister and usually two in front of the Blessed Sacrament, praying for the world. Their chapel is open in daylight hours and others come in to join them in prayer.

  2. Terry Tee says:

    I shoudda added: Tyburn is a house of enclosed Benedictines.

  3. Michael+ says:

    While some of IHOP.org’s theology is troublesome, the Prayer Room “Worship with the Word” sets can be awesome. I often stream those sets during the day.

  4. Jill Woodliff says:

    Watchdog groups that track the Christian right would label the Lord’s Prayer as dominionist: Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

  5. New Reformation Advocate says:

    I agree with all the comments above.

    FWIW, I spent a year on staff with the IHOP branch in Newport News, VA, which is unique in that it’s housed in a former convent of Poor Clares (ala Fr. Tee’s #1), and continues their tradition of constant intercessory prayer. I was specifically recruited to develop a liturgical component for the LivingStone House of Prayer, housed in the LivingStone monastery, which is an evangelical/charismatic Protestant retreat center in Newport News. When I left two years ago, there were over 20 people living at the center and staffing the prayer room, the vast majority of them in their 20s and early 30s. Their zeal was fervent indeed. Their dedication was outstanding. Alas, however, their theological knowledge and sense of balance was quite weak.

    Alas, since then there has sadly been a meltdown, due to two of the leaders falling into sexual sin and having to step down. Furthermore, needless to say, there are certainly many aspects of Mike Bickle’s teaching which are highly doubious and idiosyncratic, because he’s essentially accountable to no one and his whole approach is largely experientially-based and experientially driven.

    My own concerns for this dynamic movement have much less to do with Bickle’s right-wing politics or even his strong fundamentalist tendencies, than his one-sidedness theologically. That is, in terms of my typical “3-D” approach to Christianity: evangelical, catholic, and charismatic, I’m afraid Mike Bickle and IHOP represent a 2-D kind of Christianity at best, i.e., almost completely lacking the catholic dimension. But even with the other two dimensions, IHOP strongly accents the charismatic/Pentecostal dimension over the stolid (and solid) old evangelical dimension. Bickle is a former Vineyard pastor and protege of John Wimber, but I think he’s less balanced than Wimber was.

    The cloistered orders devoted to constant worship and intercessory prayer mentioned by Fr. Tee have survived for centuries. It remains to be seen if the IHOP movement will last or fade out almost as quickly as it has arisen. But a movment that attracts very large numbers of enthusiastic young people can’t be all bad. The annual IHOP gathering in Kansas City between Christmas and New Year’s attracts as many kids as does the Urbana Missionary Conference run by InterVarsity, over 15,000 excited young people. That certainly shows the incredible dynamism and potential of this growing movement.

    But the theological roots of the movement are shallow and may not sustain such rapid growth longterm. Many of the IHOP satellite branches around the country have fallen by the wayside due to inadequately mature and wise leadership, as sadly happened in Newport News.

    But hey, I love the “Worship with the Word” format of group prayer too. It has been used by the Lord to speak to me very, very powerfully at times. That is a real contribution to the wider Bodyof Christ.

    Just as Taize pioneered a style of sung prayer that has caught on around the world, so I believe IHOP is doing. Its strong appeal to the New Millenials generation is undeniable.

    David Handy+

  6. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    Increasingly, I see the merit as Fr Tee mentions of constant intercessory prayer, but thank Rev Handy for the note of caution which I share about some of the developing practises and the theology which underlies them.

    Some of the issues are brought out perhaps in Matthew 6:5-8 in Jesus’ words:
    [blockquote]“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”[/blockquote]
    There is a real danger of us babbling away, and mistaking volume and length of prayer with quality – in particular I find the idea that groups praying 24/7 have more efficacy than other prayer troubling. We can end up like the Buddhists in an endless drudgery of building merit by keeping the prayer flags flying and the prayer wheels spinning in the hope that somehow God will hear more, listen better or be more pleased with us. It becomes the prayer equivalent of a works-based theology. There is a real danger in this for the young and impressionable people getting involved with this in the so called ‘new monastic’ movement which is being embraced in the UK by mainstream charismatic evangelicals. It can end up being very lop-sided indeed.

    That said, a regular pattern and rhythm of prayer I find increasingly helpful; it is in part about what we pray to God, but perhaps more about how God works through prayer in us. Being a people of prayer is an important pre-requisite for many of the other good things and plans God has in mind for us and a big part of our spiritual development. On balance, even with the theological vacuity and the overemphasis on the volume rather than quality of prayer, nevertheless, prayer is always a good idea, but we should be careful of standing up in the Temple to be seen babbling on and on, individually or as a group.

    Of course Matthew 6 goes on in verse 9 to the prayer which Jesus taught us. He did not give us instructions to repeat it x3 or x10 times for better effect.

  7. Karen B. says:

    This is a great discussion! A hearty AMEN to what Pageantmaster just wrote:

    [i]That said, a regular pattern and rhythm of prayer I find increasingly helpful; it is in part about what we pray to God, but perhaps more about how God works through prayer in us.[/i]


    I have concerns about some of the IHOP theology. One teaching I heard by Mike Bickle really seemed to diminish God’s sovereignty – as if God can’t or won’t act unless we pray! Very troubling and I’ve avoided his teachings ever since. But, I do know some very solid people who’ve been involved in IHOP too, and I am excited about some of the real commitment to praying for the “lost and the least” and the creativity in mobilizing prayer, especially among youth that’s coming out of the 24/7 prayer movement.

    For instance, at the international conference for an organization I’m part of which I attended this summer, there was a 24/7 prayer room and it was FANTASTIC. I learned a lot of new ways to pray from Scripture or through song, and it was wonderful to see the teens at the conference passionate about prayer and seeking God’s face. It was one of the real highlights of the week for me.

    I had the privilege last year of attending the Lausanne 3 congress in Cape Town, and there God began to remind me about the importance of prayer. At Lausanne, John Piper spoke about “praying our preaching into reality” in the lives of those we are teaching and discipling, and I have been increasingly made aware that prayer is the absolute essential foundation for the work I and my team are doing here in Africa.

  8. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Thanks, Pageantmaster and Karen B.

    Just one quick further comment. What Matt 6 condemns is “VAIN repetition,” not all repetition in prayer, per se. Some Puritans took the principle of Matt 6 so far that they refused to pray the Lord’s Prayer in public, lest it seem to be done by rote and mere vain repetition! I’m a big fan of Taize style prayer, and it’s also extremely repetitive. The issue is how to keep it from becoming “vain repetition.”

    After all, Jesus sometimes spent all night in prayer, according to the gospels, and that would seem to set a marvelous precedent for what IHOP is trying to do, night and day prayer around the clock.

    But in typical Penteocostal fashion, the type of prayer and praise fostered by IHOP tends strongly toward boisterous, enthusiastic, demonstrative and emotional prayer, very different from the quiet, contemplative style of the cloistered orders like the Poor Clares or Carmelites. In particular, IHOP practically forbids silence, and insists that there ALWAYS be some kind of music going on if no one is speaking, lest there be “dead air time.” That is another symptom of the one-sidedness I mentioned above, and IHOP’s almost complete failure to appreciate the catholic dimension of Christianity.

    David Handy+