"Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.'"
--Rev. 5:8-9 (NKJV)
Although John painted this picture of heaven, this passage in Revelation has spawned a 21st-century version here on earth. Around the world, song leaders, praise bands, worshipers, intercessors and laypersons are gathering to worship, praise and pray in meeting places that are open 24 hours a day.
It's happening in Kansas City, Missouri, where September marks the first anniversary of the International House of Prayer's (IHOP) round-the-clock services. And the movement is spreading across the country, from Colorado Springs, Colorado--where the $5.5 million World Prayer Center has 70 staff members interceding 24 hours a day--to Portland, Oregon; San Diego; Dallas; Chicago and New York.
This spirit of prayer spans the globe. In Jerusalem, minister Tom Hess leads a House of Prayer on the Mount of Olives. An old Nazi barracks is the site of a German Bible college experiencing a divine visitation. In Singapore, Lawrence Khong's 15,000-member megachurch is one of the newest members of this budding movement.
Mike Bickle, who left Metro Christian Fellowship last year to start Kansas City's IHOP, favors the term "harp and bowl model" to describe his ministry's emphasis, which he also likens to the tabernacle of David. He calls the activity sweeping the planet the upsurge of a prayer emphasis that started 20 years ago.
"We're in an exponential increase right now," says Bickle, host of an upcoming national conference at the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium. "Five years ago there were very few people talking about 24-hour-a-day prayer. Now there are hundreds of churches and ministries that are serious about it. I think it's going to double again in the next year or two."
"I can't put numbers on it, but it's a reality," adds worship leader Rob Stearns, executive director of New York-based Eagles Wings ministry. "Church leadership is going to have to deal with this issue one way or the other. They're going to have to turn their ear to the cry of the Lord.
"The Lord is looking for a resting place to see if He can find it in His people. We've got to make whatever adjustments are necessary so that the Lord feels comfortable in our midst."
Given the free-flowing nature, emerging prophetic words and charismatic leanings of many participants, it would be easy to slap a Spirit-filled label on this trend--and for evangelicals and mainliners to forget it. But Stearns sees a different ethic at work. He has witnessed breakthroughs in worship and intercession in very traditional venues. Among them are a United Methodist church in Philadelphia, Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, suburban Chicago's Wheaton College and a Catholic community.
"I think Pentecostal churches are having the hardest time," Stearns says. "We have had historically an emphasis on the Holy Spirit, so it's hard for us, sometimes, to welcome Him in a new and a fresh way."
Former United Methodist pastor Terry Teykl is one of the leaders of a lower-profile prayer movement that isn't as closely linked with the Pentecostal praise and worship gatherings. While Teykl's former church, Aldersgate United Methodist in College Station, Texas, is known for its charismatic worship style, he concentrates his efforts in evangelical and mainline cir cles.
Since leaving his church four years ago to establish Renewal Ministries, Teykl has organized more than 3,000 prayer rooms nationwide. They operate anywhere from eight to 24 hours a day.
Like his counterparts, he favors churches uniting across denominational lines to accomplish the goal of a seven-day-a-week effort. In Stockton, Kansas, 4,000 members from five churches support a 24-hour downtown prayer center. Similar efforts have unfolded in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and at a California crisis pregnancy center.
"[Bickle and Stearns] are mostly sent to apostolic churches, and my mission is to travel to the mainline church, most of whom can't even spell prophecy," Teykl says. "I came in the back door and put in a prayer center, rather than standing in the pulpit and saying, 'You need to speak in tongues.' It's a whole lot better to let God get ahold of 'em."
The former pastor says it's not an "either/or" situation. He believes both vibrant intercession and a quieter framework are needed. Calling his prayer rooms more "inspirational than perspirational," he teaches people they can pray just as effectively sitting quietly as bouncing around and singing.
Renewal Ministries' centers contain 10 to 12 prayer stations, each devoted to various prayer needs, such as local churches, government leaders and youth ministries. Pictures, maps, lists and notebooks complement the setup.
"This is part of the prophetic song movement," Teykl says. "We're offering variety. Too much of one thing can become boring. You need both [prophecy and music] to balance out prayer so it doesn't become onefaceted. Most churches don't have the energy [Bickle] has and can't go 24 hours a day."
Still, Bickle doesn't expect them to; he believes church networks will lead to houses of prayer dotting every city on the map. IHOP is part of a 50-church network known as the Midwest Ministers Fellowship. About 20 of these churches regularly send pastors or members to participate in its ongoing praise gathering.
While the staff of intercessory missionaries is nearing 100, Bickle doesn't look for everyone to lay aside their occupation to make praise and intercession a full-time endeavor. But when 100 people devote their lives to prayer and praise, and 1,000 join them periodically for a two-hour "watch," he says the combination is powerful.
"One without the other isn't going to work very well," Bickle says. "I believe the Annas (see Luke 2:36-37) are going to be restored, which are these intercessory missionaries. But there are 1,000 congregations in the Kansas City area, and we want them involved too."
Described in the July 2000 issue of Charisma, IHOP's services resemble a free-form church service. People come and go at will with spontaneous singing, tongues and praise emanating from various corners in the 200-seat chapel located 1 mile from Metro Christian Fellowship. Bickle hopes to introduce this model of intercessory worship to at least 6,000 people at IHOP's upcoming national conference on Oct. 11-14.
But he doesn't aspire to oversee an international movement. He is familiar with many house-of-prayer leaders and supplies them with various materials. Still Bickle wants to avoid man-made control, saying the best way is to keep each center under the auspices of hometown churches.
"Almost every city has a network of leaders," he says. "I think the way to keep the prayer movement with a freshness in it is to keep it autonomous."
Traveling regularly around the world, Stearns is part of the leadership team at Metro Church in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. While sites rotate throughout the greater New York area, this summer Metro was hosting weekly Friday night praise services. It also observes a monthly all-night prayer meeting and recently held a 60-hour worship and intercession service. Pastors shouldn't expect to move into the latter too quickly, Stearns warns, but they should develop a consciousness of what it means to serve the Lord in this way.
This budding prayer movement is striving to change Christians' minds and develop a true priesthood of all believers. "That's why you can't divorce this message from the...emerging apostolic reformation," Stearns says. "God is restoring the concept in His people of the priesthood of all believers. It isn't any longer professional ministers who we pay to do the work. We are all being released into ministry before the Lord."
A SPECIAL MINISTRIES TODAY FORUM
Because Mike Bickle, Rob Stearns and Terry Teykl play key roles in advancing this new prayer and worship trend, Ministries Today solicited their feedback on a variety of topics concerning the structure and implementation of the movement in local communities. Here are some of the questions we asked and edited versions of their answers:
Ministries Today: In spontaneous worship, how do pastors and worship leaders help people hear God's voice?
Stearns: The foundation for how we hear the voice of the Lord is always the written Word. We encourage people, when they come to the microphone to pray, to bring the Scripture with them, pray that Scripture and use that as a springboard to the Holy Spirit's message. We're focused on what the Lord has revealed in written form.
Secondly, we help people hear God by not being afraid to correct them. If we feel a prayer or prophetic utterance is out of line, we quietly put our hand on the people's shoulders and sit them down.
Teykl: We have elders or others judge what people write down to determine what is of God or not of God. We teach that hearing from God is not always dramatic, but more low-key.
Ministries Today: In what ways does music enhance prayer in worship?
Bickle: It creates an anointed environment for prayer to be enjoyable. First, prayer can go for long hours. Corporate prayer with music is easier than without music. When Elisha prophesied, he called the minstrel because the anointed singer looses the prophetic spirit (see 2 Kin. 3:15).
Stearns: I see them as one flow, when the word of the Lord is coming through the flute or prayer is offered up through the trumpet. Those literally become a prayer. I think our concept of intercession has to grow. The Word says that we offer groanings that cannot be uttered (see Rom. 8:26).
Teykl: Music helps you shut off the "tapes" of the day and your life and brings you into a Christ-centered focus and how He is God apart from your life.
Ministries Today: What hindrances to prayer should we avoid or discern in worship?
Teykl: One is a lack of pastoral covering and submission. We need to understand the corporate authority of the body of Christ. In worship, people are accountable to the worship leader.
A hindrance might be "one-uppism:" A prayer meeting always has to top the last one. It's dangerous because each experience has to be deeper. The bread and butter of prayer is not how you feel, it's Who you know no matter how you feel.
Stearns: We always want to make sure in this tabernacle of David thing that it's not personality-centered. It's not about me getting to share my prophecy, song or any of those things. Our goal is not the emotional, hyped-up breakthrough, but that we faithfully wait on the Lord. Discipling people, especially American Christians, is a hard thing.
Bickle: The thing that shuts prayer down more than anything is condemnation. When people feel condemned, a heavy spirit shuts the heart down. The other thing that shuts prayer down would be a wrong image of God. Worship answers both of those.
Ministries Today: What do you mean by the tabernacle of David in worship?
Bickle: It's a prophecy about the victorious church in power. It's more than a prayer and worship ministry, but that's a key part of it. There's a priestly and a kingly dimension to it.
To me, it means worshiping God--using the Word of God to worship God. And, it's the anointing of the Spirit to inspire and energize intercessory prayer for the Great Commission to be fulfilled.
Stearns: My definition of worship has changed dramatically. Amos 9:11-12 and Acts 15:16-17 both say that in the last days the tabernacle of David will be restored. Revelation 5:8 is the pattern of the harp and bowl.
The heavenly pattern is that worship and intercession are mingled and lifted up together before the Lord. When I talk about the tabernacle of David, I'm talking about a place of God's presence. It's where His presence is entertained through the ministry of worship and intercession lifted up as one sacrifice.
Ministries Today: Given the limitations of finances and schedules, is it possible to have continual worship seven days a week?
Bickle: We've done it for a year now. We have 93 people right now who have raised their support like a missionary. The people who do it 50 hours a week get skilled at it. So they lead the meetings for people who come once or twice a week for a two-hour watch.
The worship teams are mostly comprised of full-time people. It takes a new paradigm. To do it full time is critical to the tabernacle of David working.
Stearns: I believe in 24/7 as a value, a goal. I'm not saying every local church or ministry is supposed to do that. One of my core beliefs is that the house of prayer must be linked to the emerging city church.
God is raising up His church within different churches and regions, and pastors are needed to cooperate together. If we arbitrarily launch houses of prayer and don't seek to connect them to gatekeepers laboring in the city, we'll limit our long-term effectiveness.
Teykl: It's very hard for a small church to pull this off, but a prayer box (see related story on page 30) is something they can do. We always have a boom box in our church with music going at all times so there is an atmosphere of intercession. You don't have to have a long-haired guy standing on a stage to have worship. The WoW worship releases and Hosanna!/Integrity tapes are good.
Ministries Today: Should some or all musicians be paid?
Bickle: Some musicians should be paid, primarily the ones who want to do it full time, who take a major faith leap to raise their support and change their lifestyle because they always go down economically. I help the ones who are endeavoring to make it a lifestyle, not those who do it once or twice a week.
Stearns: I definitely think some of them should be paid. Those who are set or appointed musicians in the house should definitely be paid.
Ministries Today: In emerging forms of worship, what is the place of preaching and teaching?
Bickle: We don't have them during our prayer meetings. Most people are relating to a Sunday morning service. Preaching has to be in the overall mix, but everyone here goes to a local church. They get the Word and all week long we pray for the preaching to be anointed in the Kansas City area.
Stearns: It's vital. Because we have such an emphasis on worship and intercession on Friday nights, many times we'll take a Saturday morning and do straight teaching for three hours. People come to be fed and equipped in the Word.
You want to look at the big picture and make sure it's balanced. We also intersperse teaching and preaching throughout worship. During the 60-hour service, every hour a pastor shared the Word for 10 minutes.
Teykl: There's always a place for them. We advocate a balance during the week. Sitting together in a room silently for 30 or 40 minutes is worshiping God. It's an issue of creativity, variety and being in His presence--not standardizing a norm.
Ministries Today: What is the role of the pastor and other church officers in this trend?
Bickle: The pastor of Sunday morning worship is vital. If the senior authority isn't a champion for worship, the worship ministry will have a ceiling on it. I'm a champion for musicians and worship leaders. The pastor needs to push them forward, provide resources and equipment, give them time in the schedule, give worship leaders liberty and defend them when they make mistakes.
Others have important roles. The praise and worship leader needs to be in unity with the senior pastor and support his vision. Musicians need to be theologically grounded and learn how to flow in unity. Intercessors are like missiles launched against the kingdom of darkness.
One of the apostle's main jobs is to experience intimacy with God and then fight for it in the churches. We also need an army of teachers who are going deep into worship themes in Scripture. They need to make these truths practical and accessible.
Stearns: I would say the fivefold offices are there for the equipping of the saints to do the work of ministry. The chief musicians and the intercessors are there to entertain and minister to the Lord, to secure His blessing and presence in the midst of the congregation.
Ministries Today: What keeps those of differing worship styles from being critical of other styles?
Bickle: By seeing the big picture. I tell our staff there is a global prayer movement breaking forth on the earth right now, and we're only one model of what God is restoring.
Stearns: If the culture is radically different from mine, I want to say, "Lord, what aspects of Your character are being revealed through these people?" We've got to learn that. We have problems with shallowness, narrowness of mind and spirit, lack of humility and lack of a fear of the Lord. I look for the image of God in whatever context I'm in.
Teykl: Humility is the trademark of Christianity. When you're humble there's not room to be critical of anyone. Worship pride is like an odorless gas--it slips up on you before you know it. Humility prevents that from happening. It helps you appreciate other worship styles.
Ministries Today: Any final word for pastors who want to join this trend?
Bickle: I tell people who visit here to find a harp and bowl meeting in your area because they're starting everywhere. A pastor from Florida was just here in May, asking how we could be connected. I told him to take the principles and vision he's learned and have a couple meetings a week. Do that and then look for other churches who will have one or two and on a monthly basis pull those together for a larger meeting.
Stearns: The Holy Spirit wants to bring unity to the body of Christ. It's simply opening that door and saying, "Lord, this time is Yours. We're going to come and sit at Your feet. We're not going to make anything happen. We're just going to be with You." That's the first step toward leting it come in.
Ken Walker is a free-lance Christian writer residing in Louisville, Kentucky, and a regular contributor to Ministries Today and Charisma magazines.
Resources for the Worshiper
Mike Bickle, Rob Stearns and Terry Teykl each offer books and other resources that can help you and your church move forward in worship and intercession.
F ormerly pastor of Metro Christian Fellowship, Mike Bickle is director of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri, a 24-hour-a-day spiritual warfare ministry. He also is ministry director of Friends of the Bridegroom and the author of two books, Passion for Jesus and Growing in the Prophetic (Creation House).
His emphasis is on developing a passion for Christ through the knowledge of the beauty of God. This includes a focus on the bride of Christ and joining a forerunner ministry, which refers to a fasted lifestyle that proclaims Jesus as Bridegroom, King and Judge.
Many of the materials offered by IHOP are available at no charge via its Friends of the Bridegroom Web site, www.fotb.com. They can also be ordered by phone (800) 552-2449.
Bickle suggests church delegations visit the chapel for a few days to see if they are interested in using the concept. "So far we've got about 95 percent of the people leaving [saying], 'We're going to do this,'" he told Ministries Today.
In addition, the prayer center maintains several low-cost, furnished apartments that will accommodate groups of up to 10 for short-term visits.
Formerly a youth pastor under Bickle at Metro, Rob Stearns has recorded three praise and worship albums (The King is in the Land, Undiscovered Country and Lament for the Poor) and two solo sets (Earnestly Waiting and Pure Heart).
In addition, his Eagles Wings ministry offers various teaching tapes and publishes Kairos, a quarterly journal of prophetic themes. A free catalogue is available by calling (800) 519-4647. You can examine resources on the Web at www.eagleswings.to.
Stearns has ministered in thousands of churches and conferences while visiting 25 nations. He was also a guest last winter on The 700 Club, where he discussed his first book and his views on religious life in the 21st century. In his book Prepare the Way (Creation House), he warns that the church of the future will have no tolerance for lifeless religion.
Stearns says his ministry is based on a "deep passion for Jesus" and a dedication to bringing unity and awakening to the body of Christ. He is also involved in social ministry, sending teams to Third-World nations. Among them is Honduras, where the ministry distributed food, clothing and medicine to families devastated by Hurricane Mitch.
Though based in the Houston area, Terry Teykl's Renewal Ministries maintains an order fulfillment center in northern Indiana. The number is (888) 656-6067 and the Web site is www.renewalministries.com.
Teykl has published a variety of prayer books and resources in recent years. The best known is Blueprint for the House of Prayer, a 127-page workbook that sells 10,000 to 15,000 copies a year. Among his other titles are Pray the Price: United Methodists in Prayer, Acts 29 and How to Pray After You've Kicked the Dog.
Last January the former Methodist pastor established "Prayer Force in the Workplace." This initiative distributes "prayer boxes" to solicit requests from people in businesses, schools and other secular venues. The most creative was a box mounted on a post along a city street.
In the first half of this year, the ministry distributed more than 5,000 boxes nationwide. Each week volunteers collect requests from the boxes and take them to the city's 24-hour-a-day prayer center.
"I was concerned about the great chasm between spirituality in the church and the workforce," Teykl says. "We need to pray for the needs of the people. I call it Box 3:16--God's address for hurting people."