|How to recognize and ride the winds of the spirit|
'round the clock prayer
October 1, 2001
Half past seven in the morning: the room is full. The music is bright and optimistic. Some people are standing, arms upraised. Some are seated in the long rows of chairs, 60 or so of them, that form half a rectangle around the band. One man is on the floor, face down. All of them are praying. Some will leave shortly for work, others are settling in for a couple of hours.
3:00 p.m.: the crowd has thinned. The keyboardist improvises and the singer recites a Scripture verse. The sound is lush, electronic, and fusion. A few people are seated with Bibles open on their laps. One woman is writing requests collected off their Web site on a dry erase board. Another is standing amid a grouping of flags in front of a large world map. Her eyes are closed and her mouth is moving.
Well past midnight: the place is rocking with drums and guitars. Before a heavy velvet curtain, the leader speaks and sings, and worshipers respond antiphonally. They sing the prayers of the prophets and apostles recorded in Scripture. An older woman steps to the microphone and reads a passage from Isaiah.
Outside this tan modular building the sign reads International House of Prayer. Most people don't know it's here—by its proprietor's account, even those who live in surrounding Kansas City.
But word of the 24-hour prayer center is spreading.
Harp and bowl prayer
Call it IHOP. Everybody does, and the restaurant chain hasn't objected yet.
Mike Bickle is its driving force. "Most calls to prayer are threats that you'll never experience the power of God if you don't come, rather than invitations to enjoy the river of pleasure." The comment is typical Bickle. "We want to see revival in the cities, and we want to have as much fun as possible doin' it.
"Who wants to go sit before a God who is mostly mad or sad? When we behold a God of fiery desire for us, it awakens desire in our hearts back toward God." His rapid delivery is matched by staccato gestures.
In 1999, Bickle resigned as pastor of Metro Christian Fellowship, his Kansas City congregation of 3,000, to start IHOP. His dream was to see people from all churches and backgrounds praying constantly for revival.
Bickle jots his plans on a marker board. This is year two of his three-year plan. More than 180 workers, many of them volunteers, operate IHOP. On 94 acres next door, a strip mall is being converted into a larger prayer center, coffee shop, book store, tape ministry, dorm rooms for 60 interns, and classrooms for "The Forerunner School of Prayer." Bickle expects 200 students this fall.
Here he also administers his annual Harp and Bowl conference, attended by 4,000 people last year. The name is from Revelation 5:8— "The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."
"I hope the bowls are becoming full for revival," Bickle says. "I will never be satisfied until there's revival in the major cities of the world."
Opening soon near you
Pilgrims visit KC IHOP every week, taking notes. Bickle's advice to individuals who want to start 24-hour prayer: don't try it. "I had people and resources and a church that was praying three or four hours every day." A successful "franchise" will require a coalition of churches and a limited schedule. "I'd start with five hours a day," Bickle says.
Similar prayer centers are open in Chicago, Cleveland, San Diego, Portland, Dallas, Amarillo, Nashville, and Phoenix. Bickle has heard of plans for two dozen more cities. Most centers are open 10 to 50 hours per week. For now, only Kansas City's IHOP is open all night.
Copyright © 2001 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership journal.
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