The week after I got back from my eye surgery trip, I went to my first ever prayer meeting. This wasn’t a regular prayer meeting, either; it was an all-night prayer meeting. Here’s how it came about.
I had been feeling like God had been speaking to me about the quality of my prayer life for a few weeks. I thought my prayer life was pretty good, but clearly it wasn’t or He wouldn’t have been talking to me about it. I didn’t mention it to anyone, but one day out of the blue, Spiritual Mentor #1 suggested that I buy a particular book, which turned out to be a book about prayer. Clearly, God was very serious about the issue and was letting me know that I needed to get on board.
I ordered the book and read most of it during my flights back to Jamaica from New York that last Saturday of January. The next morning, Sunday, I woke up and finished the book, then I went to church, where they announced that there would be an all-night prayer meeting that weekend, starting at 10 pm on Friday and going until 6 am on Saturday. It seemed too timely to be a coincidence and I knew I had to be there.
All week, I was excited at the thought of the impending prayer meeting. I had no idea how we were going to pray for eight hours straight but I knew without a doubt that it was where God wanted me to be, and I anticipated that it would be a wonderful experience and a great blessing.
That Friday, I ran errands, one of which was a stop at a coffee shop to pick up a latte because I knew there was no way I would make it through the night without falling asleep unless I had proper coffee. I went to bed at around 7 pm and managed to sleep for about two and a half hours, then I freshened up, reheated my latte and headed out to church, thinking to myself that this was precisely why I’m not a party girl – leaving home at 9:45 pm to go do stuff is just not my thing.
I talked to God about the night ahead as I drove, praying that it would go well and be a blessing. When I got there, after accidentally walking in on the men’s meeting that was in progress (so embarrassing), I finally found where I was supposed to be and settled in.
The church that I attend is a fairly large one by Jamaican standards. As far as I can tell, there are several hundred people who are either members or regular attendees. But that night, less than one hundred people showed up; I think we maxed out at about seventy. I thought that was a shame but indicative of how anemic most of our prayer lives are because we don’t dive as deeply into prayer as we ought to – me included. As the night progressed, it dawned on me that this group of stalwartly praying people were the engine of the church, and I was glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of it.
Throughout the night, between periods of praise and worship and people giving testimonies, we formed small groups and prayed over each others’ concerns; we moved around the sanctuary and prayed over the nation; we grouped around the few young people in attendance and prayed over the youth of the church and of the country; we sat individually and prayed over our families and friends and the concerns that we had about them.
At various points I paused in awe at the magnitude of prayerfully standing in the gap for people who didn’t (and still don’t) know that I was doing it, and at the responsibility of praying for a nation. I’d never really done either of those things before, not the way we did it that night. It was truly and literally an awesome experience.
At one point during a praise and worship session, we were singing “Spirit Lead Me” by Hillsong and I flashed back to only last year January when that song helped take me through day 4 going up Mount Kilimanjaro. A few quiet tears seeped out as I thought of all that God allowed me to experience during and since that time.
Throughout the night, as I sipped my latte (I finally finished it somewhere around 4 am, I think), I noted that, as with so many things in this world, it was mostly women who were present at the meeting. Of all the people in attendance that night, I counted eleven men, including the pastor. Eleven. And only one of them was under forty years old. Those young people we were praying over? All girls, about 7 of them. Not one teenaged boy or younger. I thought that was a little sad.
By the time 6:30 am and the end of the meeting rolled around, I was still wide awake and feeling pretty mellow because I had been blessed to hear from God on a few things throughout the night, some of which I had been waiting for a word on and some of which I had not even been thinking about. I got guidance, I got clarity, I got comfort, and I got conviction.
I went back to the next all-night prayer meeting, which took place at the end of March and had a different experience that turned out to be even more of a blessing; I’ll talk about that some time.
Now, I’m heading back out into the great, big world in a few months and it will be a little bit scary at first but I’ll be all prayed up and I’ll stay that way, because God has purposely put me in prayer training and I’ve decided that I’m not going to flunk out.