Andy* is passionate about prayer; not just in his life but also in the lives of those around him.
Over the years he has experienced the power of prayer and seen how God moves when His people pray, and Andy wants to help others experience this, too, as he prepares to move to another prayer house in the Middle East. He didn’t always feel this way, however. “I read books about prayer and prayed, but so many times prayer felt like I was checking off a to-do list,” said Andy. “One thing that will really encourage your prayer life is joining in to pray with people who are already passionate about praying for the least reached. When you pray with people who enjoy prayer, you will most likely find prayer enjoyable!”
Andy took these thoughts with him as he and his family moved from the US to the Arabian Peninsula (AP) five years ago to serve in a prayer house. A prayer house is simply a place where a group of Jesus followers commit to praying regularly. It is often centred around a location––a house or room––that is set apart for the purpose of prayer and worship. There are usually times or “rhythms” of prayer that are established for others to join in, Andy explained. Sometimes it can just be an open place where people are free to come when they want. In some instances, prayer happens continually in shifts for extended periods, with different like-minded people signing up to pray for a specific length of time. A prayer house is a place that welcomes and encourages people to gather and pray.
Prayer houses are key in countries where the majority of people have never heard about God’s love for them, Andy believes, as the challenges of living in these areas are exactly what should drive believers to their knees. Reaching people is tough. Workers often don’t know how to connect with locals, or their needs are different from what they would normally deal with in a culture more similar to their own. “It is only through praying and being sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit that we can know what to do, what to say and how to do it,” said Andy. “We want to help people grow in their prayer lives as they will be healthier in all aspects of life and ministry when their spiritual health is good.”
Andy spent 13 years as a pastor and worship pastor before joining the church connections team in the OM office in the US. But it wasn’t until he went on a short-term mission trip in 2014 that God “upended my world with the desire to go overseas somewhere and start a house of prayer!”
Serving with an OM team, Andy spent two weeks in a prayer house in Malta, praying for other outreaches occurring across the Mediterranean area. He described: “We kept 24/7 prayer and worship going throughout the whole outreach. It was during this time that I realised how my songs of love and worship, as well as my prayers, delighted God. He enjoyed my time with Him. It stunned me that He wanted that kind of intimacy with me and that He would put into my heart things He wanted me to pray about where He was already working. It was so enjoyable! I never saw prayer in that way before. It totally changed my prayer life as I longed for that intimacy with Him.”
Later that year, Andy was invited to lead worship for an AP retreat, where workers in the region gathered for rest and refreshment. There, he heard stories from people who lived in various Gulf countries and his desire to go grew. He and his wife visited the AP early the next year and moved there that August.
Their vision was to study Arabic and start a prayer house. They began by hosting prayer times in their home, then moved to a city nearby to join with an existing prayer house, where they served until the end of last year. Now they plan to continue similar work in a nearby nation.
“We have felt from the beginning that God was telling us to worship and pray over the nation and region, to bless and be a blessing to our neighbours and communities,” said Andy. “Everything else would flow out of the prayer and worship. I have said many times that praying and worshipping was ‘Plan A’ and there is not a ‘Plan B’. God is the only One that can open the doors and change the nations in which we live and work.”
“We also believe that praying over the land and declaring blessings over the land changes the spiritual atmosphere,” he continued. “It is kind of like ploughing up the ground to prepare for planting. There are lots of stories out there about people who prayed and prayed for years and never saw results, yet at some later time, saw great movements as a result of those prayers. We want people praying everywhere, but there is something special in walking the land and praying over it, blessing the communities in which you live and work.”
Has Andy seen prayer work? “Yes, for sure. The most dramatic thing I have ever experienced was seeing the wife of one of my Arab friends healed of paralysis because of prayer. That was stunning, to say the least. But there are also so many little things every day that God answers — provision, health, peace. The more you pray, the more you become aware of what He is doing.”
Living in a different culture, working among Arabs, Andy has become totally dependent on God for everything, including the results of ministry. “I realised that so often in my life, I had put together plans and then just asked God to bless my plans. He certainly can and does lead me with my asking, but this seems so backwards to me. It makes more sense to come to Him with a big, blank sheet of paper and ask: ‘God what is it You want to do?’ Then let Him ‘write’ out His plans, through my prayer relationship, that He wants me to join with Him as He accomplishes those plans. That, in my opinion, is the ultimate strategy plan and one that will not fail!”
Andy has this advice for other followers of Jesus: “I have always looked at it that only God can save a person. If I were to consider the need for millions and millions to come to faith––many from really difficult places––only a miracle can accomplish that. I do not have any strategies that are capable of accomplishing that, and, even if I did, without God doing what only He can do, it would all be pointless. Given the total dependence on God to accomplish the miraculous, we pray and ask Him to do what He puts in our hearts. There is great intimacy and beauty in that type of relationship.”