An update from Pray for Scotland.
‘PRAYER: The sinew that moves the muscle of God’[summary of Charles Spurgeon quote]
“We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth.” Andrew Murray
“Show me a people on their faces before God – gripped in the unction of prayer and I will show you a people ready for revival.” Duncan Campbell, Lewis Revival
I normally start these e-letters with a Scripture verse or two, but this time I have started with these quotes because they remind us powerfully why we pray, and why we need to pray – to pray earnestly, persistently – ‘without ceasing’ – to keep on ‘asking, seeking, knocking’.
As the darkness around us gets darker, so the need for the light of the Gospel to shine ever more brightly increases. As the impact and influence of the Church on society continues to weaken (so it would appear), so the need increases for the power and holiness of God, for the true ‘fear of the Lord’, to flood our communities and our nation once again. And it all starts with prayer!
The media love to report on the decline in church membership and attendance, as well as on Church or Christian scandals and ‘wrong-doing’ , and if we believed everything we read or listened to, it would be very easy to despair that the situation is hopeless, irretrievable almost, and there is little that can be done to change the downward trajectory.
There is no doubt that the Church today faces many, many challenges. But as some, possibly many of you reading this know, there is another side to the story – God is still on His throne and His plans and purposes will prevail against all opposition!
I want to encourage all reading this – and those you may pass it on to. The Lord IS‘building His church’ in these days! These ARE the days of Nehemiah – ‘rebuilding the broken walls’, of Ezekiel – ‘the dry bones becoming as flesh’, of David – ‘rebuilding a temple of praise’.*
One sign of this – a very significant sign – is the increase in prayer across the nation. Often unseen and ‘under the radar’ this rising tide of prayer is both a response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and a result of growing desperation as we see what is happening to society around us.
This has involved Christians at every level, but especially significant has been the growth in local and national gatherings of church pastors, ministers and leaders. There have always been groups of leaders meeting to build relationships, work together and most importantly pray together for each other, their churches and their communities, but the past 4 or 5 years has seen a significant growth – a significant increase in the willingness of leaders to commit time from their busy schedules to gather together in prayer and intercession for their regions and for Scotland.
Partly as a result of their shared experience in working together on outreaches under the ‘Turning’ banner in 2018 and 2019, new leaders prayer groups sprang up in major cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow and despite the impact of Covid and lockdowns, these groups have persevered and have grown. The Edinburgh weekly gatherings now include leaders from the Lothians and Fife, and the Glasgow monthly meetings now include leaders from surrounding towns in the Greater Glasgow region. This is in addition to the groups already meeting in Dundee, Stirling, Falkirk/Larbert, Aberdeen, Inverness, Ayrshire, Shetland and elsewhere.
In January 2020, two months before the first Covid lockdown, a gathering of around 120 leaders and spouses from all over Scotland representing almost every denomination or network gathered in the Dunblane Hydro for 2 days of fasting and prayer for the Church and nation. In January 2023 around 180 gathered again to fast and pray in the McDonald Inchyra hotel at Polmont. This will happen again in January 2024 with additional capacity booked – a rising tide of prayer!
The National Prayer Breakfast has been a popular annual prayer event for many years, held most recently in the Prestonfield Hotel Edinburgh. In 2023, for the very first time all 400 places have been booked – they were sold out soon after bookings opened in April – a growing hunger for prayer!
Building on the growth in leaders’ prayer groups there is now a 2-monthly online prayer gathering attended by leaders from across the nation. The most recent of these in the last week of May had 100 screens with over 100 present – building unity across the nation through prayer!
That same week there was the first of the bi-annual gatherings since Covid in the Holyrood Parliament, hosted by a Christian MSP with 3 other MSPs present, bringing together Christians from across central Scotland for a powerful time of worship and prayer for our Parliament and nation. In another first this gathering was live-streamed. This is all in addition to the weekly gatherings of Parliamentary Prayer Scotland which continued faithfully online during Covid and are now back to in person as well as online. We return to Parliament in November – declaring the sovereignty of God through prayer in the nation’s Parliament!
For the second year running Trypraying’s familiar banner was seen outside close to 600 churches, on buses operating out of every depot in Scotland, and on the ticket barriers at Queen Street, Waverley and Haymarket rail stations – taking prayer into the public square!
This is just a snapshot, a flavour of what God has been and is doing in the area of prayer in Scotland – and beyond. There is more, so much more and this rising tide is being mirrored throughout the UK. A new door has just opened for Trypraying, with the prisons ministry Junction 42 asking for 20,000 copies of the prisoners’ version of the little booklet, to be given away in all 130 prisons in the UK.
Another of my favourite quotes is: “When God is preparing to do something great in the earth, He first sets His people a-praying”**
We hear of churches adding new prayer meetings to their weekly/monthly programmes. In the run up to Pentecost churches throughout Greater Glasgow have come together for 8 days of 24/7 prayer and fasting for their city and the nation, with a different church in the region hosting an evening of worship and prayer, culminating in a region-wide celebration in central Glasgow on Pentecost Sunday evening.
Prayer is on God’s heart long before it is on ours. God is ‘orchestrating’ the rising tide of prayer because He is getting ready, and getting us ready, for something great!
So, despite all the challenges, despite all the negatives we see and hear all around us, let us not lose heart. There IS another side to the story! There IS a shift taking place in the spiritual atmosphere as we continue to pray, as we persevere in prayer!
Don’t stop! Don’t give up! The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, revival in our churches and transformation in our communities could be just one prayer away!
May you know the Father’s favour, provision and blessing as you persevere in prayer and intercession for your families, neighbourhoods, towns, cities, the Church and our beloved Scotland!
Alistair Barton is the Director of Pray for Scotland.
*Words from ‘Days of Elijah’ by Robin Mark **Matthew Henry