I wrote this post late Saturday night after the Wembley prayer day…
We’ve not been long back home from the national day of prayer and worship at Wembley. On the way back we took in a few sights and sounds of London and a bargain Chinese ‘buffet for the Duffett”s in ChinaTown. We went to the prayer day as a family, my wife Ruth and our three young children. It was a family day out for us and even though our wider church family from Biggleswade were also there and like hundreds of Churches across the nation they took a bus-load while we took the train in so to have an explore around London and bit of extra family time too. Bonus.
So, what were my first thoughts as we searched for our seat at the start of the day? Honestly, all I thought was wow, this place is so empty! I couldn’t help but look at the vast swathes of over 50,000 unused seats and wonder where all the Christians were. Don’t get me wrong, loads of us did turn up to pray: 32,000 of us in all, yet in such a huge expensive venue it felt like we were rattling around, somewhat of an indulgence to use the biggest venue in the UK to fill it a third full. It was a shame, especially as I know that the hope was to fill it to bursting point. The big stage was dwarfed by the amount of empty seats.
I knew loads about the day before hand having met with the amazing Jonathan Oloyede, the visionary behind the vision a few months back to talk about the event over a coconut and pineapple smoothy in Chiquitos. He wanted me to encourage as many Baptist Christians to attend which I was very happy to do so as I very quickly caught hold of his passion and call for such a day, five minutes in hearing his heart I would have cancelled well made plans to make sure I and others were there! You see, the day at Wembley wasn’t meant to be about a fancy gig in the biggest venue in the UK, a bit of a knees up and jolly for the Church, the heart-felt vision behind it made me want to be there… You see, Jonathan has long held the desire to hold a major prayer gathering at Wembley since having several visions of spiritual renewal and transformation across the UK that was much more than a day to gather. I learnt that there was a purpose in the gathering of Christians that was for a rippling out across the nation with more and more of us with a heart for communities and people to get the good news.
Today the hope was that we would take up our role in transforming the UK through what we ‘caught’ in the stadium. So did that happen?
This vision for transformation throughout the UK was most clearly seen by us as a family through the youth and children’s section and focus within the day. Not just because we enjoyed jumping and dancing to the catchy tunes of LZ7, but rather there was a clear mission focus and vision for how youth were going to strategically reach many more of their friends with the good news. We prayed into this vision and for protection over young people, even at one point being led in prayer by a young man who had been shot 5 times! The clarity and call for making disciples made sense to us, a compelling rallying of an army of young people to make disciples who make disciples, as Matt Somerfield from Urban Saints put it, how can we change the world? One by one. The praying and visual stimulus to help us pray was brilliant… even a Mexican wave went round and round the stadium as some kind of prayer symbol. The prayer for children in our nation was also as compelling, although sadly complicated through the advertising of an international charity interspersed through our prayers. This interruption was like a well presented slick fundraising campaign and it distracted our focus for the praying for the United Kingdom’s children, and while this particular charity’s work is worthy of support it seemed so out of place smack bang in the middle of praying for the nation of the UK. Furthermore, while I’m on this topic, while I do realise that events need funding and organisations need to sponsor there was just a tad too much of the ‘Christian supermarket’ going on, especially on the run up to the event where I received an email a day asking for more money or to pre-order different books. The walk from the Tube up to Wembley matched the build up to the event as we were given upteen different bits of paper as we ran the gauntlet up to the venue to pray through all the bookstalls and charity stalls trying to recruit new customers. “It’s a prayer day” I kept telling myself as I politely blessed the people around us thrusting papers and leaflets into the hands of my children…
Anyway, back to the day and with my mini rant over in how a prayer day had lots of promotional and selling of things/events/products/ it was non the less a day of inspiration. It’s true, there is a nation to reach and no one else is going to reach it apart from the Christians given that task. The marketing and products associated with the day cant take away from the fact that this was a truly inspirational one and a day that we will remember all our lives, and how powerful it was to gather and pray and lift up the name of Jesus in such a vibrant and ‘full on’ way! Yet I have a nagging thought, and while I don’t want to be a prayer-party-pooper surely a national day of prayer can be done in ways that don’t require huge venues, massive PA systems, big bands, big stage, big names and loads of money. Yes we need to pray for our nation, yes we need to gather in unity, but I’m not too sure about hiring football stadiums as a strategy. I wonder whether the sponsorship and marketing and begging emails for more money and donations wouldn’t be quite so necessary if we chose appropriate venues and styles to pray for our nation that is a bit less bling.
So, now that the big day is over,the question remains: What about all those prayers asking God to do something in our nation? Will the 32k people who made it BE the answer to their own prayers I wonder? My prayer is that we will get busy and reach this nation with the love of God.