I wrote this post late Saturday night after the Wembley prayer day…


So with a mug of tea in hand, I think it’s time for a quick reflection from today.

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.

5 thoughts on “We went to Wembley!

  1. Sadly I agree with most of this Chris.
    I heard Jonathan speak about his vision many months ago and it tied in so well with the words God has given the charity I work for about revival in the UK, so I was instantly inspired and there was no way I was going to miss what was sure to be a historic event that was key to this bigger vision!

    Yet sadly, trying to get anyone from my church to understand what a key event this was was like speaking to a brick wall.
    “Why on earth would we give up a whole Saturday to pray? We already spend a whole morning on a Sunday doing that – Saturday is ‘me time’/ ‘family time'”

    Disheartened by the attitudes of my church I was hoping to be boosted by a whole stadium of fellow Christians committed to seeing this nation transformed by the love of God. And though I agree 32,000 is still a number to celebrate, I couldn’t help look around and think – ‘where is everyone else?’ Through Jonathan, God called his people from all denominations, all over the UK, and out of hundreds of thousands, is that really all that could be bothered to show up?

    As a youth worker working for a charity that has committed to being one of the “Mission hubs” Matt Sommerfield spoke about, my youth were invited to be part of gideon’s army and. They excitedly donned n their special red hoddies, marched out and took to the pitch to be part of the youth section. “What an amazing opportunity for them!” I thought.
    Yet even this didn’t really inspire them – and they were most my enthusiastic ‘on fire for God’ type of youth. They didn’t really ‘get’ what was going on or what they were meant to be doing. They thought the general running of the day was was a bit all over the place at times and were distracted by the amount of holding hands and hugging of strangers that we had to do, as well as tired out by constantly being told to stand up as soon as they had sat down!

    Maybe my heart was in the wrong place and I’ve asked God to help me be more positive.

    And I have massive respect for the organises who poured out their time, effort and faith into bringing the day together (even if I agree with you about it often feeling like a sales pitch)

    Yet sadly, if i’m honest, I was uninspired as I was burdened with the feeling that God’s people had let him down.

    Over the last few months I have heard countless stories of the same vision for revival in the next few years and a picture of a “tidal wave” being given to people across the UK. I also strongly believe what people said on Saturday about this Diamond jubilee and Olympic year being a turning point for the church and and just a glimpse at how God wants to use his church in the UK to transom lives and communities.

    But that means his church being willing to get off their back sides, listen to what he wants us to do, go out their and wholeheartedly do it, even if its not a Sunday!

    I appreciate what you are saying about maybe big events like this not being the best way to inspire people.

    Yet I cant help but think -If you cant even get people to give one day to go to an event that has been organised for them and massively funded so it cost just £10 to get in, where all they are asked to do is just pray for a nation and worship our God by singing some catchy songs – then HOW do we inspire them to devote their lives to mission and community outreach and to live lives that worship God in all they do?

    1. yes, yes, yes. I know what you mean. Amazing that the youth themselves weren’t taken with the day as perhaps we would have thought.

      I love your thoughts on inspiring the Church. If we can’t inspire the church to go to Wembley to pray then what!… yet I feel that prayer for the nation and a tidal wave that you spoke about of passion for Jesus will be more-so grass roots, less big events and more localised. Thank you for your thoughts on this Emily. It’s encouraged me as I wasn’t sure if I should say anything about the empty seats and sales type stuff.

  2. A great reflection on the day Chris, I too had the opportunity to meet with Jonathan O beforehand and decided that I would do all I could to encourage people to attend and we managed a bus load from Thurrock. I agree that the youth section and the powerful reading from Ezekiel was the highlight and I came with a sense of having my “fire” lit to take back into my community. The Prayer for Your Neighbourhood/Street stuff is the perfect follow-up so that we don’t need to gather in these concrete mansions in future but intercede for the nation on a 24/7 basis in numbers far exceeding 32,000. Still a great day out though with brothers and sisters eh? Rob

    1. Rob, totally great day! I’m usually a half glass full type of person… felt that as ‘church’ we could have filled that stadium over and over…

  3. I was feeling somewhat humbugish about my comments about a slick fundraising presentation from a well known International charity… until I received a phone call at home from them wanting to talk to me about their presentation and whether I would consider supporting them. Doh!

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