“We are not a church in the city, or a church of the city- no, we’re here tonight because we want to be a church for the city. We want to prosper the city.”
I pointed back down at the words of Scripture and reiterated, “And one of the ways we do that is by gathering together to pray for its prosperity.”
City Prayer Night
On Saturday evening we hosted our first ever “City Prayer Night”. It was a monumental moment for All Nations because it was our first time to publically gather in the name of Jesus.
The entire concept behind City Prayer Nights is to pray for the city by gathering once-a-month in key places around the city. It’s praying for the city, from the city. In a sense, it comes from the same concept of prayerwalking- letting the environment affect your prayers.
This month we gathered at the Heman Park Community Center to pray for the UCityNeeds.Me Results Party.
For well over a year now we’ve pleaded for God to make All Nations “a church as diverse as the city we serve”, and it made my heart burst to see God begin to answer that prayer with the diversity gathered in the room.
We had people from the first, second and third ward of University City gather to pray. We had members of City Council gather to pray. There were toddlers and elders. We had black. We had white. We had hispanic. We had WashU students. It was glorious.
People staggered into the room and mingled until just after 4oclock, when we started with a couple of praises songs. Kids danced and clapped in the aisles while I did my best to lead them in worship. (My raw fingers let me know that it had been a while since I had played a guitar!) As we sang our second song, you could feel the atmosphere in the room change,
“GREATER THINGS HAVE YET TO COME, GREATER THINGS ARE STILL TO BE DONE IN THIS CITY…”
Ashley then led the kids to another room in the building for their own time of prayer she had planned with the talented Mr. Ron, while I stayed back and spoke to the adults about what we were going to do with the rest of our time.
With muffled kids’ voices in the other room as background, I spoke briefly about how this night was like the early church, who gathered to pray before it went public. I then talked about the kinds of prayers we’d be praying, that we’d be praying for the Results Party and, more specifically, to prosper the city.
A concept that comes from a place called Babylon.
Centuries before Jesus the Babylonian Empire swept in and overtook the city of Jerusalem. The leaders and laborers were carried off in exile to Babylon and only a remnant of the lame, the weak and the nobodies were left behind in Jerusalem.
One of those nobodys was a prophet named Jeremiah.
Jeremiah wrote a letter to those in exile but, instead of telling them the Lord would bring them back, he told them they’d die in Babylon. And so would their children. So, instead of avoiding with the Babylonians and being a nuisance for a few decades, Jeremiah gives them a different message:
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters… Increase in number there; do not decrease. Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.
Pray to the Lord for the city, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
It’s a wonderful directive that’s perfectly suited for the work God is giving us to do in University City. I looked up and repeated the point,
“WE WILL BE A CHURCH THAT PROSPERS THE CITY.”
Thy Kingdom Come
Folks in the room then paired off and went through some prayer exercises. First, they read bios about UCityNeeds.Me partner organizations who work in the city before spending time asking God specific asks to prosper those organizations.
Next, we had everyone hold a blank UCityNeeds.Me response card. The prompt at the top of the card My hope for UCity is… suddenly took on new meaning in that room. It was no longer a request to the city, it was a request to God. A prayer. A chance to ask bold asks, that God might answer. After a time of reflection people filled out a prayer on the response card to keep with them during the week.
The kids then came back into the room and we held hands in a beautifully hodgepodged circle of people, so Ashley could led us in a Lord’s Prayer tailored to University City. As we prayed the words, I smiled at how it sounded like a prayer from Babylon,
“THY KINGDOM COME…”