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Raleigh-Area Concerts of Prayer

The Concerts of Prayer Movement in Raleigh, NC

How God is Bringing Together Christians Across the Church to Join in Prayer

by Don Rayno, Director, Raleigh-Area Concerts of Prayer

 

It was an event to remember. One hundred pastors, situated in a large circle, raising their voices together in worship. Some stood. Some sat. Some kneeled in adoration. Some lay prostrate on the carpet. There were shouts of rejoicing as well as quiet tears. Truly God was among us.

 

What made this such a unique gathering was these were pastors from across the broad spectrum of the Body of Christ: Anglo, African American, Hispanic, African, and Asian, from many counties and many Christian denominations. A heavenly blend! Throughout the three days of this Pastors’ Prayer Summit, these shepherds worshiped , prayed, and fellowshiped together, and at various times met in small groups of three or four to open up, share their hearts and pray for one another personally. This Prayer Summit was food for their souls.

 

All of this didn’t happen overnight, though. You might say that it has been more than twenty years in the making. It all started rather quietly, with a phone call, in November 1984.

 

A dear friend, Bob Stevens, who is now director of the Southeast Regional Office of the U. S. Center for World Missions, was the one who telephoned. It was a call that was to have a profound and far-reaching effect on my life. I can still remember standing in the kitchen of our former house, talking to Bob on the phone.

 

“I’m starting a Concert of Prayer at the church, Don. Would you like to help me organize it?

 

Concerts of Prayer. This phrase jogged my memory, and I recalled that when I lived in Wheaton, Illinois, five years before, David Bryant, who was then with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, came to our church and spoke in our morning church service, and to a smaller group that afternoon, about a movement of united prayer called Concerts of Prayer which brought together Christians across denominational and cultural lines to pray for spiritual awakening and world evangelization. Concerts of Prayer, David explained, was an historic term, used by Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening, one that described major prayer movements in succeeding generations as well.

 

David would soon begin to encourage such a prayer movement in our day, founding Concerts of Prayer International (today, called Proclaim Hope). But as for me, at that time, I didn’t understand Concerts of Prayer at all. I had only recently become a Christian and was still absorbing the basics of the Christian life. However, a seed had been planted, one which began to grow when Bob called me years afterward. I told Bob I would love to help, little knowing that I was saying yes to God for something much bigger.

 

At the time I was working in the environmental field as a nuclear chemist (or more technically, a radiochemist), analyzing soil, water, vegetation and other types of samples for low-level radioactivity by separating and counting radium, uranium, plutonium and other radionuclides. It was very interesting and challenging work, and I had no thought of leaving this career at the time, though God was beginning to call me away, eventually to serve the local Raleigh-area prayer movement full time.

 

At that time, however, there was as yet no prayer movement in the Raleigh area. Christians were not coming together from different churches and denominations for prayer—there was no existing opportunity for them to do so. There were no pastors in our city coming together for united prayer. And initially, the Concerts of Prayer effort that Bob and I organized only encompassed one church—the one we both attended. But it was a good and necessary starting point. We began in December 1984 with a prayer gathering of about thirty people. And, as I often like to say, we quickly “grew” to about four people, Bob, myself and two others who faithfully attended as we came together to pray each month. During this time, I began to read Jonathan Edwards’ writings on Concerts of Prayer and revival. He had advised the Christians of his day to organize a Concerts of Prayer movement, and to pray together in monthly gatherings for seven years . . . and then see if God would have them continue. What a challenge! We decided that by God’s grace, we would do just that. We ended up meeting monthly for eight years, and along the way, God began to multiply the prayer movement

 

The first significant thing that happened was that we were given an opportunity to facilitate united prayer gatherings at our local university, North Carolina State, bringing together Christian students in Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity, Navigators and other Christian ministry groups on campus. These were powerful times! Then, in 1987, we held the first City-Wide Prayer Rally, which brought together about 350 believers from approximately twelve area churches. David Bryant came in to lead that meeting, assisted by local pastors. This, as far as I have been able to determine, was the first truly unified, interracial prayer gathering in Raleigh; we had a wonderful time together that October night.

 

The response to that Concert of Prayer event was so positive that many local churches asked us to schedule one of the monthly meetings at their facility. So, there was now a Concert of Prayer each month at a different church where Christians from across the area could come together for prayer. And for the next several years, we would host an annual City-Wide Prayer Rally. These mass events continued to build up over the years, and we moved into the Raleigh Civic Center in order to accommodate the number of people participating. At the last City-Wide Prayer Rally, which was in 1997, there were some 2000 people, from 100 churches, led by a prayer team of 35 pastors! Perhaps the time is soon coming for us to hold another such prayer rally.

 

Over time, I gradually assumed leadership of what we began to call Raleigh-Area Concerts of Prayer. Bob Stevens’ heart leaned toward world missions, and we could see that this was his calling. Time has certainly shown this to be true—Bob has done a fine job mobilizing missions efforts, especially to unreached people groups.

 

It was in 1992 that I began to work more with the pastors. My sense was that their leadership in the prayer movement was of singular importance. And so, I organized the first Pastors’ Prayer Summit that year. I had recently heard about these unique pastor gatherings, which had begun in the late 1980s in the Northwest region of the U.S. Pastors were taking time out from their busy schedules and joining together for an extended period before God together. As those pastors were being ministered to and hearing from God together in these Pastors’ Prayer Summits, God was changing the landscape of the Church in that part of our country.

 

Because our local pastors were unfamiliar with these prayer summits, there was naturally some reluctance on their part to commit to three days away from their pastoral duties. So I suggested a one-day Pastors’ Prayer Summit instead. About twenty pastors, from many different denominations, met from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at New Hope Camp in Hillsborough, North Carolina. During that day, we worshiped together and joined together in heartfelt prayer, both as a whole group and in small groups. Over lunch, we had a wonderful time of fellowship. Many of these pastors hadn’t known one another before, or had only casual friendships.

 

This Pastors’ Prayer Summit marked the beginning of relationship-building between pastors that has continued to this day. When we reached the end of this first prayer summit, we knew that that God had done something profound amongst us, and that we should by all means continue these gatherings on an annual basis, for three days rather than one. And so we have continued to come together each March, at Ft. Caswell, a beautiful oceanside conference center south of Wilmington, North Carolina. I can’t begin to tell you how important these annual Pastors’ Prayer Summits have been to all that God is doing here in our region. These pastors prayer gatherings remain, I believe, the most foundational of all of the activities of Raleigh-Area Concerts of Prayer. These summits typically draw between 50 to 70 pastors from across the spectra, denominationally and culturally, of the local Body of Christ.

 

I will never forget one thing that happened at our Pastors’ Prayer Summit in 1996. The pastors gathered around me and told me that they believed God was calling me to serve Raleigh-Area Concerts of Prayer full timesomething I myself had wondered about from over the years. Then they laid hands on me and prayed for me, asking God to make this possible, if this is what He desired. At the time I was still working as a radiochemist. But a month after the Prayer Summit, I was laid off from my job. My wife Cindy and I saw God’s hand in this, coming as it did in the wake of these pastors’ prayers. I moved into full time service for Raleigh-Area Concerts of Prayer, and I’ve found this to be a great joy and deep privilege ever since.

 

I should mention that as a result of these Pastors’ Prayer Summits, various weekly and monthly pastors’ prayer fellowships have arisen throughout our area. These gatherings provide local pastors with more regular contact with one another, giving them the personal support they need and helping to keep their relationships strong. I find that this is something that pastors, who have great responsibilities and challenges, and who (along with their families) are often the target of much spiritual attack, greatly needed. Sometimes, I’ve sensed the need to offer other activities for pastors to come together. As they are praying together, God will often open up opportunities for them to do the work of the Kingdom together. Several examples come to mind.

 

One time, I took the Raleigh-area pastors on an Urban Prayer Journey. We all got on a bus and drove around the urban center of Raleigh, stopping at drug-dealing corners, locations where the homeless congregated, areas of violent crime, public housing projects, and other inner-city sites. We had a Raleigh police officer on board to help in identifying places that needed prayer. At each location, we all would get off the bus and join in prayer. God really broke our heart that day, as we prayed and wept for the needs of our city.

 

On another occasion, in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd and the horrendous flooding in the eastern North Carolina counties, the pastors in Cary, who had met weekly for prayer for over eleven years, all agreed that they needed to come together to help those in desperate need. We made some contacts in Greenville, and committed to working side-by-side to help rebuild an entire subdivision there of seventy-two houses. A number of Raleigh churches joined us in this effort, and on one remarkable November day, we had 500 people from thirty churches working together to put in insulation and drywall in all of these houses—truly a John 17 witness to this community. During lunch that day, the volunteers and the residents joined together in a giant cookout to celebrate what God was doing.

 

One more such incident is worth noting. These same Cary pastors were stirred into action following the tragic April 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in which twelve students and one teacher lost their lives and twenty-three students were injured. As school in Cary was preparing to reconvene in August of that year, the pastors decided to organize Empowerment 2000, a special back-to-school prayer gathering for students and parents throughout the greater Raleigh area, to prepare them for the 1999–2000 school year. Two Christian students from Columbine High, Sarah Houy and Chanelle Plank, were invited to come as special speakers. We really didn’t know what to expect as regarding attendance at this event, since we had never done anything like this before. God overwhelmed us6000 came! The two Columbine girls gave such a heartfelt Gospel appeal to those students and parents, that hundreds came forward to receive Christ. Truly a marvelous move of the Lord.

 

The one thing that all three of these above stories have in common is that they were born out of an active, ongoing pastors’ prayer fellowship. When the needs are there—and in a real sense, the spiritual needs in our communities are always there—the shepherds are already together and ready to respond. Such is the value of an active pastors’ prayer movement.

 

I continue my attempts to serve the local prayer movement in any way I can. As I write this, we have just completed our local National Day of Prayer event—a gathering for prayer at our State Capitol grounds in Raleigh. On this day each year, the first Thursday in May, we join with literally millions of Christians across the United States in lifting up prayers for our country. How thankful I am that I live in a nation that permits this kind of freedom, to assemble in a public square to join in prayer.

 

For over eight years, I have distributed the Pray Wake County Bulletin each month to hundreds of area churches and intercessors. The prayer bulletin contains up-to-date, urgent needs for prayer in our county, covering the greater Raleigh region. Churches register for Pray Wake County, committing to pray at least one day a month for these special requests. Currently, about seventy churches are registered, and every day of the month is covered in prayer by many churches. Though we can’t always get together in one place, we are indeed praying togetherliterally on the same page!

 

God continues to stir our pastors. In the spring of 2005, sensing an acute need in their own spiritual lives, they came together to pray and fast weekly for 90 days. These were pastors prayer gatherings like I had never witnessed—pastors confessing sin to one another, weeping protrate on the floor, and asking God to cleanse them thoroughly. After the 90 days was up, we all knew that we had to continue this weekly prayer time, and we have to this day.

 

The one thing that all three of these above stories have in common is that they were born out of an active, ongoing pastors’ prayer fellowship. When the needs are there—and in a real sense, the spiritual needs in our communities are always there—the shepherds are already together and ready to respond. Such is the value of an active pastors’ prayer movement.

 

I continue my attempts to serve the local prayer movement in any way I can. As I write this, we have just completed our local National Day of Prayer event—a gathering for prayer at our State Capitol grounds in Raleigh. On this day each year, the first Thursday in May, we join with literally millions of Christians across the United States in lifting up prayers for our country. How thankful I am that I live in a nation that permits this kind of freedom, to assemble in a public square to join in prayer.

 

For over eight years, I have distributed the Pray Wake County Bulletin each month to hundreds of area churches and intercessors. The prayer bulletin contains up-to-date, urgent needs for prayer in our county, covering the greater Raleigh region. Churches register for Pray Wake County, committing to pray at least one day a month for these special requests. Currently, about seventy churches are registered, and every day of the month is covered in prayer by many churches. Though we can’t always get together in one place, we are indeed praying together—literally on the same page!

 

God continues to stir our pastors. In the spring of 2005, sensing an acute need in their own spiritual lives, they came together to pray and fast weekly for 90 days. These were pastors prayer gatherings like I had never witnessed—pastors confessing sin to one another, weeping protrate on the floor, and asking God to cleanse them thoroughly. After the 90 days was up, we all knew that we had to continue this weekly prayer time, and we have to this day.

 

Out of this pastors’ prayer has come a once-a-month time of prayer for the whole Body of Christ in the greater-Raleigh area. We call this United in Prayer for Raleigh, and it takes place on 3rd Wednesday evenings, with many churches participating. Our theme verse for these prayer gatherings has been and continues to be 2 Chr. 7:14.

 

It has been said that prayer is the air that revival breathes, and I certainly believe it. How grateful I am to see what God has raised up here—a movement of united prayer that transcends denominations and cultures. I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve such a work of the Lord in our midst. Surely God is up to something! May God be pleased to grant us the revival we plead for.