There have been a number of Prayer Summits in Saskatoon over the last Twenty-six years. Originally around 50 Christian pastors and ministry leaders gathered together for 4 days of worship and prayer seeking God. There were other prayer summits and times of seeking the Lord together and in later years business leaders were included. Some of us may ask what is a “prayer summit?” “A Prayer Summit is a prolonged, typically four-day, life changing worship experience. It is attended by a diversity of Christian leaders from a specific geographic community. Their sole purpose is to seek God, His kingdom, and His righteousness. The expectation is that God will create and guide them through a humbling, healing, uniting process, which will lead them to a unity of heart, mind, and mission and qualify them for the blessing of God.” - Dr. Joe Aldrich, founder of International Renewal Ministries.
This past week, 27 local pastors and Christian ministry leaders met for this four-day life changing experience. I would like to share some of my thoughts and insights both personally and collectively for our churches and the believers in Saskatoon.
One of the illustrations used to instruct during the Prayer Summit was a high five. In coming to a prayer summit there really is “no agenda”; there are no prepared sermons, personal advertising is not allowed. The prayer summit is really about connecting with God and each other. There is a desire within the heart of the attendees to experience God in fresh and reviving ways. There were lots of questions asked of the group. One of the questions was -
“What would it take to see a move of God initiated and sustained for the years ahead?” Over the years as the prayer summit developed five statements were formulated:
1. Coming into Worship and the Holy Presence of God. Experiential
2. Humility before God and each other.
3. Unity with God and each other.
4. True community
5. Impact when we return to our home and churches…
Face to Face
One of the Scriptures that God gave to me was Ex 33:7-23; the Tent of Meeting and the Glory of God. The prayer summit was an extended “tent meeting” where we encountered God’s glory. There was seeking, inquiring, worship and the Presence of God. In the midst of this Moses asks, “show me your glory.” God’s response is wonderful, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion”. Our encounter of worship in God’s Presence was overwhelming. Our worship wasn’t musical, although was sang, but was out of a devotion of heart and surrender. Our worship wasn’t man-made, although we had facilitators, but was carried along by the Holy Spirit.
What is the state of your heart?
In light of our worship of God and the encountering of his holy Presence we were asked the question – “What is the state of your heart?” At the start of the gathering we went around the circle of 27 and shared the answer to this question; struggling, addicted, fearful, transition, worried, pain, rejection, and so on. The depth of honesty and humility was staggering. We were exhorted over and over through the Scriptures led by the Holy Spirit.
Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name (Psalm 86:11).
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Prov 4:23).
One of the highpoints of the prayer summit was the depths of unity that we experienced in the group of 27. We came from all different denominational backgrounds, Protestant or Catholic. And we came together around the Lord’s Supper or Communion.
· The first communion was preceded by a sweet time of communion and worship in God’s Presence, but not everyone participated and this was like a white elephant in the room.
· The second communion time was preceded by the reading of Scripture during the day (Psalm 25; 1 Cor 1 – 2) and in the evening, the Communion Table was set before us but we did not partake because we were not in unity – Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. We lamented, grieved and confessed our sins of disunity to one another and the Lord. This non-communion was a somber reality of our sins but also a phenomenal time of unity as we remembered the prayer of Jesus in John 17:20-23 - “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
· The third communion experience was a time of prayer and blessing around the “bread and wine”. As the Lord led we went to each other and shared the elements, blessed one another and prayed. There was a profound sense of peace in the Holy Spirit as we focused on Jesus while praying for each other.
Community in the making
True community is so much more that putting on our spiritual faces. We had our times of deep spirituality while sitting together in a circle. But we also enjoyed eating together, playing hockey out on the lake, going for walks, sharing rooms to sleep at night, eating together some more, playing table tennis etc. I believe that because we encountered God in genuine worship and humbled ourselves together, and strove for unity during our times of communion, we were poised to enjoy true and heartfelt community. The first day of our prayer summit as story was told of a “boys club” that met in a tree house in a backyard. Boys can be boys and there were lots of struggles and wrestling amongst themselves, and sometimes someone got hurt. So, they came up with a club house rule: “anyone who enters this fort cannot be too high, they cannot be too low, just medium.” I can honestly say that out of all 27 pastors and ministry leaders present at the Prayer Summit, we all were just medium.
Where do we go from here?
On the last day before we left we were again asked the question, “what is the state of your heart?” The answers were very different; satisfied, full, at peace, forgiven, directed by God, acceptance, courageous… I was so encouraged to hear these praise reports from my fellow labourers in God’s vineyard.
The final question asked was this, “what is God saying to the church of Saskatoon?” (in the similar context of God speaking to the churches in Rev 2 – 3). We all took time to listen to God and consider the question. After a while, some people read their ‘letter from God to the church of Saskatoon’. There were some affirmations and blessings spoken out… there were some admonitions and exhortations spoken out… there were some corrections spoken out… The end result was a strong belief that God wants to impact our city for His Glory.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes…
I must say that this was one of the most personal and enlightening experiences of my 10 years of pastoring here is Saskatoon. I believe that the Lord has a plan and purpose for each one of us as his children. I also believe that God wants to impact Saskatoon through his Body as we worship in the Presence of his holiness, as we humble ourselves before God and each other, as we unite ourselves together fulfilling the prayer of Jesus, and as we engage in true community.
There is so much to share that it is not possible to speak on behalf of the other 26 people at the Prayer Summit. Suffice it to say, God is moving and his Kingdom will be established on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10).
Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints send their greetings. 14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Co 13:11–14.