For two years I served as a trustee of Union Theology in the UK, a growing network of hubs, learning and research centres.
Part of being a trustee of a UK charity which was part sponsored by a large Korean Church was an annual visit to Sarang Church in Seoul.
The building is impressive, 11 stories above ground, 8 stories below ground and the sanctuary has its own tube station, part of Seoul's metro system. The Church boasts 100,000+ members, the choir is bigger than most UK Churches.
I must admit I wondered how the Church managed to keep its focus on God, while the machine of this Mega Church was active. With five Sunday services, each with 8,000 people and then weekly activity to rival a small city, I was so pleased to see how prayer played a part of this Presbyterian Church.
We arrived on Friday (late afternoon) and at 5am on Saturday morning we attended the daily 5am prayer meeting - yes I did say both '5am' and 'daily'.
I have personally experienced early morning prayer in Uganda, Kenya, India and South Africa but not Korea. A hallmark of this country is the loud spoken prayer of the entire congregation.
It was bizarre as we approached the Church around 4.30am to see hundreds of people walking toward this Global Ministry Centre, silhouetted by the street lights, still piercing the darkness of night.
The place looked empty at 4.50am with only 5-600 people in attendance, but minute by minute more and more people came. People coming to Church for the hour of prayer before work and many coming to Church off the back of a night shift. By 5.15am there were around 3,000 of us praying.
Led by Pastor Oh, the Senior Pastor of the Church, I was impressed by the fact there was very little going on except Prayer. Often in the UK, I've attended Prayer Days which were mainly facilitating worship, preaching, long announcements, promotion of ministry and actual prayer was the last on the list in terms of time spent praying.
I looked at people around me, many with tears running down their faces as they prayed. I couldn't understand what they prayed, but my heart knew full well, Heaven heard their prayers.
The picture below is the 8am Sunday morning service, you can see the scale of things. The Saturday prayer time had just less than half the number of people.
What I brought back from this experience is if we want change, if we have a vision, and believe that God is going to use us, then we have to fuel this with Prayer. Not the 1-2 minutes we might pray on a Sunday, not the thanks for food prayer we proclaim at meal times. We have to engage prayer where it inconveniences us. Early morning prayer, where there is no mobile phone, no TV, News or Social Media. We come to God in our weakness to let Him engage with us in His strength.
I hear so many people these days with problems, issues, stresses, and yet there's no talk of prayer. I must admit the last couple of years I haven't done as much as I should have and with the places I've been to, I am doubly guilty of not doing enough in prayer.
So for 2019 and beyond, I'm praying in the morning and working out a time to fast once a month, that the 'problems' I face are themselves challenged with answers from a God I've taken the time to engage.
So no excuses, lets get down to some serious Prayer, for our families, work place colleagues, our Church, our streets, Towns and Nation.