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Looking Back

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Looking Back

July 1982

Is Your Church Much Prayed In?

asks Ian Cowie, Christian Fellowship of Healing (Scotland)


“Your church is to be closed down” – what dismay this causes in the hearts of members.

Yet how often have these members actually been in the church, and how much use have they made out of it as it stood there, week in, week out?

In the past two years of working with the Christian Fellowship of Healing in a church building I have seen a dream in the way to fulfilment: a church building used for prayer throughout the week. I have seen how much it means to people that they can pray there, either on their own or with sympathetic people who understand what prayer means.

As a parish minister I was often never in my church from one Sunday to another, because I was for ever going about the parish. I was often painfully aware that it was sitting there unused, with the doors locked. This meant that people in a crisis situation who came to seek help could not get in.

Now I see that each church should be a workshop of prayer, open and equipped to help people to pray. We cannot leave them open, unattended, so we need to have the “two or three” on duty. Even if we can only staff it like this in the forenoons, that is a step towards longer opening hours.


The old cathedrals had side-chapels, dedicated to various saints and each saint had his speciality, and we could adapt this. In various corners of the church we could have focal points relevant to our needs today.

Focus for the seeker, near the door, where the person seeking God can find simple literature, an easily readable Bible, and a letter telling him what to do if he wants to have a talk with the minister or some other person to help him.

Focus on Healing, where there would be leaflets to help the person coming in to ask for prayer for himself or for somebody else. There might be a list of those for whom prayer had been requested, and a rota of prayer for the local doctors, nurses and others who care for the sick.

Focus on Peace: Newspapers, magazines and leaflets to pinpoint the need for prayerful concern, perhaps a globe or world map, and suggested prayers for peace.

Focus on the local community: Perhaps a photograph of the parish looking down from a hill or from a plane, suggestions for prayers about specific local problems, and the names of the local MP, councillors, officials etc.

Members of the congregation who have a particular concern for one of these focal points could get together to keep their own bit up to date, with flowers, literature, etc., and they might even make a point of being there together once a week to pray in it.

One realises that this might involve altering some of the seating round the outside of the church, but not much would be lost. If chairs replaced pews at some points, these could be re-adjusted for the big occasion when all the seats were needed. Heating is a real problem, but since people arrived with their coats on, and would not be staying long, it is only in very cold weather that one would have a real problem. There would, however, need to be a room in which the duty team could relax, make tea and welcome the caller – perhaps with a telephone.

We have not been able to experiment with focal points like this because we are only ‘tenants’ on the building in which we work, but our experience is that the church is a great asset which is undervalued. When we kneel quietly, and the Presence of God comes, it is a wonderful experience. In theory it can happen anywhere, and God is not confined to “God-boxes”, but at the same time experience shows that there is something special about a place that is much prayed in. How about your church?

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