Our pastor has called our church to a season of special prayer. This in itself is an answer to prayer, as a group of intercessors at City Church has been crying out to God for over a year for an increased desire for prayer to be birthed in the congregation. So we have been holding a series of weekly congregational prayer gatherings at City Church during the month of September, and we have sensed the Spirit of God at work as we have prayed.
Last Wednesday evening, those who gathered for prayer were led out into the streets of Vanier to pray for the community in which our church is placed. Vanier is a community with many challenges. A hundred years ago it was a suburb – a quiet village on the outskirts of Ottawa, a desireable place to build a life and raise a family. More recently Vanier experienced gradual decline over several decades, as its abundance of cheap rental properties became a haven for drug pushers and prostitutes. But during the past few years a new resolve has arisen among the citizens of Vanier, spearheaded by a coalition of community groups, that it is time to turn things around.
Although only a small minority of the members of City Church actually live in Vanier, as a congregation we feel we have a responsibility to seek the good of the community in which our church building is located and in which we gather for worship each week. So City Church has participated in various ways in the emerging movement for the restoration of Vanier. Our prayer walk was one expression of our desire to see Vanier reclaimed and restored. It was also an expression of our conviction that our city – any city – can only find its true identity and destiny to the extent that Jesus is acknowledged as rightful Lord and King.
We stopped and prayed at several strategic points : a strip club, a little park across the road from a couple of rental properties that have a reputation as drug houses and are frequented by prostitutes, a new housing development, and an Islamic school. As we prayed in each of these places, God was giving us His heart for the people we were praying for, and showing us glimpses of what He desires to do in each place.
In the past, prayer walkers from our church had tried to be non-obtrusive and stay anonymous, but the group that went out last Wednesday was big enough that anyone on the street would know something was going on. We got some interesting reactions! At the strip club we got a number of curious, wondering glances, but nothing more. At the Islamic school we attracted the attention of some (white, clearly non-Islamic) neighbours who were offended that Christians would pray for Muslims. The irony here is that I have prayed for many Muslims and none of them had any objection to being prayed for by a Christian – on the contrary they were usually grateful. We desire to see our Muslim neighbours blessed by the knowledge of the One who truly embodies the principle of Islam (submission to God) – our Messiah Jesus.
At the park, across the road from the drug houses, we met up with a small group of Vanier residents, members of the Vanier Beautification Committee, who have been walking the neighbourhood weekly for over a year, keeping an eye on problem properties. This was something we hadn’t expected, and it was a source of great encouragement to both groups. After we had prayed, some of the folks from the Vanier Beautification Committee had tears in their eyes. I was deeply moved myself, as were many in our group.
Prayer is powerful! I fully expect that we will be prayer walking through our community again. It is time for the church to arise and reclaim the land for God’s purposes.