HOUSTON (BP) — Months before related shootings in three states resulted in the deaths of eight policemen and two black civilian men in July, the Houston Police Officers Union began recruiting clergy and intercessors to make Houston a city of prayer.
The result is a prayer room established at police union headquarters in downtown Houston, where continuous prayers are planned around the clock for the city beginning in August, Union Baptist Association church consultant Rickie Bradshaw told Baptist Press.
“Our prayer request is for the Son of Man to come,” Bradshaw said, referencing the Lord’s Prayer. “So we’re going to pray day and night about His kingdom coming and His will being done on the earth, and all of this was taking place way before we’ve had this plight in America. There are a group of police officers in our city that want … Houston known as a city … covered by prayer.”
The prayer initiative is the result of work that began cooperatively in April among at least four Houston prayer networks, the police officers’ union, the Union Baptist Association of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and the nationwide Prayer Boot Camp initiative of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Prayer organizers believe the only answer to police-related, racially charged violence is a revival generated by the Holy Spirit, Bradshaw said, referencing the biblical parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8.
“These officers and these intercessors are now feeling like they have no other option as that widow did, who went to the judge day and night. She had no other option but to cry out to God to come,” Bradshaw said. “How long will it be? It will be until He comes and makes Houston the praise of the earth (Isaiah 62:7).”
Isaiah 62:7, which encourages Jerusalem to pray day and night, is also motivating the initiative.
“The Lord says you who are watchmen on the wall, for the sake of Zion, take no rest for yourselves and give Him no rest until He makes Jerusalem — London, Houston, whatever — the praise of the earth,” Bradshaw said. “How do we know when Houston becomes the praise of the earth? [When] revival and spiritual awakening [come].”
A total of 24 prayer captains, including six law enforcement officers and eight pastors, signed a covenant at a July 23rd Prayer Boot Camp at union headquarters, committing to ensure that intercessors are praying in the prayer room around the clock, Bradshaw told BP.
“What’s really exciting about this is these are men and women who have a relationship with Jesus Christ, recognizing that they have a responsibility to intercede on behalf of the city before the Lord Jesus Christ,” Bradshaw said. “We made a declaration that we would keep the fire burning until He comes. This says something that is at the very heart of 24/7; you don’t start and stop.”
The July 23 Prayer Boot Camp was designed by Claude King, discipleship and church health specialist with LifeWay Adults, who developed the prayer camp in December, 2015, as a model to teach Christian disciples how to pray. King developed the camps after the 2015 release of the “War Room” movie by brothers Stephen and Alex Kendrick, and based the content on the movie-related resource “The Battle Plan for Prayer.”
“What Claude King has taught us is prayer is discipleship,” Bradshaw said. “Jesus said go out in twos, because we don’t want the fire to go out. Those men and women who have signed up to become captains, we are saying to them, we want you to sign a covenant to disciple others.”
LifeWay Prayer Boot Camp
King offered the camp at the July Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C., July 11-15, among more than 10 other camps he has offered in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky, and in Texas prisons.
“What we believe is that God’s going to take the body of Christ, the larger body of Christ and help us to love one another, and show compassion, and to feel the pain, and to pray differently,” King said. “How do we pray in light of the circumstances of today?” he asked African American leaders and laypersons gathered at Ridgecrest.
“We need to ask God to give us a heart of compassion like His for those He has created,” King teaches. “We need to pray together. But not against each other; for each other. We need to pray blessing and not cursing. We need to pray for understanding and empathy.”
Former North American Mission Board regional vice president Gary Frost, currently national facilitator of prayer and compassion initiatives of the Mission America Coalition, joined King in leading the Ridgecrest prayer camp.
“Do you sense that, not only are a lot of things happening, they’re happening fast. It seems like there’s an acceleration of stuff going on. Fifty people are killed in Orlando, and then this happens over here and that happens over there,” Frost said. “It seems as if our civilization as we know it is actually disintegrating. There’s a breaking down going on.”
Frost pointed participants to the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount and the beatitudes in responding to violence.
“We have an opportunity in this current dark environment for the world to see Christ,” Frost said. “When you pray you’re talking to somebody who knows what you’re talking about, because Christ was tempted in every point just like you are, yet He never sinned. So the ultimate reconciliation can only occur in Christ who is the bridge, who connects us all together in oneness. We have to come together in unity, and that can only happen in Christ.”
King is leading three camps this week in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with a flexible curriculum that can be tailored to multiple timeframes including weekly prayer meetings and one-time events from two hours to one day long, King said. Resources are available at http://blog.lifeway.com/growingdisciples/prayer-boot-camp/.
“During the Prayer Boot Camp, groups learn how to pray and how to pray specifically and strategically. More importantly they spend significant amounts of time praying together,” King told BP. “I’ve led Prayer Boot Camps primarily to train trainers so they in turn can lead Prayer Boot Camps in their churches and in other areas, associations and state conventions.”
King noted, “When people who are rightly related to God pray, God works in circumstances and in the lives of others in answer to our prayers and in accordance with His will. Prayer doesn’t change things, but God changes things in answer to prayer.”