This weekend we celebrate the Kansas City Boiler Room’s five-year anniversary (as well as the eleven-year anniversary of the first 24-7 prayer room launching in Chichester, England). We threw a birthday party to celebrate, complete with worship, stories about the beginning of the 24-7 prayer movement and the Boiler Room, slideshows of (sometimes ridiculous) pictures from the past five years, a piñata for the kids, and a fair amount of good food.
I had heard some of the stories before, but some chapters of the Boiler Room’s history were new to me. As I sat and listened to these stories about a small group of passionate twenty-somethings trying to love Jesus and each other, I was so aware of how new we are here to this community, of how we’ve stepped into a place already pulsing with a history of vibrant relationships and crazy God encounters.
And yet, Adam was right in saying that these aren’t just their stories, belonging to their small group of friends; these are our stories. And in some ways, these stories are a piece of my story. The Boiler Room community and the larger 24-7 Prayer community have been a part of my journey with the Lord long before we moved to Kansas City.
Before I even moved Toledo, before I ever heard of the Boiler Room or had any clue that something like 24-7 prayer existed, God was using them to set the stage for my encounter with Him. The year before I moved to Toledo, Luke Gilkerson, the campus minister of ACT (Active Christians Today) at the time, read Red Moon Rising and God began to birth in him a vision for prayer. In the early fall of 2005 Derek (obviously not my husband yet; I didn’t even know he existed at that point!) sat down with Luke and they exchanged stories of these crazy prayer movements that God was doing, Derek sharing about IHOP (the International House of Prayer) and Luke sharing about Red Moon Rising and 24-7 Prayer. ACT had their first 24-7 prayer week and moved into a season of a focus on prayer and intimacy with God.
And so in the fall of 2006, I came in to ACT, a searching, academic-addict who wasn’t sure what she believed about much of anything but who desperately wanted to find an authentic experience of Christian community. When Luke shared some of the revelation he’d received about the importance of spending time with the Father, the truth of his words cut straight to my heart and I was floored by the realization that I could do nothing, no great work or service, more important than spending time with God. A week later I signed up for an early morning prayer slot to give it a try. There in that little basement room, I met Him in a more profound, more real way than I ever thought possible. I encountered the stunning reality that God was there in the room with me and that He wanted to speak to me. It changed my life completely (how could it not?). Suddenly, in that encounter with God in the prayer room, the story of 24-7 prayer, with it’s network of friends and communities spanning countless nations, became my story, my history, too.
That experience produced a hunger in me for God’s presence as I returned to the prayer room day after day, even after the prayer week ended. I longed to see others encounter God in a real and personal way, to experience that same beautiful intimacy with him. Eventually I left school but returned to ACT to work as a prayer intern for a semester. Over the following months (years) as I helped with and prayed into prayer week after prayer week, I followed the story of 24-7 through newsletters. Through the shifting and struggles of my final year in ACT, when I ached with a desire to see passion and faithfulness arise there again, itched with frustration at the apathy around me, and wrestled with my own hurts and loneliness, those stories were a source of hope and encouragement to me. So much of what I read put words to the longings in my heart. I seriously considered joining Transit that fall (apparently I inquired about it in the midst of their transition from Kansas City to Madison) and at one point sent Wendy Andrews a rather lengthy, somewhat desperate e-mail asking for prayer. As I paced through the empty prayer room and carried the torch of prayer largely on my own for that season, it encouraged me knowing that there were other people with the same passion who were standing with me in prayer, even from across the country.
Later, when I had moved on to the Lewis House, 24-7 prayer popped up again in my life. George and Sarah had gone to visit the Stockbridge Boiler Room in Grand Rapids and brought home a copy of Punk Monk, chronicling the story and vision of the Boiler Rooms. They liked it enough that they ordered copies for everyone in the house and we read through it together. Once again I found the words echoing the dreams and longings of my heart. We began putting together prayer and soaking rooms in the house (my favorite was our prayer closet, a literal “boiler room” complete with a hot water heater!) and hosted several 24-7 prayer times. Though it was just a season there, God used that time to solidify my certainty that I am called, in whatever context I find myself, to the place of prayer and to creating a space for people to encounter God.
When Derek and I followed God’s calling to pack up our lives and move to Kansas City this past March to join the Boiler Room community, in some ways it felt like the most natural continuation of the story God has been writing in our lives for years.
So on Sunday, as we gathered with the Boiler Room to celebrate their birthday and hear their story, my heart soared in thankfulness for the way God has used the faithfulness and vision of this little band of friends to bring fruit not only in their community, but in lives and communities all across the nations. Including mine.
May God continue to bless this community and their devotion to Him and one another!