“At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You, because of Your righteous judgements.” (Psalm 119:62)
“My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Your Word.” (Psalm 119:148)
ALL Christians are called to pray without ceasing. All Christians are called to approach the Throne Room of Grace with thanksgiving and intercession, and all are called to pray for the leaders of the Nations. As a Christian our first and primary responsibility to Christ is in the form of prayerful adoration. Every great ministry begins, ends, and is completely encompassed in prayer.
To the unsaved onlooker, prayer may seem so minimal. Activists may wonder, “why don’t they go out and feed the poor? Clothe the naked? Shelter the destitute?” All of these things are very good and social justice is one of the most important ways that a Christian can minister and proclaim their faith. HOWEVER, prayer is the ONLY way a Christian can develop the necessary heart that they need to not only begin this ministry but to follow it through until completion. Prayer is the only way they can be sustained in their calling to serve the poor when they start to feel weak or when they become discouraged because of their lack of progress. Prayer is the only place they can come to recharge their batteries and find rest and solitude in Christ to be refreshed to keep going.
Therefore, what I want to say is simply this: prayer is the greatest of all ministries! Is your best friend struggling? Do you want to give them the greatest gift you possibly can? Pray for their healing and comfort! Is someone in grief, surround them with verses of comfort and prayers for deliverance!
Being a prayer warrior is NOT an easy call in the least. There are some people who are more naturally pray-ers than others, just as there are some who can more naturally sing and more naturally preach. HOWEVER everyone has the opportunity to build their gift of prayer according to the grace given by God and be strengthened in their capacity to pray for families, nations, and the church!
To the world, prayer may look like it’s not accomplishing much. Just saying a bunch of words to a Being we can’t even see, but to the committed Christian, prayer is the greatest weapon against all forms of oppression and Spiritual warfare. It is the greatest declaration of victory and the greatest hedge of protection.
What is Night Watch?
Although all Christians are called to pray, God has selected a core group of individuals who are committed to praying during the hours of 12am-6am. The purpose of this group is as follows:
Believers who will combine prayer, intercession, and worship to encourage Christians around the world in different time zones and to pray against the present areas of darkness in this world. Proclaiming Christ’s return until He comes again. Declaring freedom from oppression and bondage. Until the Holy Spirit completely outpours Himself on the earth.
Those who feel called by God to intercede at both the physically and spiritually darkest times of the day are on a unique mission to allow God to change the hearts of the nation and of individuals during the very hours when sin abounds. For where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more!
Individuals who are called to the Night Watch have a unique mission which God will use to magnify His Kingdom, however, being part of the Night Watch is far from easy! People who truly are dedicated must be willing to completely alter their priories, even giving up other social activities in order to serve God in this way. Given its intense nature, many believers see the Night Watch as a type of “Social Fast.”
Although people who pray during the Night Watch add blessings to the Kingdom work of God, believers who are called to pray during the day are no less precious to God. For God has called some to pray during the day, some during the night, and others to encourage these faithful intercessors. Each one is called according to their abilities and unique ministries.
Scriptural Understandings: There are many verses in the Bible which speak to this attitude of 24/7 prayer and place special emphasis on the need for a few believers to pray during the night, although before IHOP I didn’t even know that such a ministry existed!
One really great example of someone who was committed to living a life of 24/7 prayer was the prophetess Anna. As we read in Luke 2:36-38, after Anna had become a widow she continued to live in the house of the Lord, daily serving Him and praying night and day. As Mike Bickle stated in one of his sermons at the conference, “Anna is a prophetess, and intercessor, an evangelist.” She fasted and prayed which was not a call to disengagement, but rather a call to be deeply involved in the ministry of God (Mike Bickle).
We also know from the Gospel of Matthew, that Jesus may come like a thief in the night. When Jesus was tempted in the garden on the last day of his earthly reality he longed for a companion to keep watch with him during the night, however, he could find no one. When Christ comes again, let’s not be like the virgins who weren’t ready for His coming and had to wake up. Rather, let’s be alert and waiting in expectation for His arrival.
Please allow me to highlight a few of the verses that have given me comfort since I began my ministry and helped confirmed to me that the Lord was leading me in this direction:
“Behold, bless the Lord, all servants of the Lord, who serve by night in the House of the Lord. Lift up your hands to the sanctuary and bless the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion, He who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 134:1-3; this is a whole chapter dedicated to the Night Watch!)
“The Light shines in the DARKNESS and the DARKNESS has not overcome it.” – John 1:5
“O God of my Salvation, I cry out DAY and NIGHT before You!” – Psalm 88:1
1 Peter 2:9
The following Scripture Verses all talk about long hours of prayer:
Other Reasons for Being Involved: From research on Spiritual warfare as well as talking about warfare with other believers who have been involved in the battle, I have discovered that often warfare can feel the strongest in the night or early morning hours. This is especially so in geographical pockets where there are cults, sorcery, and demonic worshipful activity. Make no mistake, beloved, often North American Christians feel like this does not apply to them. They feel like demonic activity only happens in third world nations, far away from where they are in their comfortable houses. However, this is not so. In many areas around North America there is still much evil and wickedness. People have chosen the dark rather than the light. They worship false gods and idols of greed, lust, and addictions at any cost. Even at the cost of their own souls. There is violence on the streets at night that many of us are not even aware of. Perhaps this may not be so in your own town, however, I guarantee you that regardless of where you live within a few hour’s drive there is darkness in the town over. Yet even though the night threatens to conceal the deeds of darkness, Christ has promised to bring them to light, to expose them, and we CAN be agents to usher in that change!
So, this evil and depravity are happening, and the saints who are called to shine like stars, through no fault of their own have fallen asleep. Their eyelids are heavy and after a long hard day of work they are ready to call it a night. However, while they sleep, the battle of the cosmos has only just begun!
As faithful servants slumber, the college student who has been staying up all night to write a paper that was due yesterday begins to be plagued by their insecurities and failures. They begin to feel vulnerable. Diabetic patients at the local hospital begin to have their blood levels dip to increasingly dangerous levels while bored nurses scuffle around checking only one patient at a time. Many experiencing PTSD and depression are plagued by nightmares and young children cry because they experience night terrors. Many believers who are struggling because of loss of employment, a death in the immediate family, or a personal crisis can suddenly awake in the middle of the night filled with anxiety, feeling completely lost and alone, and not sure who to call because none of their closest friends are awake and if they call their family they will immediately feel like an emergency has just happened.
Yet, how incredibly beautiful to know that during the night – whether you are that college student, that diabetic patient, or that person struggling with depression, that when you suddenly awake in the middle of the night and break out into a cold sweat, when the tempter guilts you, when your fears and failures completely cloud your vision – that there IS someone praying for you. When you can’t even pray yourself, there is someone interceding on your behalf. We were never called to silently go through our pain and struggles alone. That’s not the Christian way. We were always called to do this Jesus thing in community!
My Calling to the Night Watch: At the very beginning of the IHOPKC One Thing conference I learned about the calling to be part of the night watch. The minute that I heard about it I knew in my heart that if God made a way for me to be able to pray from 12-6am and if finances and careers weren’t in the question I would do it in a heartbeat. As the conference progressed and I continued to learn more and more about this unique mission my heart continued to grow with a stronger and stronger desire. Finally, on the night that Stuart Greaves, an IHOPKC leader who currently staffs and overseas the Night Watch program spoke he invited anyone who felt a calling from God to be part of this ministry to come to the front as people already involved in the night watch prayed over us. From that time forward I’ve continued to be passionate about this knowing that it is God’s will for me to minister to the nations in this way.
As I was worshipping one day and praying about whether God wanted me to be involved in the night watch I wrote the following in my journal all in block letters, “God is calling me to be an intercessory missionary. To pray for my community, my city, my country, the world, the global church, and my ministry. To cry out to God, to intercede with tears and weeping until the Kingdom of God is brought about on earth and until He comes. He is calling others to join this ministry. To search His will with prayer and fasting, to use social media for His glory. To use our gifts fully for His righteousness. To not care if we are mocked or scorned. To care more about God and His Kingdom than we care about other people’s opinions or even our own plans and dreams. He’s calling young men and women to build, to plant, to have vision. He’s calling the elderly to mentor, to instil disciplines into the next generation, to teach their children and grandchildren to worship the one true God. We are never too old or too young if we open our entire heart to Him and surrender everything to His mission. Cry out to Him and join Him in His reconciling work!”
I’m not going to lie, the first time that I tried to do the Night Watch away from IHOP it was very difficult. As it turns out, worshipping with a group of believers gives me extra energy. Perhaps because I am so extroverted, but more likely than not because you can get encouragement from them when you start to slack. Being in my room listening to IHOP CDs (as great as they were) didn’t seem to have the same effect. Even livestreaming the online prayer room (as great as it was) didn’t bring the same vibrancy to my worship. So, my very first night of praying the night watch ended up being left early. I had planned to pray from 9pm-2am and instead it ended up being 10pm-12:15am. At first I felt disappointed with myself. But then I remembered the words of Christ to his disciples “Could you not even stay awake with Me for ONE hour?”
It’s super easy to get burnt out in a ministry before you’ve even started. It’s easy to become entrapped in your fears of failure thinking that you’ll never make it. In reality, prayer is like exercise – it takes time to develop. Even in non-Christian settings if you ask a Buddhist or Eastern Spiritualist about meditation they will tell you that you work up to it. You start with even 5 minutes of emptying your mind and eventually you meditate for 4 hours. I’m not advocating for Eastern Spirituality, but the same concept hold here.
I had not had such a deep prayer life as I experienced at IHOP for the past several years and now I was expecting to run a marathon. You don’t do stuff like that! You’re going to sprain something and give up running completely! I used to run cross country – 6ks. You don’t start with running the full 6k! You begin with running 2, then 4, and eventually 6. So, I realized I needed to start small. Even if I only spend an hour with Christ at the beginning, I’m building up to the fact that eventually I want to be able to spend all night in prayer with Him! Even if at the very beginning the flesh is weak, the Spirit remains willing!
By the way, in case you’re wondering, I still had a lovely time with Christ and meaningful prayerful experience even though by 12:15am I was so tired and had a hard time keeping up. The truth is, though, that even after praying for 2 hours there was still more that I had on my heart to pray about. It was an incredible time. Rather than push myself over the brink and begin to resent it, I left that night more in love with the Night Watch and knowing that I want to come back again in a few days to the quiet place.
My Commitment: The book of Ephesians, perhaps one of the best writings on Spiritual warfare, teaches us that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
It is with this understanding and encouragement that I commit to praying in the watches of the night twice a week recognizing that all great ministries begin and end with prayer. Recognizing that changes happen when prayers continually go up. Recognizing that God chooses to reveal Himself in incredible ways during the night.
I know that to the world this will not seem to accomplish much, but if it were not for the prayers of faithful grandmothers, college students, and unlikely Christians our culture would not be pushed towards the Holy Spirit – it is a powerful and incredibly important work!
I also commit to being a prayer line for my family, friends, and church during the Night Watch whereby they can call me during the hours I am praying to receive prayer without fear that they will be waking me up and when they do not know who else to call. They can also text, email, or Facebook me anytime day or night with prayer requests. I will continue the cries of the faithful once they are asleep; after they have cried out to God all day I will continue those prayers.
At the moment, my job does not permit the lifestyle of praying 12am-6am so I have had to modify it to 9pm-2am. However, I continue to trust that if it is the Lord’s Will one day He will allow me the privilege of praying the full night watch.
Hoping On-Board – A Plan of Action for Those Who are New:
If you’ve been reading along and feel a call from God to be part of this ministry, I’d like to encourage you in that area and invite you to begin to pray a shift (probably about 2 hours at the very beginning). Pray a shift with the intention that once a week you will be interceding intentionally during the night hours and praying against the darkness. It is a very intentional calling and process. Additionally, know that your calling could be for a time or for life. If you are called for a time it does not at all imply inferiority. Perhaps God will just have different priorities for you in the future.
Know that not everyone is called to intentionally pray at night and that is completely OK. As mentioned earlier, some are called to the day watches, and others are called to offer encouragement and prayer support for those praying at night. Regardless of your calling, God will use you to do abundantly magnificent things for His Kingdom work.
The following is a general idea of how I want to do my Night Watch loosely based off of the Anabaptist Prayer Book and the way that we worshipped and prayed while I was at IHOPKC:
12am – We pray for ourselves and those dearest to us
~For God to raise up Godly marriages and Godly families in our Nation
~ For those in Grief
~ For those who need healing
~ For those experiences nightmares, that just like the Prophet Joel declared that God will transform the terrors into prophetic dreams
~ For new mothers who join us at this hour as they take care of new life
~ For the prayer requests offered up at church which we so often forget to acknowledge
1am – We pray for our geographical location (city)
~ Those ensnared by the darkness of this flesh (that You would break bonds of addiction, poverty, and habitual sin and fill them with good things instead)
~ Those who have been defiled because of the sins of others – to fill them with a knowledge that they are loved and that they are made fully complete in You
~ For the homeless in our neighbourhood/area
~ For those involved with gangs and street violence
~ For those afflicted and those who have lost jobs or are in economic hardship
~ For those who face spiritual poverty
2am – We pray for our nation
~ For our political leaders
~ For our spiritual leaders
~ That God would bring change and revival to our nation
~ For the incarcerated
~ For recent immigrants
~ For those who face prejudice and discrimination because of racial violence, sexism, hatred, misunderstandings, or homophobic insults
3am – We pray for our world
~ For Bible poverty to end so that all nations can know the Truth in their heart language
~ For areas where Christians are persecuted and imprisoned – that they will be strengthened and encouraged
~ That God will raise up mighty men and women of the Spirit who have gifts of leadership and prophetic insight in every continent and every country
~ For those affected by natural disasters
~ For our environment which is often pillaged and plundered and for areas of the globe which lack access to clean drinking water and other natural resources
~ For children around the globe who are orphans and unable to receive education
~ For areas which are still deeply affected by sexism and places where people worship the spirit of darkness and are held bondage to false gods
~ For racial reconciliation
~ For all missionaries, but especially for those in remote areas and secure countries where their names cannot even be published and where their threat of persecution and even death is a reality
~ For those just now sensing a call to ministry and missions, but not entirely sure what to do with it
~ For Bible and discipleship schools and seminary students everywhere
4am – We offer You other concerns we carry in our hearts
~ For our city as it wakes up and for safety of workers as they travel to their workplaces
~ For all saints to impact their co-workers, employers, and those they serve
~ For our unsaved co-workers and clients
~ For families who have recently experienced abortion to know that Christ truly forgives
~ For families expecting a child and those who face bareness
~ For those without families; for the fatherless to discover God as their true Father
** The point of the schedule is to be a guide for those brand-new to the Night Watch. There is a great deal of flexibility in following the Spirit during the physically and spiritually darkest time of the day. It’s incredible when we combine prayer, Scripture, meditation, worship, and intercession because they really aren’t separate categories, but intertwined with each other. Inseperable. The same things.
However, there is a warning to those who are called to engage in Night Watch which IHOPKC Night Watch Leader, Stuart Greaves states. “Often during the night activity ceases which may take away from distractions, but can also lead to idleness (which is the greatest enemy of the prayer life)!”
Nevertheless great blessings also await the child of God who is called to Night Watch and faithfully heeds that call. Some of these blessings are as follows:
“Glorious communion awaits when you stand with God in the watches of the night.” – Stephen, former IHOPKC Night Watch Intern
“The opportunity to affect the dream lives of believers.” – Stuart Greaves
“A rapid increase of worship.” – Stuart Greaves
Yes, there are will be difficult days ahead if you commit to the Night Watch. There will be days when you will be physically exhausted and want to put it off. There will be nights when your temptations come out and you are discouraged because you thought you had conquered them long ago through the blood of the Lamb and now they are staring you right in the face. There will be times when your phone rings and you want to accept a social call. BUT if you are willing, God will strengthen you in those times and your sacrifice will totally be worth it. So the question remains, “HOW MUCH IS JESUS WORTH? WHAT IF I AM CALLED TO THIS FOR THE REST OF MY DAYS (AND NOT JUST FOR A SEASON)?” – Stephen, IHOPKC