Lieutenant Xander Coleman, corps officer of the Banbury Salvation Army Prayer Beacon Corps (United Kingdom with the Republic of Ireland Territory) shares how the corps has chosen to make prayer the major emphasis of its community life and mission, becoming a house of prayer in and for the local community.
Passion for Prayer
During a period when the corps was without a commanding officer, they came face-to-face with the need to rely on God's provision, guidance and vision. During this time they saw and received answers to prayers. On the back of what God was doing through the Roots movement, a number of key individuals in the corps caught a passion for seeking God through prayer. This manifested in prayer becoming the heartbeat of the corps and developed into a focus for its mission and identity.
As this vision for prayer spread like contagion through the corps, it was felt that such an emphasis should be recognised in a formal way. Taking the values of the Boiler Room model - prayer, creativity, mercy, hospitality, mission and learning - and moulding it around the framework of a traditional-shaped corps, the idea of a Prayer Beacon was developed. In May of 2008 Banbury became the first Salvation Army Corps in the United Kingdom to become a Salvation Army Prayer Beacon Corps.
The Prayer Room
The need for a designated, ground floor prayer room (accessible to as many people as possible) was immediately recognised.
Artistic and prayerful people within the corps fellowship gladly took on the challenge of equipping the room. Prior to being used for the first time, the room was already soaked in prayer. The displays change on a regular basis as the Spirit guides. Initially many of the displays were teaching tools, helping people to explore the various ways of praying (e.g. praying the Bible, soaking prayer, lectio divina). The displays also encourage opportunities for personal, interactive and intercessory prayer.
The room is a space where people can find peace and the opportunity to sit quietly in God's presence. Many people comment on the powerful presence of God they experience in this room, and that the prayers offered there are almost tangible. The prayer room has also encouraged many of the corps members to fellowship more regularly, and to confidently offer to pray for and with visitors during the usual weekly programme.
Answers to Prayer
The first amazing answer to prayer that the Prayer Beacon corps experienced was God leading people to take responsibility for all the weekly program activities and developing a more loving corps fellowship. Corps members have undergone accelerated spiritual growth and a willingness to move out of their comfort zones in order to allow God to change, grow and develop priorities. Other experiences include witnessing spiritual and physical healing, deliverance, souls being filled with the Holy Spirit and their spiritual lives being revolutionised!
More recently the Lord has been leading the Banbury corps to ‘pray big prayers', exercising their faith to see God's kingdom come in their community. One of the key prayers over the last few years is for the return of prodigals - those who have backslidden or left the fellowship. One-by-one, people have started to come back to the corps, get saved, and become involved in the ministry of the corps.
Being a ‘Prayer Beacon' is an ongoing journey - the corps is never static. God continues to open new avenues of prayer and service, and show the Corps members how passionate and effective prayer can be weaved through all of their activities. The official designation as a ‘Prayer Beacon' has helped the corps members to own the ministry of prayer. Their vision is developing around their impact not just in the local community, but as a resource for the local Church, the Division and the Territory as a prayer centre. The whole building is a ‘house of prayer', not just the prayer room.
When asked about the corps' vision for its community, Lieutenant Coleman replied, "We want to see prayer bring together the body of Christ in Banbury, to bring revival, to release the gifts, and to equip God's servants for their works of service. We want to see prayer drawing people into intimacy with God and see the answers to our prayers celebrated together. Ultimately, I would love to see Banbury Prayer Beacon praying non-stop: 24/7/365! We're still a long way off from that point, but we're trusting God to give us faith for greater things!".
Their desire for the Army is that prayer would become as natural to Salvationists as breathing - that around the world Salvationists would be awakened by the very Spirit of God to the need for fervent, corporate and personal prayer. It is also their prayer for more dedicated prayer centres to be birthed in the UK territory and around the world.
Not every corps is called to be a ‘Prayer Beacon', but they are all called to be praying corps. The best way to learn to pray is simply by doing it.
Dream big, start small, and go deep.