Preach Less, Pray More

October 20, 2010

Peter leads prayer as the service begins.
We sang for at least 30 minutes.
A closer view of people seated on the floor.

On Sunday morning we attended a house church in Dalian. They moved to the apartment after the authorities forced them out of the rented facilities where they had been meeting. Since then some believers have left but the core remains strong and committed.

The first people arrive at 8:30 AM to pray. Following Chinese custom, everyone takes off their shoes and puts on slippers before entering the home. Because chairs take up too much room, people sit on mats on the floor.

When we arrived there were 10-15 people kneeling in prayer on rugs in the living room. A young man stood in front of the room, leading in prayer with upraised hands. As we came in, the Chinese believers warmly welcomed us. While we talked, prayer continued in the living room. Peter showed me his office. On one wall there is a huge map of China; on another wall a map of the United States. I was touched when he put his hand over Tupelo on the map and said, “Pastor Ray, almost every day I put my hand right here on the map and pray for you.”

Prayers continued as others arrived. Then Peter stood at the front of the room and exhorted the people. His wife led numerous songs which the people sang with great joy. We could recognize the word “Hallelujah” in many of them. Eventually almost 50 filled the living room, sitting on the floor to make room for others. There  were 25-30 women in front and about 20 men near the back of the living room with some women sitting on a couch on one side. Every available space was taken. The group was young, largely college and university students. Occasionally everyone would pray out loud at the same time. At first it seems strange to Western ears but then the power of the united prayer overwhelms you.

After perhaps 25 minutes of singing, I preached and a man named “Lucky” interpreted. I felt great freedom as I encouraged these dear believers and told them that thousands are praying for them. They responded with cheers and with a loud “Amen.” After my message Peter spoke to them again, then we prayed, then he mentioned another church being harassed and we prayed again. At length he passed around a simple cloth bag in which the people placed their offerings. Peter told me that although almost half his congregation has disappeared since the authorities intervened, the giving has stayed the same.

The whole service lasted about two hours. It was a very joyful experience and deeply humbling to be with these very fervent believers who have been under pressure for their faith. Most of them were present at the service in September when the police came and took Peter away for questioning. 

This morning I met the lead pastor of the largest house church in Dalian. Last Sunday the authorities came to their service and stopped the pastor from preaching. Peter said that when he visited the church on Friday night, there were people praying and weeping in the basement and on the second floor and the third floor. This touched him deeply. 

When I asked Peter how things have changed since the harassment began, his reply was simple. “I preach less and we pray more.” They pray for an hour at least before the sermon and again for 30 minutes after the sermon. 

Perhaps this is a lesson for all of us. When hard times come, pray, pray, and keep on praying. Our brothers and sisters in China have shown us the way. 

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Ray Pritchard

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