The Unfolding Vision
When I was an undergraduate student in Manchester I had a conversation with the vicar of Holy Trinity, Platt, church, the Rev Tony Porter (now Bishop of Sherwood) on the subject of revivals. He had a lot of knowledge about mission in general and I was keen to learn what factors played a part in making particular revivals happen. He told me that research had been done into the background factors for revivals and it had found that in each case the factors were different. There was, however, one factor which was common to all. Before any revival took place there was always a group of people who were persistently praying for revival to come. Prayer was the key!
It was whilst attending a Sunday evening service at St Nic’s church in Nottingham that my life was transformed by a personal encounter with God. The encounter with God was brief. I have learnt that when God speaks it usually is brief. Or perhaps God knows I have a terrible memory and that, in my case, a few words are better than a lot! The guest speaker was talking about evangelism and I was not feeling very positive about the subject. I remember having doubtful thoughts about my ability to win anyone for Christ when the words came into my head, “You can’t but I can!” As I went on to process these words I became ever more convinced about how vital prayer was to the building of the Kingdom of God.My prayer life has not been the same since!
It was in 2002 that I first sensed God’s desire for me to design a course that would enable others to learn what He had shown me over the years about prayer. But it was two years later when studying theology at Trinity college in Toronto, Canada, that I actually began to put my thoughts onto paper. My diploma required me to choose ten courses for study, and one of the courses I chose was on prayer. It was a course led by a nun, and my final assignment was to create my own prayer course. What I came up with was Prayer Eleven.
I then returned to the UK and became very busy with changing jobs and moving house to live in Leeds. Two more years passed as I trained to become a Reader in the Bradford Diocese (now the diocese of “West Yorkshire and The Dales”) of the Church of England. During this time I took a month off work to do the 30 day Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius at the Loyola Hall Jesuit spirituality centre (now closed) outside Liverpool. When I returned home many people in my church in Pudsey were curious to hear about my experience on this retreat so I organised a Saturday morning workshop in which I talked about this and then we did some practical exercises together. This led to a group of ladies from my church asking me what they could do next to grow in their prayer lives. In our conversations I mentioned Prayer Eleven and a number of them seemed interested in doing it. One in particular regularly asked me when we would be doing the course!
Another year passed. Life was busy. But then two things happened which made me decide to give the course a go. The first was that my plans for the future had dried up and the months ahead had become clear of other activities that might get in the way of doing the course. The second was that I had come to realise I would never be an expert in prayer, but that shouldn’t stop me from offering what knowledge and experience I had to others who were looking to grow as pray-ers. After receiving approval from the priest at my church, I advertised the course and twelve people signed up to do it. As each week of the course went by I sensed that God was showing me what I should teach, and to my surprise, the course seemed to be having a significant impact on the students. I then contacted a priest at another local church and offered to teach the course there. My offer was accepted and thirteen people signed up for it. Most completed the course, and again seemed to be very positively effected by it.
In the autumn I taught the course again, but this time just to men. I had learnt so much from leading it, and one thing I realised is that one course does not suit all people. This is why I have divided the adult course into one for men and one for women. In the future, I may develop courses for other groups of people such as children, teenagers and adult beginners, and some day I will develop an advanced course for those who have already done the adult course and want to take things further. It is my hope and dream that prayer will become a priority and a passion for all Christians, and if Prayer Eleven can do something which helps this to happen, that would be great. So at the end of 2008 I created the Prayer Eleven website as a means of making the Explorers in Prayer course material available for others to use.
On the 2nd of January I placed my first advert in the Church of England Newspaper as part of the national launch of my prayer course – Explorers in Prayer. In the Autumn edition of The Reader magazine I wrote an article on prayer which also advertised my course. At the end of 2009 I had had 1820 hits on my web site from 27 countries, though the vast majority in the UK. In the second half of 2009 I was working on a new course called Seekers through Prayer, which is for individuals or groups of Christians to download for free and use to develop their own prayer lives. During this year I got married and moved from Leeds to Nottingham. This brought my own leading of the Explorers course to a temporary halt whilst my wife and I considered what church we should be involved with in Nottingham.
The Seekers Through Prayer course has now been completed and loaded onto my web site. I have also added some more pages to the website – Courses on Prayer, Bible Colleges and Retreat Places. I then launched the new Seekers course through placing adverts in the Church Times, Baptist Times, Methodist Recorder and the Catholic Herald, and through sending emails to as many clergy I could find addresses for in England. I have received many positive responses from people all around the country. To develop my own knowledge on the subject, I am now studying part time for the MA in Christian Spirituality at Heythrop college in London. At the end of 2010 I have had 5819 hits on my web site from 81 countries which is three times more than last year.
Unlike the previous two years there has been no big promotion of Prayer Eleven which is reflected in the reduced number of hits to the website. However, if you exclude the large number of hits which were a direct result of the previous promotions, then the picture is still one of slow growth, particularly from around the world. So by the end of 2011 the website had 3980 hits from 89 countries. Meanwhile, much work has been done on the website with the addition of many more pictures, the expansion of the colleges and retreat centre pages, and the addition of the Quotations, Types of Prayer, and the School of Christian Prayer pages. So as 2011 comes to an end, I am in the process of preparing for the first Explorers in Prayer courses of the Nottingham School of Christian Prayer to begin in January 2012 at my home in Beeston, Nottingham.
2012 has been a mixture of encouragement and disappointment. The encouragement lies in the way the Explorers course was received by those that did it. It seems to impact people’s spiritual lives in significant ways. The course was taught twice this year in Nottingham. I also did the first one day conference on prayer at Pudsey church – Prayer 11:1 – which was also well received. Also the number of hits to the website grew every month this year so that the total for the year was 8895 from 129 different countries around the world. Also, the website got a cleaner look to many of its pages, especially the home page. The web pages with information concerning Retreat Places and Bible Colleges were extended to make the website more international. In addition to this I have created a new Moodle website, linked to Prayer Eleven, with ideas for developing new courses. The disappointment for this year lies in the fact that the numbers signing up to the Explorers course in Nottingham are still very small.
Progress remains slow in 2013. My enthusiasm for this project has gone up and down over the year but the work on the project continues. On the positive side the number of hits on my website has almost doubled to 17095 from 149 different countries around the world. I have also created an Android app for the Seekers through Prayer course which has been downloaded onto 9 mobile phones since October. In terms of the website itself, this year I had a rogue file get into my website database which resulted in me having to delete and rebuild the site. I have also re-edited both prayer courses and created a new page to help people in the UK to find a spiritual director/companion. But Prayer Eleven is not just about helping others on their journey into prayer and spiritual maturity, it is also a personal journey for me – and part of that journey for me this year included completing my MA in Christian Spirituality at Heythrop College in London.
A lot of work on my website has been done in 2014. At the beginning of the year I initiated my first prayer campaign, which was intended to encourage people to pray for the people of North Korea, and an end to their suffering under an evil regime. Later in the year I began a process of change to the look of the website with a new set of banners which a professional designer helped me make, and I have been rethinking the home page. There have also been a new page created on the subject of Prayer Walking. I also decided to move the information about Prayer Eleven to a separate page About Prayer Eleven. I also had the idea to create a page on the website for those who land on it, but would not call themselves Christian – What is a Christian? – which I hope would answer some questions and point them in the right direction. But the big project for this year has been the creation of the Prayer Video Library with 20 videos filmed in the first year which have had 559 plays so far. A big ‘Thank you’ to those who agreed to be videoed for this project. Meanwhile, the number of hits on my website continues to grow, so there were 29,632 hits in 2014 from people in 185 countries.
I continued to develop my website in 2015. For the period of Lent I created a new web page called Ten Tips For Lent. Then later in the year I created the Praying with Children page which features a number of videos and resources on that subject. I also made it a priority to change the home page on a regular basis with interesting videos and information about prayer events. But the main thing I did was expand the Prayer Video Library to a total of 53 videos. This included a video by Rowan Williams which fell into my lap as he had been invited by others to come to Nottingham and talk about prayer. I just jumped onto the back of that event. There were many other great videos too! In 2015 there were 2302 plays of my videos. Meanwhile, the number of hits on my website continues to grow, so there were 46,349 hits in 2015 from people in 191 countries. The year had an unfortunate ending when, due to circumstances outside my control, I had to change the host company for my website. Hopefully, this will prove to be a good move in the long run!
This has been a really busy year. To get all the work done this year I have had to reduce the priority of the Prayer Video Library…so only four new videos have been added to the library this year. So firstly, I have changed the theme to my website which, apart from looking better, and more professional, also made the website much more mobile phone friendly – really important these days when so many people access the internet via their phones. I also took advantage of my new host service provider, which has servers in different parts of the world, to turn my website into a global website network. Secondly, I updated my Seekers through Prayer course into a video course, with the help of many people, but in particular the Rev Jonathan Edwards who presented the course for me. I am grateful to all those who helped with this project. Thirdly, I completed another project which had the aim of producing a video to promote houses of prayer. In the end I produced two videos – a short and longer version video – and, again, many people helped me out with this. In particular, I would like to thank my wife for her patience and continuing support in this ministry. Finally, I have felt challenged by God to stop keeping records of how many are visiting my websites, etc…so no numbers will be available for the foreseeable future.
This has been a pretty quiet year in terms of changes to the website itself. I’ve added a few more videos to the Prayer Video Library, and a few other minor changes here and there. However, behind the scenes my focus has been the development of a new video course on Christian spirituality, to be done during the period of Lent. I had hoped it would be completed in time for Lent 2018, but with lots of work still to do at the end of 2017, I came to the conclusion that this project is going to take another year to complete.
My moto: “Build slow, build small, build deep, build strong”