“We have kind of been snacking on prayer. We want to think about prayer differently. Open ourselves to listen, feasting on all God can do, and think outside the box.” That is how Pastor Don Vanderlip, who serves as a pastor at Southern Hills United Methodist Church, describes the beginning of the Breakthrough Prayer Initiative.
The leadership team and 20 members of Southern Hills United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, attended Breakthrough Prayer training after being invited by Bishop Bruce R. Ough, resident bishop for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area, to participate in the Missional Church Consultation Initiative—MCCI.
Since the training, the pastors, leadership team, and members of the congregations have been trying out what is possible with prayer.
“We are learning to make room for prayer and not to be afraid to put our prayers out there,” says Pastor Justin Jenness, who also serves at Southern Hills UMC.
Jenness delivered the message in worship the week after he attended the Breakthrough Prayer training. He based the message around Psalm 46 —“Be still and know that I am God.” At the end of the service, he felt God leading him to invite people to come forward and pray.
“God gave me the strength to not be afraid and put it out there. I asked people to come forward to the microphone and pray. I thought if no one comes forward, we will have silent prayer,” says Pastor Justin. “People stepped forward and prayed for neighbors, the neighborhood around the church, the school by Southern Hills. God was listening.”
As part of their meetings, the leadership team at Southern Hills UMC has been praying throughout the church building the nursery, the lobby, the library, and the sanctuary.
A few weeks ago, Pastor Don walked into the conference room, where a lot of meetings are held, and the cross that sits in the room was covered with sticky notes of prayer. The efforts of a small group that is all about going to God in prayer.
“We are finding out what the power of prayer looks like,” says Vanderlip. “This week, we have our Living Nativity event. A couple of weeks ago, I asked the congregation, towards the end of the worship service, to face the gymnasium and area where the stable would be and pray. The next week, at the end of worship, I asked everyone to walk down to the gymnasium and pray over the gym. We prayed that each person that entered would feel the love of Jesus. We prayed for 1,000 people to come. It was so cool.”
The Holy Spirit is guiding prayer in other ways at Southern Hills UMC. The youth leader describes the challenges of keeping young people engaged when learning about their faith. One night was particularly a challenge when the sound system did not work. So the leader engaged in a lesson on prayer and took the youth on a five-minute prayer walk. The leader reported that it was the easiest, most engaging conversation they ever had.
“A lot of us are learning. It is so amazing what God is doing,” says Pastor Justin.
Rev. Sue Nilson Kibbey, trainer and leader of the Missional Church Consultation Initiative (MCCI), is a passionate leader for “Breakthrough Prayer.” She is also the author of “Flood Gates: Holy Momentum for a Fearless Church,” which centers around the elements MCCI and “Breakthrough Prayer.”