Last week (Jan 14 to 18, 2019), City Harvest Church held “The Crowning Sessions”, a week of early morning prayer meetings via Internet. It proved to be a breakthrough in more ways than one.
It began with the idea of kicking off 2019 with prayer. With Psalm 65:11 being the key verse for this start-of-year season, the leadership of City Harvest Church sought to unite the church through prayer.
In previous years, the church would conduct early morning prayer meetings certain weeks of the year. While these were always well-subscribed, not that many members could be present, particularly those with school-going children who had to spend those early hours preparing their kids for school or driving them.
What would make a prayer meeting accessible to all, wherever they were? The answer: an online prayer meeting that would allow members to log on from anywhere—even overseas. And how about making it possible for members to send in prayer requests through a chat function? Apart from video, how about an audio-only option for members who were driving to school or work to listen in and pray along?
Problem: such an interactive online meeting software for thousands didn’t quite exist yet. So, the church’s IT team decided to create a program for this from scratch.
Meanwhile, the online prayer meeting already had a name: The Crowning Sessions. The name played both on Psalm 65:11 (“You crown the year with Your goodness, Your paths drip with abundance”) and the idea of birthing a new season of prayer in CHC—crowning being the point of birth where a baby begins to enter the world, head-first.
Many sleepless nights and heart-stopping moments filled the three weeks leading up to the launch of The Crowning Sessions as the church staff beta-tested the new program until it was ready for launch on the morning of Monday, January 14.
What members saw when they logged in to The CHC App or on to the church website were the pastoral leaders—pastors and cell group leaders—on camera leading in prayer and praying through urgent prayer requests that came in daily. What they didn’t see were the rooms of online intercessors who replied to every request sent by chat with a prayer to the requestor; or the room of intercessors who, after the sessions ended, prayed for hours over every single prayer request that came in daily. These prayers were printed out daily and numbered, at the peak, over 300 pages for a single day.
By the end of five days, 3,305 prayer requests had been answered. Each day, an average of 2,734 members logged in to the prayer meeting.
START OF A PRAYER CULTURE
Serina Perera, who heads CHC’s editorial department, served as an online intercessor every morning last week. “I get the sense that our members are very excited when we come up with initiatives like Bible Reading Plan and Prayer,” she says, “They look to the church for spiritual injection. So I was very excited to be part of this.
“On Day One—Monday—we experienced a technical glitch when the prayer request chat started, and we couldn’t answer any for a short while, but we were watching the prayer requests come in, fast and furious: “please pray for me, I have cancer”, “pray for my backache”, “I am going for surgery in two hours”…people really needed serious prayer!”
Serina echoes the feelings of her fellow intercessors. “We all felt an urgency that it is our prayer that’s going to make a difference, that their healing hinges on our praying. So, the sense of compassion and urgency was very heartfelt.
“And because our prayers were so crucial, we needed the Word of God for added power. Each day, Pastor Eileen (CHC’s prayer pastor) emphasized that we need to have a Bible verse to anchor the prayers we sent back. It was so impactful, I now have a renewed love for the Word: to pray the Word and everything I do, to partner with the Word of God.
“I think this is the start of a prayer culture in our church. People sharing their requests and someone standing together with them in prayer.”
She adds that the Crowning Sessions was a great bond-builder for the staff—every department came to pray and support, and indeed, every joint supplied. “I am so proud of everyone—they really came through!” says Serina.
Testimonies started coming in during the week. By God’s grace, members who had been prayed for experienced miracles of all kinds—a tumor was benign, businesses experienced sudden contracts, broken hearts experienced healing.
One member who was experiencing pain from her hernia when she joined in the Crowning Sessions sent in this testimony:
“Dear Pastoral Team, with a bit of difficulty, I could attend four of the five online Crowning Session prayer sessions. I would like to thank the Pastors and prayer intercessors who prayed and gave a word.
On Tuesday morning, I had requested for prayer my hernia pain on my stomach which had started the previous night. My doctor had advised me earlier that if I developed pain in the passive area, it was an urgent matter and I would need to go to the hospital for surgery immediately. I was worried as I was alone at home—my husband gone overseas. I prayed along with the prayer session in faith and realized, to my surprise, that at the end of the prayer session, my pain was gone! Hallelujah!
That same day I also requested for prayer for my daughter who could not get a job for the last eight months. She had attended couple of interviews without success. A couple of hours after the prayer session, she called me from overseas, all excited saying the company which she liked called her to say they were happy with her and wanted her to go and sign the contract for a managerial position that she had been dreaming of. The desire of her heart was fulfilled that morning!
Glory to God for his goodness and our heartfelt thanks to the CHC prayer warriors who interceded for us before the throne of God.
Anna from cell group W149”
CAPPING THE WEEK
The Crowning Sessions ended with live prayer meetings at Suntec Hall 606 during the service weekend—before Saturday’s service and after Sunday’s. It was evident that the congregation had caught the fire of prayer—the hall was full of praying members on both days.
Sally Chia, 27, who had joined in the week’s online sessions as well as the prayer meeting on Saturday, said,“I was particularly impacted by Pastor Sun’s sharing during Monday’s crowning session, about how God parted the Red Sea, just as the Israelites thought they were doomed. This encouraged me greatly, as I was feeling quite drained, due to having received a pay cut at the beginning of 2019, in addition to having to cope with both piling work and the negative atmosphere in my workplace. After hearing the sharing, I purposed in my heart to have faith in God, in spite of my circumstances. I believe that God will surely crown my year with goodness and my paths will drip with abundance!”
For Joel Chan, 22, the online prayer meetings were a true blessing.“It was really refreshing to wake up and be in the presence of God. I was tremendously blessed by the session where Pastor Audrey prayed for people who were sick—I could really feel the tangible power of God moving, even through the app!”
At the Saturday prayer meeting at Suntec, the congregation gathered in the main hall for a time of intercession. “God will go before us in 2019,” said Pastor Aries Zulkarnain, who led the meeting. “Although He has gone before us, it doesn’t mean that all our problems will disappear, but rather, He has overcome our problems for us, and is waiting for us at the end of 2019.”
Zone leaders and pastors laid hands and prayed for the sick that weekend, and many experienced healing and restoration. They also interceded for financial breakthrough, revival among youth, and greater unity within the church. Pastor Aries prayed for growth, not just in strength or size of the church, but in the solidarity of relationships within CHC. Intercession was also made for God to raise up more ministry leaders, full-time staff, and CHCSA volunteers.
“I pray that God equips our ministries for 21st century needs and positions our church for the needs of tomorrow,” he said.
On Sunday, Pastor Choong Tsih-Ming led a packed crowd in prayer and the pastoral team ministered to the people—many of them youths. In what must have been the most powerful moment of the meeting, he led the fathers in the auditorium to pray over their children.
Without a doubt, the Crowning Sessions have had a great impact on many of CHC’s members, setting them on the right foot for 2019 by spending precious time in prayer to the Lord. As expected, there are already requests for a next series of Crowning Sessions.
Additional reporting by Theresa Tan