From Wednesday to Friday this past week (Feb 26-28), City Harvest Church committed the first three days of Lent to God with its online prayer meeting, The Crowning Sessions. There is no distance in prayer: testimonies have been pouring in.
The book of Proverbs tells us that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Prov 13:12).
This once rang true for Michelle Chua, 33 and her husband Jun Jie, 34. “My husband and I were trying to have a baby but each month turns out to be a disappointment to me. So I decided to take a step faith to ask for the church to pray for me,” says Michelle.
Last year, on Feb 26, 2019, she posted a prayer request to get pregnant, as a comment to a City Harvest Church Instagram post. This year’s Feb 26 fell on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent and the start of The Crowning Sessions.
Michelle relates, “When I logged on to the first day of The Crowning Sessions, I simply wanted to thank God for that prayer answered.” That was when she realized that she had posted her prayer request on that very same date, exactly one year ago.
“Last year on this day I asked,” she says, “and this year, on this day, I am ready to receive my darling baby girl.”
Baby Janelle is due in March this year. “We name her Janelle because it means God is Gracious,” explains Michelle.
She wants to use this testimony to encourage all who have prayer needs and joined in The Crowning Sessions this week. “For those who have been praying for a child, I want to encourage you to continue believing that God is going to answer anytime. Sometimes in the most unexpected and surprising way.
“There is a verse that has been an encouragement to me. I prayed it daily three years ago and now I want to bless you with this same verse: John 16:24, ‘Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.’”
Michelle’s is just one of the many testimonies the church has received this week. Truly there is no distance in prayer, as senior pastor Kong Hee has said. The online prayer meeting, an initiative that began last year, allows church members to join in the prayer meeting from wherever they are, through The CHC App or the church’s website. They can pray along with the pastors leading the prayer meeting on screen, and they can also send in their prayer requests via a chat function.
PRAYING AS A CHURCH ONLINE
Having the prayer meeting via the Internet is a blessing to many who will otherwise not be able to physically attend a prayer meeting. For Ervina Tandean, 31, a mother of two, The Crowning Sessions filled her home with the presence of God. “I feel very blessed to be able to pray together with the church right in my home,” she said. “The presence of God was so strong in the room this week.”
Ervina’s baby is just two months old. This means that she is unable to leave her house early in the morning. The Crowning Sessions help her feel connected to the church and to her cell group as they pray together virtually.
“With my newborn, I don’t get to sleep much at night,” she explains. “At the same time, my older son is also trying to adapt to the baby and that leaves me feeling very tired. The prayer meeting is a time of refreshment for me and a time where I can rest in God.”
The Crowning Sessions are also a blessing to healthcare workers like Cheryl Seow, 27. “Battling COVID-19 together with MOH and the rest of the healthcare family during this period, I’m often tired from the long hours of shift duty. But each morning as I tune into The Crowning Sessions, I feel like I am abiding under the shadow of the Almighty and in His presence, I find the peace and the strength for the day ahead. I’m most thankful for the sessions, especially during this season. Prayer is the best antidote against fear, anxiety, weariness, frustration, and depression.”
For those in need, The Crowning Sessions are a Godsend because prayers are heard live and needs are prayed for by a team of intercessors.
“We take each prayer request very seriously because every prayer is made unto the Lord,” explains Eileen Toh, the pastoral oversight for CHC’s Intercessory Ministry. “It’s not just another thing we do, but it’s a spiritual exercise. When we pray for the members, we are really praying for them to have their prayers answered. We want them to feel the love of God and we also want them to know that the church loves them and wants to connect with them spiritually.”
This is what happens to a prayer request when you post it on the chat. There are three administrators tending to incoming prayer requests. They assign each prayer request to one of the 52 online intercessors in three separate locations, who reply that request with a prayer. The prayer requests also appear on a big screen in a separate room, where volunteers from the intercessory ministry pray through every request.
In total, 79 intercessors answered 3,054 prayers over the three days. Each day, the team of intercessors reached Suntec Singapore bright and early, to prepare their stations, as well as their hearts to pray. Before the session started, a pastor would share a word of encouragement and pray with the team so that everyone would be positioned well to pray.
It was the first time Matherine Loo was serving as an online intercessor. “As I was praying for the people and their needs, it suddenly dawned upon me that Jesus must have felt the same way as I did when He saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion. I could really sense His compassion towards our members. He loves them and wants their prayers to be answered—I feel so privileged to be praying for the members,” she says.
A GOD WHO ANSWERS PRAYERS
Among the numerous testimonies that came in over the three days after The Crowning Sessions, were powerful accounts of healing.
Choo Mei Wen, a volunteer with the Harvest Kidz shares her healing testimony. “Earlier this week, I injured my lower back. It was so painful that I could not stand or sit or lay down properly. I prayed that God would take away the pain immediately, that I will be able to bear the pain while I waited to see the chiropractor next Monday. I submitted my prayer request on the second day of The Crowning Sessions, and after that, while I on my way to the office, I realized that I didn’t feel any pain anymore. I was able to stand and sit without any pain too. Even though I still cannot sit down for too long, I felt peace and comfort in my heart. Thank you, Jesus, for taking away my pain and healing me. Thank you Pastor Kong, Sun and all the church intercessors for your prayers. I will keep on believing for a miracle and total healing.”
Another member wrote in to CHC saying that he had experienced some difficulties sending in his prayer request. “However, I just claimed my healing,” he says. “Not long after that, Pastor Edmund gave a word of knowledge, praying for those with injury in the right shoulder. I quickly responded and claimed God’s healing. True enough, the pain on my right shoulder is gone now. Hallelujah! Our Father is truly wonderful and He truly cares for us!”
Another member, Kaira, reported that she was able to sleep naturally at 11pm for the first time this year after The Crowning Sessions. “I slept soundly without any fear or sadness in my heart. Thank you Jesus,” she wrote.
As CHC pastoral supervisor Johann Sim was leading prayers this morning, he shared a testimony of two boys who were healed of their eczema. He asked those tuning in to lay hands on their children who have eczema, skin diseases and infections. After the session, he received a text message from a church member.
“I laid hand on my baby and I cried,” the member wrote. “I felt the presence and love of God upon him. He suffers from severe eczema and has been diagnosed with a wheat allergy. He hasn’t been sleeping well for months and I have been praying for months too. We had seen paediatricians and dermatologists. My baby has been on steroids and we tried many different creams but nothing helped his condition. I felt so helpless but your prayers gave me hope again to believe that our God is Jehovah Rapha. Thank you.”
Psalms 66:19-20, reads, “but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” Indeed, we serve a God who hers and answers our prayers.