THE INESCAPABLE THUMB—PRAYER AS A SINE QUA NON FOR MOVEMENTS
Dr. Yaw Perbi, Founding International Director, Kwivver
In the Twi language of the large Akan people group of West Africa, there is a saying about the thumb that really captures the essence of this article. Translated into English, it essentially says, to wit, “There is no way of avoiding the thumb in successfully tying a knot.” The inescapable thumb in knot-tying is akin to the unavoidable prayer habit in building spiritual movements. The Latin rendition of this Twi expression would be sine qua non, an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient. In catalyzing spiritual movements, prayer is a sine qua non.
STRATEGIC, NOT TACTICAL, ELEMENT
A third way to convey the above Twi and Latin expressions, now using movement language, is that prayer is a strategic, not a tactical, element in movements. As I research the secret sauce to seeing movements among and through internationals to transform unreached people groups I have so far learnt that a strategic element will cause the whole disciple-making movement system to fail if it is removed completely. It answers the question, “What will it take to… (see movement happen)?” A tactical element, on the other hand, is the practical implementation of a strategic element. It can be renovated, removed and replaced as it answers the question, “How will I/we … (implement a strategic element so see movement happen)?”[i]
Of course, having been a global Christian leader for a couple of decades now, I sort of already knew the essential place of prayer in disciple-making and church-planting movements—I didn’t need my current doctoral studies at Fuller to figure that out—but it’s worth the reminder and deepened personal conviction: There is no spiritual movement without prayer. And mind you, not just any kind of prayer, but what has been described by some, like Paul Watson,[ii] as “crazy prayer.” Others would say, “extraordinary prayer.”
On a Zoom call the other day, it was humbling to hear Paul share how in a meeting of the top one hundred disciple-makers in their ministry, the common elements among the most fruitful leaders who were starting more than twenty churches per year or leading groups that started more than 500 churches in the previous year, was crazy, extraordinary praying!
Again, you shouldn’t be surprised that they found quite a number of common elements among the different leaders and groups, but the only element that was present in every single team was a commitment to fervent prayer.
So here’s the principle: prayer movements are a pre-requisite for disciple-making movements. Meanwhile disciple-making movements are a precursor to church-planting movements. And when we say prayer movements, we’re talking about thousands praying, not just hundreds.
WHAT TO DO DIFFERENTLY
So what do I do differently now? First, I do not just talk about and encourage prayer, I actively mobilize prayer. The difference is that now instead of just asking people to pray and hoping they do, I actively record my own prayers in voice or text and send to those I’m praying for and also facilitate, activate and encourage others to do same, organizing them in groups of five I call “High Five” groups. There are only three High Five groups I’m personally connected to. Each of these fifteen folks have their own groups of five too, who in turn have their High Five each also.
Inasmuch as I organize prayer programs like the annual 21-day P3 fasting and prayer, I’m much more interested in developing a culture of daily prayer among my tribes as part of movement DNA than just organizing programs, even prayer ones. Having the right communication media and lines, teams of people and habits in place is literally laying down the railroad for imminent movement.
‘I WANT IN!”
Here is how to get started, if you want to join the swelling prayer movement:
- Watch this J Edwin Orr video on prayer and be inspired by the power of prayer in history.
- Develop a prayer calendar and send prayers to those on it on their day. See how to develop one in this short video here.
- Catch the 10:02 virus. Every day, at 10:02 (am and/or pm) pray to the Lord of the harvest to thrust more labourers into the harvest field of souls (based on Luke 10 verse 2).
- Pray daily for an unreached people group found on the home page of Kwiverr or at Joshua Project. Joshua Project also has an app you may download for free and use.
- Join or form a ‘High Five’ group of you and five others committed to praying to God for movements. Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve formed one so you are sent an invitation to join a larger FaceBook Group dedicated to keeping us all abreast with praise and prayer items. Of course ‘High Five’ groups may have their own social media channel to communicate on WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, etc. They are also sent Kwiverr prayer points periodically.
No disciple-making and/or church-planting movement of God has been started and/or sustained without a prayer movement. Crazy, extraordinary prayer is a pre-requisite to movement. Prayer is a strategic element that we must no longer pay lip service to but actively mobilize if we are serious about seeing this Gospel of the kingdom preached to all people groups on the planet (Matthew 24:14) and catalyzing the end of this life as we know it, ushering in the fullness of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven.
[i] Lessons from Paul Watson and Rebecca Ewing of Contagious Disciple Making University, Fall 2021.
[ii] Paul is the founder of Contagious Disciple Making who I’ve been understudying to understand movements better. He and his father co-wrote the book Contagious Disciple Making, sharing the principles behind the raving mission success among the hitherto unreached Bhojpuri people group of India.