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Despite Critics, Worship Leader Says IHOP's 24/7 Prayer Movement is Centered on Christ

Josh Shepherd : Feb 1, 2018 : Stream.org

The International House of Prayer has been called "unorthodox" (and worse) by The New York Times. Yet songwriter Jon Thurlow looks to the Bible to ground his worship.

[Stream.org] Many Christians can't spend 20 minutes a day in prayer. Only 79 percent of American adults have prayed in the past three months. Yet in America's heartland, a prayer meeting has been going 24/7 for nearly 20 years. (Photo: Worship leader Jon Thurlow recently released his new album, Different Story/Forerunner Music/via Stream.org)

Since September 1999, rotating teams at the International House of Prayer-Kansas City (IHOP-KC) in Missouri have continuously led a concert of prayer and worship. Under the leadership of Bible teacher Mike Bickle, the church welcomes visitors who come to pray at any time-day or night. The nondenominational ministry, which includes a church with Sunday services, has hundreds of full-time staff who work in shifts to keep 24/7 prayer going.

IHOP-KC has its detractors, both in the media and in Christian circles. A New York Times article called the group "controversial, cultish and unorthodox." Last year, two religion scholars wrote a book claiming Bickle and other charismatic leaders interpret the Bible in "non-standard" ways.

Songwriter Jon Thurlow has been around for most of the journey. After graduating from Nyack College in New York with a sacred music degree, he joined the IHOP-KC staff in 2004 as a worship leader. In an earlier interview, Thurlow spoke of he and his wife's adoption advocacy and his new album, Different Story. Now he shares broadly about the global prayer movement, along with insights into his new songs.

The Purpose of 24/7 Praise

The Stream: The concept of worship and prayer that goes 24 hours every day of the week is new even to many Christians. What does it look like on a daily basis?

Jon Thurlow: The Bible tells us in Revelation that worship and prayer in Heaven never stops. It's always going. We believe God calls us to a live interaction with Him through the Holy Spirit. Really unique things happen in that live environment. I can explain a little of the structure of how we lead in the prayer room in Kansas City.

We have two different worship and prayer formats: there's intercession, and worship with the Word. Intercession would be two hours of worship songs combined with individuals coming up to a microphone and praying for a particular topic. It could be a justice issue, like the ending of abortion or human trafficking. It could be praying for a particular nation in Africa. It could be praying for the churches in our city. (Photo: worship at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City/YouTube)

The other prayer format is called Worship with the Word. We incorporate what we call antiphonal singing of the Bible. "Antiphonal" is a fancy word for multiple voices and people singing. We sing Scriptures that we all engage with corporately. That's something we regularly, consistently do as part of our worship model.

As part of the Body of Christ, we believe prayer plays a significant role in the missions movement.

Before we all go in to lead worship, my team of a dozen singers and musicians gather together. We take 20 minutes before the set and talk about what Scripture passage we're going to sing. Or if it's intercession, we'll discuss what we're going to pray over the two hours...

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