Exchanging Partying for Prayer in East London
On a Friday night in the London neighbourhood of Shoreditch, a group of young men caroused along the High Street. Dressed for a night on the town, they were already tipsy from bar hopping and growing more rambunctious by the minute. As they walked along, they passed the open doors of a church called St. Leonard’s Shoreditch.
Inside the church, GEM worker Leslie Hall and other Christians prayed by candlelight, asking God to bring in unchurched people.
Shoreditch was full of them. On weekend evenings, endless streams of partiers flocked to Shoreditch for a night out. Visiting Michelin star restaurants, trendy pubs, and all the hottest clubs, they hoped to have an Instagram-worthy good time.
The young lads peeked inside, then entered––their strong cologne preceding them into the sanctuary. They’d been invited in by a young church member with the gift of evangelism. They weren’t sure what to expect, but something about the soft guitar music and the welcoming expressions on the faces of the congregants moved them deeply. Leslie, along with one of the vicars at the church, invited them to light candles, sit down, and pray.
Groups of young women wandered in, too. They wore their best clothing and high heels. Preparing for a night out, they styled their hair and applied heavy make-up. None of them expected to enter a church.
Making Room for God to Work
“You can pray on your own,” Leslie told them, “Or one of us would be happy to pray with you if you like.”
Some of the girls took her up on that, requesting someone to pray with them. Others sat quietly in chairs, contemplating. When the girls left the church, most of them stopped to reapply their eye make-up, because they had been moved to tears.
The unruly young men had calmed down. From the moment they entered the church, they behaved respectfully. “Thank you so much,” one man said as he wiped a tear from his eye before leaving. “I prayed about my granddad. He passed away last year, and I miss him.”
All evening long, people came and went. The guitar playing stopped and a piano soloist took over. The congregation of St. Leonard’s Shoreditch remained until they closed the doors to the public, then entered into a time of prayer.
Inspired by the recent revival in Asbury, Kentucky, they cried out to God for revival in their own community. Praying Psalm 24 over and over, they desired to be part of what God was doing to make all things new.
From that moment, the St. Leonard’s Shoreditch community hasn’t been the same. A deeper hunger and a passion for prayer and seeking the Lord has sprung up. The congregants of the church have launched a House of Prayer, in which they desire to create more space for the Lord to do what only he can do.
Changed Lives at Shoreditch Church
The prayer revival at St. Leonard’s (known to locals simply as Shoreditch Church) continues going strong. It affects unbelievers and believers alike. One young woman, already a Christian, has begun to embrace her gift of evangelism. She stands outside the church on open-door evenings, inviting people to enter. She even encouraged one of her co-workers to come to church, and that woman came to know Jesus.
Others with the gift of evangelism stand at the front gate of the church, encouraging people to come inside on these open evenings. Intercessors have risen to places of leadership to help encourage a hunger for prayer within the church. Administrators are stepping up to create systems for volunteers to care for the community, using their unique gifts.
Shoreditch, in East London, is extremely diverse, filled with immigrants from many nations and people from every socioeconomic class. High-end shopping and trendy clubs draw people from all over the city. Some of them just want a few drinks after a hard day’s work; others binge on alcohol or drugs. This neighborhood has more than its fair share of people battling addiction.
That’s why the church partners with a local charity and hosts a men’s rehabilitation home on church property. The recovering addicts tend a large garden on church grounds. As a member of a network of London churches called SAINT, which is part of the Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) Network of Churches, Shoreditch Church wants to make a difference in the community, touching those who are unfamiliar with the gospel. The Alpha Course, which helps people explore the basics of the Christian faith, was developed by HTB.
Staying true to SAINT’s vision and mission, the people of Shoreditch Church want to bring hope to the people of East London, based on Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.“
Open Doors Bring Renewal
At Shoreditch, Leslie Hall and the other church members continue to focus on prayer as a means of reaching the lost.
“We want the community to know that they can come in and be prayed for and hear about Jesus,” says Leslie. “If they aren’t ready for that, then they can sit quietly and listen to music and songs of praise and worship.
“Since the prayer initiative started, the Holy Spirit has been powerfully at work in East London, moving in people’s hearts and lives. Opening up the church to those in the street, choosing to simply be there for them, is a way of stepping aside and making room for God to work.”
Leslie recently took on the role of Director of Prayer for Greater Europe Mission. “I don’t think I would be in this role had I not experienced the powerful prayer ministry at Shoreditch,” she says.
“Prayer has always been a big deal, but after seeing the power of it in my neighborhood of London, I have realized that the most vital thing we can do as God’s people and as a mission is pray.”
If you would like to know more about GEM’s ministries in London, or if you would like to learn more about or become part of GEM’s culture of prayer, contact [email protected].
About the Author: Jenny Garrity is a storyteller with Greater Europe Mission. Jenny and her husband Kim joined GEM in 1984. They have served in Germany, Belgium, and most recently, Greece in response to the refugee crisis.
All images courtesy of SAINT.