It was a Thursday evening. One by one 12 weekend sojourners found their rooms upstairs at Richmond Hill Retreat Center in Richmond, Virginia. As they entered their rooms, each discovered a piece of chocolate candy on the pillow and a card with their name on it. “You are invited …” were the first words printed on the card, giving a glimpse of what would unfold over the course of this three day journey through Acts 9, the biblical account of a disciple named Ananias who was called by God to meet Paul after Paul’s encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus.
This story in Acts provides a window to discover, within the context of the Body of Christ, what it is to surrender, obey, and hear the voice of the Lord. During the retreat, participants learned how to engage the work of prayer and intercession in order to support those called to mission and leadership in fresh expressions of church.
“We are training new ministers, but we are not training them to pray”
The original purpose behind beginning these prayer retreats was to develop and equip leaders for a life of prayer and intercession, components of the life of a disciple that all too often disappear when life and ministry get busy. At the 2014 Fresh Expressions National Gathering, a Princeton Seminary Professor visited the prayer room and made the realization that “we are training new ministers, but we are not training them to pray.”
Through the initiation of The Ananias Project, we have learned that the ministry of prayer and intercession is ‘caught not taught’. These retreats are labs, a “canvas for listening” where individuals are equipped with the tools and time to discern the Lord’s leading. Many people, especially those in ministry, have not experienced the power of prayer and intercession or the fullness of the Spirit within a group context as the body of Christ with many members. The prayer retreat is designed to change that. The retreat allows space for Jesus to be revealed through the work and voice of the Holy Spirit. It’s an experience of modeling prayer for the purpose of equipping new intercessors like Ananias, the one who prayed and raised up people like Paul.
New Skills Gained
One of the great things that came out of this first retreat was seeing good modeling and the practice of prayer ministry. By the close of the retreat, everyone was praying with and ministering to one another, gaining confidence and ready to take on the charge to begin the work of supporting their mission, church, pastor, and the fresh expressions of church waiting to be birthed through the intercession.
Here are a few reflections from the participants:
“It was an upper room experience. It brought the intercessors together to be strengthened, equipped, and confident in the charge given to us as intercessors. Truly Blessed.” – Regional Intercessory Prayer Coordinator.
“I was blessed by the laying on of hands allowing the Holy Spirit to speak into the lives of intercessors. It was a fantastically blessed three days!” – Regional Intercessor
“Retreat . liberation . uncharted waters . dive deeper . fire …These are the words that describe the weekend and what it meant to me. “ – New Regional intercessor
“I have been blessed. There are some things that I have released and given to God. “ – Regional Intercessor
“Exceedingly abundantly more than I could have asked or imagined. “ – Regional Intercessor
“ There were no bells and whistles. For me it was not an ultra spiritual experience, it was a deep work. The Lord was allowing me to let go of some things and press into areas to increase my character in Him. It was a good weekend. “ – Intercessor discerning a future call to mission
If you are a pastor or missional leader looking to begin an intercessory prayer team to discern your course; a Intercessory Prayer Coordinator who wants to solidify your team in support of mission; or someone who feels a call to intercession and would like to discover how to walk that out, please contact Cheryl McCarthy about the possibility of scheduling a retreat in your area.
Cheryl serves as the Director of The Ananias Project and the Fresh Expressions US Coordinator of Prayer Mobilization. She brings over 25 years of Intercessory Prayer experience as she and her husband, Bill, have served in Anglican church plants. They began at Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax, VA then served in the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) for 7 years. Cheryl served as the ACNA Canon for Church Planting of the Anglican Mid Atlantic Diocese and Executive Director of Titus Institute, Tom Herrick, as his Head Intercessor for 5 years and was the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The SEEDS Ministry for 6 years in New Bern, NC. SEEDS established Kingdom Transformation across denominational lines by Prayer, Connecting, and Empowering the community fueled by the Holy Spirit. Cheryl and Bill lead Ananias Retreats for FXUS and Ananias Project Encounter Prayer Rooms for FXUS and Missio Alliance National Gatherings. Cheryl and Bill reside in New Bern, NC with their quiver full: Caela, Isabella, Daniel, Gracie, and Liliana.