4:15 a.m. is way too early to wake up, but that’s the time I had set on my alarm this morning. After a few taps on the snooze button, I finally struggled out of bed – fighting with that inner desire to sleep another hour or two … or three. I’m not used to waking up that early and especially not used to grabbing my guitar and heading out the door before the sun rises (a.k.a. the crack of dawn). But there I was, scrambling to get ready so I wouldn’t be late.
I pulled up to the back entrance and, through the darkness of the morning, I found myself standing in the middle of an empty parking lot, staring up at a little neon “Open” sign on the second story of an old building in downtown Salem. Yes, my actions were voluntary. And “Yes,” I thought to myself, “This was something I should’ve done a long time ago.”
It was dark. I was alone. But as I gazed up toward that little neon sign, I knew that soon I would be joining in on something much bigger than me – something a lot greater than my own desires and expectations. I would be setting foot into a place where a war was taking place – an upper room, if you will, where people prayed endlessly for the move of God in their city. I’d be entering a place called the Salem House of Prayer.
Eric met me at the door. He’s a tall kid. He wore black-framed glasses and his bandanna covered most of his head. He sported black jeans. His shoes slid across the floor as he walked. But those were not the things that I noticed first about Eric. He was tired. You could tell in his eyes and in his voice. An hour later I would find out that he’d been there for most of the late night – four, five, maybe even six hours. Praying. Singing. Fighting.
He led me and another guy up the flight of stairs into the prayer room. A pleasant spiritual aroma was in the air and the beat of Eric’s melancholy-ish rhythms hit quietly in the background. I had been here before but it was for reasons other than this.
Eric walked back to the microphone and continued his set. I took my guitar out of its case and waited for my friend Ryan to show up. We would be assisting each other in what would soon set the tone for our day – maybe even our week.
Eric finished. He was drained: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Exhausted. Ryan and I walked to the small stage, took a seat, and strummed our guitars. “Consuming fire, fan into flames … a passion for your name. Spirit of God, fall in this place … Lord have your way, Lord have your way … in us.”
For the next hour, Ryan and I sang and prayed. Eric sat in the back. Another young man sat in one of the rows of chairs: praying, reading, believing. And another fellow sat quietly on a couch nearby. We sang our hearts out. And when our set came to a close, another brother came and took his position. He was, just like Ryan and I – just like Eric and the guy on the couch, gearing up for a fight – taking up his part in this spiritual battle.
And then it was over. That was it. We walked off the stage and Eric thanked us for coming as I placed my guitar back in its case. For a moment I felt as though, albeit small, I had done my part. I had stood in the gap for a lost and dying community. And then, as I stared at the empty chairs in that small upper room, I said to myself, “We filled one of the 24 one-hour slots that the Salem House of Prayer needs to fill every day. It was only one hour of the 168 hours in a week – one of only 720 hours in a month.” I took a deep breath. “What else can I do?”
I put my guitar in my car and drove off.
Just a few minutes ago, I was back driving in downtown Salem. Passing the back entrance to the Salem House of Prayer, I looked for that little neon sign. Even in the light of the day, I could see that glowing four letter word. It burns just as bright, I noticed, during the day as it does in the middle of the night. Maybe it’s God’s way of telling us that He’s ready – that His upper room is available. Maybe it’s His way of telling you and me that He needs us to burn brightly in our community, in our neighborhoods, in our families, and in our nation.
Maybe it’s your invitation to join the battle. I knew it was mine. That’s why I’ll be back there next Monday morning. But maybe this time I’ll bring Eric a tall cup of coffee.
This article was written by Bo Lane was printing in the March/April issue of Rethink Monthly magazine (issue #6).