After pastoring for over twenty-five years, Mike Bickle, Director of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, has seen significant changes in how ministry is defined and carried out. He now devotes all his energy to building and establishing the IHOP–KC — a missions base which embraces live worship and prayer and intimacy with God.
At the heart the missions base is the night and day prayer room engaging in live 24/7 worship and prayer. Originally, the inspiration for the prayer room came from Anna, the first evangelist and forerunner in the New Testament who prayed and fasted for over sixty years before Jesus’ first coming (Luke 2:37), and from King David who organized 4,000 musicians and 288 singers to worship God each hour around the clock (1 Chronicles 23–25).
On September 19, 1999, they began to pray and worship twenty-four hours a day in their desire to more effectively advance the Kingdom of God.
RETHINK MONTHY: For people who have not heard of Mike Bickle or the International House of Prayer (IHOP), can you tell us how the call of intercession come about in your life and how it unfolded into this night and day prayer movement?
Mike Bickle: May 1979 was a very definitive time in my life personally. I was pastoring in St. Louis and I knew nothing about intercessory prayer. But was in that year when the Lord said in a very clear way that my primary calling in life is intercession – it was very clear and so compelling. At that time I was 23, pastoring a church, and I would tell everybody “I am an Intercessor!” And they would say, “What does that mean?” And I would said “I don’t know!” So I went down to the Christian bookstore, and I said, “Give me every book you have on intercession,” and they gave me both of them.
I went to all 5 Christian bookstores in St. Louis, and none of them had any other books. I was in this quandary because I had made this big announcement that I am an intercessor, and we’re all going to do it from now on but even I didn’t know what to do. So I looked in the New Testament and, out desperation not out of wisdom, I ended up being profoundly wise – it was accidental wisdom. It was not on purpose. I got all the prayers of the New Testament because I didn’t know what else to do, so I copied them, and we went around the circle and the few people that should up just repeated them.
We had no understanding of any of them, but we just went around the circle. It took an hour and was horribly boring. We did that every day for 3 years but there was no revelation – no zip or zeal. Then I moved in to Kansas City in 1982 to start a new church. We took those 25 prayers and we started daily prayer meetings again in our new church and had 10 or 15 people come to them. And basically that’s it – that’s how it all started. It was a dramatic statement from heaven, but a very slow, boring unfolding for 3 year or 4 years. There were very small numbers, un-anointed meetings, no sense of power on it, but God was framing out the language of it and the concepts of it in my heart in St. Louis. Then when we moved to Kansas City it had a little more zip about it, and then we began to build the ministry here. After 16 years with daily prayer meetings the Lord said “Now do night and day prayer.” That was almost 10 years ago in 1999.
RM: Can you give us a glimpse into what the International House of Prayer is and the concept behind the ministry?
MB: First of all, our concept is that IHOP is a missionary organization: that has a prayer furnace at the heart of all of our activity. But it’s more than a prayer furnace, it’s a mission organization. Some people don’t understand that so they divorce missions from night and day prayer. But we believe that in the Bible, the Scripture has joined together the prayer movement and the mission movement, and we say what God has joined together let no man separate. And not that we’re doing it that good, but it is our intention to see the two joined together dynamically.
Everyone on our staff is called an intercessory missionary. We speak of it as a full time occupation where we trace back to the occupation of the full time Levite in David’s tabernacle – 4000 singers and musicians were full-time on David’s staff with an occupation to be in the presence of God – and then to go out of the presence of God to do their other assignments; the other duties in the tabernacle, temple, etc.
RM: What is the greatest reward in your estimation of intercession?
MB: One of the fruits of intercession is the fact that it changes the spiritual atmosphere of the city or the region for which the prayer is offered in. Therefore, the sermon that reached ten people now reaches a thousand. The cup of cold water that moved one person now moves ten people. The spiritual atmosphere is different because God governs the universe by voluntary agreement of His people. And when the people voluntarily agree, it moves angels and demons and our labors are far more effective. I don’t think of it as the “greatest” reward, but I think of it as the greatest impact.
RM: If you were talking to a room full of 20-somethings who had never heard of you and IHOP, what would the message of your heart be to them as to why this matters for their lives?
Misty Edwards (guest): I would say that the reason that it matters to them specifically, is that as we look around the world today, and we have such desire for impact as young adults, we want to impact our society, our government, and the ultimate solution is bringing God into the matter, and the only way to bring God into the matter is through the life of prayer. One of the greatest contexts to do that is in a 24-hour environment where you’re not trying to plug in and plug out, and plug in and plug out again. I believe that the hour is so urgent all across the globe. There is something happening, even in the atmosphere, you can feel it, the urgency of the hour. I believe that the times and the seasons are shifting, and this generation, I think that they know it. Young adults have a feeling that something big is going to happen, and they want to be a part of something bigger than them. This prayer movement is one of those things that is bigger than they are, that they can jump in with their whole hearts with abandonment and really impact their society, impact the globe in a way that you can’t do without prayer.
RM: Where do you guys see the prayer movement heading, and what do you think is on the horizon?
MB: It’s exploding! The numbers are multiplying so fast. In my 30 years of doing this I barely heard a whisper. The second ten years it seemed like it was unbelievable because it went as five times as fast. But the last ten years is exploding! It is growing so fast that the numbers are staggering to us. So, intercessors take courage; the man leading the Great Harvest IS the Great Intercessor! Evangelists take courage; the Great Intercessor is the Great Evangelist! And both of them are going to explode!