ROCKAWAY, N.J. — Thousands of Christians gathered across two campuses of the 8,000-member Christ Church as well as online Friday for a full day of prayer and fasting for personal renewal and their community.
In addition to seeking "God's promises," the annual event, billed as "Prayerfest," featured prayers for local government officials, law enforcement officers, and victims of disasters, such as the people of Haiti who were left with significant death and devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
"Our church has been waiting all year for Prayerfest. This is a very exciting time for us, we get a chance to connect the east campus, the west campus and the online campus … and we're just grateful to the Lord for that," the church's founding pastor, David D. Ireland, said.
The church has been hosting Prayerfest for the last six years and this year, says Ireland, the focus was on "praying God's promises."
It's a time, he says, that they also spend waiting for a move of God as they pray and worship.
"Prayerfest is one of those times where we just flow. We have a plan, but we put the plan on the shelf when the Holy Spirit shows up. … We want the Lord more than anything else," said Ireland, who read Scripture and exhorted throughout the day to hundreds of people who showed up in Rockaway from different states and other towns in New Jersey. He later announced that some 2,000 people from 28 countries joined in the event online.
Church members like Charlene Williams, who has been attending the church for 11 years, told The Christian Post that she has attended the festival of prayer every year since it was started and it's something she believes more churches should be doing — a full day of collective prayer and fasting.
"I think it is a great event. It's a time when you can get rejuvenated. It kinda makes you focus on God more during that time. Sometimes you feel like you are away (from your relationship with God). When it's time for PrayerFest, it just brings you into that place where you start to examine yourself more," she said.
Williams said she has also heard of many miracles from testimonies people gave after partaking in the day of prayer and fasting.
"I've seen or heard of a lot of testimonies like people who were unable to get pregnant got pregnant. … As you saw just now, people being filled with the Holy Spirit. Just a lot of answered prayers," she said.
Prayerfest is Christ Church's largest annual gathering where attendees learn and practice the spiritual secrets involved in building a life of prayer.
In a news release, Ireland said the event was also designed to "provide people with the training needed to use prayer against their enemies, just like a soldier goes through boot camp to learn how to skillfully use his/her weapon."
He added: "Prayer was the foundation of the ministry and life of Jesus. It not only strengthens our relationship with God, but give us confidence that He will provide us with needed help."
Ireland is a huge proponent of prayer. He recently authored, Raising a Child Who Prays: Teaching Your Family the Power of Prayer which was published in August. It is described as the ultimate spiritual training guide for parents to instill strong prayer habits in their children.