What is a Prayer Vigil? Interview with Doug Oickle from Chester United Baptist Church

How did the prayer vigils at Chester Baptist Church start?

I had heard of prayer vigils before, and I decided, oh, it must be six years ago now, that we’d have one just before Remembrance Day in the fall. And from there it expanded to Easter. So we’ve been continuing on with that since then. We’ve always had good turnout. Last year our Prayer Vigil was full.

What it is: It’s always good to have prayer before the Lord. If anything, that’s the most important thing besides reading the word, that we can do. And to have a 24-hour prayer vigil, we think that the more people talk to God on the different subjects the more he listens to us. It’s like corporate prayer. I think it’s important, and I think that by doing this you bring more people into intimate relationship with the Lord. And that was my main focus: get people praying to the Lord so they can get closer to him.

So how do you set a Prayer Vigil up? It sounds like you don’t have everyone in the same place at the same time.

No. The last few one’s that we’ve done, we’ve said, “You don’t even have to come to the church to pray. You can pray at home. So long as you fulfill your commitment for that timeslot. And we have like a calendar posted in the church, with the dates and the time slots. You set it up whatever way you want: you can have it by the half-hour or by the hour. So each person would take that time slot. We’ve had people take two half-hour slots, so they could pray for an hour. So the last time we did it we made it hour-long time slots.

So the commitment is to pray deliberately for that hour?


Do you have any meeting to give people instruction?

Yes and no. I discuss it with our deacons, then I get the go-ahead to do it. I usually have one person in our deacons who does up a schedule. Once the schedule is done and on the bulletin in the church, and each person who wants to pray puts their name in.

Do you have to twist people’s arms at all?

Sometimes. If I see that the schedule isn’t getting filled and it’s only like 3 days away,  I’ll start calling people, because sometimes people forget. They usually say yes.

So you don’t get everyone together at any point?

No. We don’t bring everyone together to discuss what we’re going to pray. We have a certain list of things to pray for, and each church can be different of course in what they pray for.

And it usually works out, and people enjoy it.

 Do you have any particular stories of what people have experienced in these times of prayer?

I’ve had people tell me that they enjoyed it, and they experienced something different in their lives because of it. I think that’s the way it should be. If you’re praying to the Lord and you’ve met with him, He’ll guide you.

Have you had anyone share with you that they’ve had a really hard time getting through that hour?

Not as yet, from what my feedback is: an hour isn’t enough. There’s lots to pray for and they only get halfway through it. An hour goes very quickly when you’re praying for certain things.

 So do you get the same people doing it every year?

Usually about the same people, maybe a couple more every year. It depends on where they are and what they’re doing. We’re not losing people.

Where did they learn to pray, do you think?

To be honest, a lot of them are in Bible studies and a lot of them are true Christians and have been for years, so they don’t have a problem praying. I think if more people were in Bible study, and if they’re committed to pray in Bible study, they don’t have a problem praying in a vigil. A lot of people will tell me even in Bible study that they like praying alone, they don’t like praying out loud. Well in a prayer vigil you’re praying alone. And God hears you because he hears anybody.

Have you heard of many other churches taking this on?

No, I haven’t, and that’s a problem with me. That’s why I introduced it to the Association, because the more churches we have praying, the better off we are. There was a sign up in the church in Moncton that said something like, “No prayer, no church; much prayer, more church.” I think that’s right on the money. I think the more people that pray for our church and that pray for the Lord’s message, the better off we’re going to be.

You said you got this idea because you heard of this being done somewhere else. Can you name any other places in particular that are doing these vigils?

Not in particular. I think it was one of our ideas as a Bible study group to do this the way we’re doing this. And I think it’s going well, and we’ll keep doing this for the next while. And if I can get the commitment from the churches, then I can take it to Convention through the President and he can continue on with it and go to other church, which would be an awesome thing.