A small Messianic Jewish congregation just north of Toledo is marking the second anniversary of a prayer vigil that has continued around the clock, seven days a week, since 12:01 a.m. on Valentine's Day, 2007.
One member termed it a miracle that the congregation has been able to keep the vigil going nonstop for so long.
Another said participation in the prayer vigil has strengthened her relationship with the Lord.
The congregation's leader, Messianic Rabbi Kirt Schneider, said it's "only by the grace of God" that the prayer chain has continued uninterrupted in the Key of David prayer room, located inside Adat Adonai Messianic Jewish Synagogue in Ottawa Lake, Mich.
"I'm blown away that the Lord has sustained this for two years with a congregation of only 100," Rabbi Schneider said. "And I can see that the prayers have very much affected our congregation. I've seen a growth in the congregation. I've seen growth in marriages. I've seen that people are healthier and more stable now. The prayers have strengthened the people and the ministry here."
Messianic Jews believe that Jesus is the Messiah who fulfilled biblical prophecy. Traditional Jews reject the belief that Jesus was the Messiah and consider Messianic Judaism to be a veiled form of Christianity.
As economic uncertainties tighten their grip on the United States and the world, Rabbi Schneider said he believes the prayer vigil will become increasingly more important.
"As times get more troubled, more and more people will come to the Key of David. It will be a place of refuge," he predicted. "It will be a place where people come to meet and accept Yeshua [Jesus]. The closer we get to Yeshua's return, the more the multitude of people will come seeking sanctuary and a place of healing, a place of intercession."
Inside the prayer room, a live video from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City is shown on television. The Kansas City group has been praying and singing praise songs nonstop for nearly nine years, and their services and prayers are broadcast around the globe via the Internet.
Kathy Hartman, of Curtice, Ohio, said praying in the Key of David room has helped calm her down and give her a sense of peace.
"As soon as you enter you feel God's presence and you get a real calmness and peace," she said. "When I'm there, I never want to leave. There's such a peace in there. You don't want to go out into the world with all the problems.
"And I think it's a miracle of God that we can man a prayer room 24 hours a day for two years," she said.
Ms. Hartman, 54, a national hand ball champion in 1990, said it took awhile before she could sit or stand quietly for prayer or to wait on the Lord.
"At first it was just very difficult for me to sit still. It's like God just started working within me and I was able to just sit still in there. Sometimes I'm in there 16 hours straight. The time goes by so fast you think you're only in there an hour," she said.
Sharon Brewster, 25, said participation in the prayer chain has helped strengthen her relationship with God and has increased her sense of peace and clarity.
"It's not just a constant prayer, it's a connection where you talk to the Lord like you're speaking to any other person," she said. "You sit there and sort out your thoughts."
Her husband, David, 32, said he was skeptical at first, but the skepticism was erased by the prayer room's atmosphere.
"When you're in that kind of atmosphere, you're able to focus a lot better," he said. "To me, it's just a good place to relax and sit before the Lord, to still your mind and focus on things that are meaningful and that matter."
Rabbi Schneider said he wants the prayer room to be "a house of refuge" where people can "sit and let the Lord minister to them."
There's no prayer regimen, form, or requirement, he said. When people feel inspired to pray, they can do so. Otherwise, they can just relax and be reverent.
Rabbi Schneider's television program, Discovering the Jewish Jesus, has been broadcast locally for years on WLMB-TV, Channel 40, at 10 p.m. on Thursdays, but since the prayer chain started there have been new doors that opened wide for his TV show.
The program has since been picked up by DayStar, the second-largest Christian channel in the world; the Church Channel, and the NRB Channel (showtimes are available at discoveringthejewishjesus.com).
Rabbi Schneider said "the two primary foundations" on which the prayer room has been established are to seek intimacy with God and to prepare the way for the Second Coming of Christ.
He said his plans for the prayer vigil at Adat Adonai are that it continue "until Yeshua's return."
- David Yonke