In all his 72 years of life, James Condon has never seen such a wave of prayer as is taking place across the nation right now.
“There are so many prayer groups,” says the former Salvation Army Commissioner of NSW and ACT who has retired to the Sunshine Coast, where he says there are so many prayer groups he hasn’t yet discovered them all.
“And there has been an incredible moving forward with the establishment of prayer houses across the nation, including one here on the Sunshine Coast and the Australian House of Prayer [for All Nations] in Adelaide.”
As chairman of a new umbrella organisation called Australia Prays, Condon says a key part of its vision is to unite these prayer groups, to “raise up an army of prayer across Australia.”
The estimated 700-800 people who tuned into the online launch of Australia Prays earlier this month included Brian Pickering of the Australian Prayer Network, Warwick Marsh, the founder of the National Day of Prayer and Fasting, and Sue Tinworth, of Partners in Prayer and Evangelism (PIPES), the organisation under which Australia Prays has been established.
“We were feeling that the National Day of Prayer and Fasting wasn’t reflecting what we were doing.” – James Condon
Condon, who took over as chairman of the National Day of Prayer and Fasting seven years ago, explains that its executive felt a need to expand activities beyond one day a year.
“As we’ve journeyed, the National Day of Prayer and Fasting has called for prayer more than one day of the year. So if there were some significant political issues, significant national disasters, other events in the world, we would call a prayer meeting. So we were feeling that the National Day of Prayer and Fasting wasn’t reflecting what we were doing,” he explains.
About 18 months ago, they began to ask God for his leading and direction on the matter. And after exploring possibilities with various Christian organisations across Australia, they landed on joining PIPES – Partners in Prayer and Evangelism.
“If you go out on your own, you’ve got so many hoops you’ve got to go through, so many registrations and all that stuff. PIPES was a perfect fit because Sue was the initiator and leader of the 40 Days of Prayer, which used to be held annually leading up to the National Day of Prayer and Fasting. So Sue’s very passionate about prayer and was keen to have us come under there,” Condon says.
“We were previously under Australian Heart Ministries, with Warwick Marsh as our coordinator from day one, but he had quite a number of ministries and when we talked to him about moving out, he was totally supportive of that because he felt he needed to let go of something and concentrate on other activities of Australian Heart Ministries.”
So from April 30, Marsh will step down and the new national coordinator of Australia Prays and National Day of Prayer and Fasting will be Michael Smith.
When it came to finding a name for the new expanded prayer network, Condon naturally enough asked God for guidance.
“I was praying early one morning before the executive meeting … and I said, ‘Lord, what’s the right name?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Australia Prays.’ I thought, ‘Oh, okay.’ So we had the executive meeting at 11AM that morning. As we were moving through the agenda, we got to the name and I said, ‘Look, folks, I was praying this morning and this is what I feel the Holy Spirit is saying to me.’
“Warwick said, ‘That’s amazing because it’s already a registered brand name.’ And the guy who owns the name had contacted Warwick about two weeks prior to our meeting and said, ‘Look, I’m not using this – would you like to use it?’ And I knew nothing about that. I’d never heard of it. So that’s how the name came to be.”
“One of the things we say is, ‘God, what do you want to call the nation to prayer for?’” – James Condon
A key focus of Australia Prays is to be a movement that waits on God and listens to God, Condon says.
“So when the new executive now meets weekly, one of the things we say is, ‘God, what do you want to call the nation to prayer for?’
“Our first prayer meeting under the new name after the launch is the 28th of April. And we will pray about the federal election, but we will see what else the Holy Spirit leads us to in terms of prayer.”
For Condon, a key Scripture is from Psalm 133: How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity. “That’s part of our vision, to bring people together in prayer,” he says.
“I do believe there’s never been a time in the history of Australia as there’s been a wave of prayer like there is now.” – James Condon
Asked if he sees unity under threat in some way, he says he has never seen such a wave of prayer across the nation.
He says his own life was greatly influenced Peter Wagner, who was a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in the US when Condon studied there in 1988. Wagner changed from teaching church growth to writing about prayer and spiritual warfare and spiritual mapping in the 90s.
“That greatly impacted me. So I look back and I do believe there’s never been a time in the history of Australia as there’s been a wave of prayer like there is now. And God, we need it,” he says.
“God does say ‘If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sins and heal their land.’ [2 Chronicles 7:14].”
“It’s a new day for prayer in our nation with the launch of Australia Prays. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but that is my hope and my prayer … Our vision is to see God’s kingdom come and his will done, in line with the Lord’s Prayer.”