Sally and Robb Harman have led 24-7 Prayer Stanford for 10 years. But how did it all start?
This is an excerpt from a longer interview put together by Simon Turner. You can read the full version on Simon's Blog.
“At the beginning, we were just turning 40. We were at that stage where we were talking and praying together, and really thinking through the question: “What does the Kingdom of God look like?’" explains Sally.
"We thought, ‘“Our God is bigger than this, there must be more than this,’” continues Robb. "And maybe we’d matured and grown as Christians, but we were definitely in a plateau phase. We were about to drop off the end of the church we were in; and were thinking, ’there must be something wrong with us.’ We shared that with a few other people who said, “we feel exactly the same”.
At that stage their community wasn’t really familiar with 24-7 Prayer, but they opened their doors as a Prayer Community on 1 April 2007.
"We didn't know what we were doing!” laughs Sally.
At the beginning, they simply met to eat and pray together, and welcomed guests to come and stay. They learned as they went along; people wanted to use the Prayer House for birthday celebrations and parties, and their house quickly became buzzing with prayer and community.
Sally explains: ”We thought. ‘I think this is it, I think this is the Kingdom!’ and it was really exciting. We’d been in church forever, but there was this sense of God opening new doors for us. So we were praying, and we were practicing community. We read Boenhoffer’s stuff on community and we thought, ‘Yes, this is it!’
And we just started to gather people. And people were coming alive."
Robb continues: ”I think one of the early gifts of the Boiler Room was that people who were sort-of Christians - people on the edge - they were fanning back into flame something that was alive in them.
Individuals came and prayed, and we wanted to pray corporately as well; so we started to build in prayer; all these 24-1’s. 24-7’s. Individual prayer slots. Praying after meals. This was something people wanted to do.
After being established, the Community soon got busy reaching out into their local area. They hosted 24-7 Academy students and one of them, Charl, ended up moving back to Stanford soon after (and incidentally, would become the Harmans’ daughter-in-law!).
Robb has been a governor at one of the local secondary schools for many years. His good relationship with the school opened doors for the community to partner with them. Robb and Charl soon found themselves meeting with the headteacher, asking, "how can we serve you?".
They began organising and running an after-school café once a week, which the headteacher even insisted they put a prayer space in! They regularly have over 200 pupils through the doors.
We joined the team as they ran the after-school café. There’s a snacks and drinks menu, but the main draw seemed to be the free toast. I was quickly put to work transforming slices of thick-sliced bread into hot toast ready to be buttered by Sally to meet the demand of hundreds of hungry pupils.
Other team members were chatting to students, praying in the prayer space, selling drinks or handing out food. It seemed that 16 loaves of bread had met their match with a horde of ravenous teenagers. Many students just came, ate and left; but others lingered around, wanting to talk and connect. Some were eager to use the prayer space too.
In Stanford 24-7 Prayer Stanford, everything revolves around teamwork and every person being actively involved. That ethos was eminent here.”
Since the first Café in 2011, we have continued to grow and develop as a community, working in three schools, one college, countless projects and hosting visitors from all over the world. We still pray and eat together every week; you’re always welcome.