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by Ralph F. Wilson

A 75-year-old man beamed at me and said, "At home I have trouble praying for five minutes. Here, an hour seems too short." As we left the church at dusk, having prayed for an hour, our replacements knelt to begin another hour of prayer.

It wasn't always like this. In our church, intercessory prayer had been meager, enthusiasm for prayer virtually nonexistent. For years I had struggled to lead members into a richer prayer life. Then, two years ago, we discovered a time-tested method to challenge and stretch people in prayer: the prayer vigil.

The idea is centuries old. Vigil indicates a time of vigilance or wakefulness, a watch. People used to keep vigils the night before a religious feast.

We schedule a prayer vigil two or three times a year. Good Friday naturally lends itself to prayer. We've also tried early September, before the program year gets underway, and the beginning of the Advent season.

The nice thing about a prayer vigil is simplicity ...

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