Monday, February 2, 2009

IHOPrayer and IHOPancakes

I figured that since I was going to spend several days at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, that it would be fitting to also visit the International House of Pancakes--a place I've never been before. It's amusing how people who are unfamiliar with the one assume the other is what you mean.

IHOPancakes serves up good food in a friendly fashion. All-you-can-eat pancakes was on the menu and the waitress who served me the first time remembered me in my subsequent visits. "How do you want your eggs," she had asked that first day. When I'm at home and cooking eggs, I will break them into the pan, break the yolks and then turn the eggs before they develop any brown crustiness. How do you communicate that to a restaurant? "Over-easy with the yolks broken," didn't seem to compute so the waitress said she'd have the kitchen prepare them the way she thought I wanted them and if they didn't turn out right, she'd have the cook re-do them.

They came back exactly the way I did not want them but I hate waste and I feel uncomfortable making a big deal out of something so insignificant, but she insisted so I described how I do it at home. I could hear her talking to the cooks after she left my table, trying to translate my request to them. Another waiter came up to me hoping he could maybe help with my difficult order--very willing to be of service but an uncomfortable position for me to be in. When the eggs came back they were perfect. "Order 'over-hard easy'" was her recommendation from the cook so I did and got them perfect every time. I wonder if that instruction will work in other places.

IHOPrayer was my second stop that first day. It's a very interesting and unique sort of place located in a strip mall that has been turned into various parts of the IHOPrayer facility. I spent time in two parts--the prayer room and the coffee shop/espresso bar.

The prayer room is not dissimilar to a church sanctuary with rows of upholstered stacking chairs divided by aisles. Additionally, there are tables, chairs, power outlets and free wifi for those with computers. On the stage a band plays non-stop, 24/7. Well, it's not the same band all the time. They seem to play for an hour or two and then another takes its place. They shift between the two bands so seamlessly that if you aren't watching the stage, you'd never know there had been a change. To the side is a microphone which was used at times for Bible readings and spoken (as opposed to sung) prayers. Interestingly, attendance on Sunday was sparse but on Monday during working hours the place was full and parking was hard to find.

I like the way prayer is done here. A band will start off with a song that is known that perhaps touches on the theme of prayer for that hour but before long they are singing and playing improvisations--heartfelt prayer expressed with music. For instance, for a period of time on the Monday I was there, the prayers were for the new president, Barak Obama and for the ending of abortion. One thing they prayed repeatedly was:

Open up his eyes
Open up his eyes
Let him see the value of life!

Another prayer that was sung repeatedly was:

Let life break in
Let there be life, life, life
Let there be light, light, light
We prophesy life, life life.
Troubler of kings,
Disturb him in his dreams!

I have heard people (not at IHOP) complain about repetitious songs but my answer to that is in Revelation chapter four, where John has a peek into heaven and he observes the cacophony of praise: The four living creatures are saying non-stop,"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come," and the twenty-four elders say, "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." These lines of praise to God are unendingly repeated, providing ample example of what continuous praise and worship can be.

I was very blessed by so much of what was being sung and prayed but at the same time, I felt disconnected. I couldn't focus on God the way I wanted and hoped to. This was disappointing. I had hoped to meet God in a fresh, new way but it didn't happen--either in the prayer room or in Higher Grounds (the coffee shop next door), Panera Bread (a bakery/restaurant with free wifi and power outlets at every table), IHOPancakes or my room--the other places where I spent time. At first I wondered if it was because of my easy access to the Internet but I have that at home and have had some wonderful times with God here. My conclusion, as stated in yesterday's post, was that the stress of the hotel not being what it should be was the source of my inability to concentrate.

Would I go again? I think so. Is a place like IHOPrayer the only place we can meet with God? No! But there is something about being part of a body of believers in praise, worship and prayer that has power and force. We can experience this in our local churches for a few hours each week but for long periods of time, day after day? That's hard to find. I hope that next time I will be less distracted and more focused on my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

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