Watchmen on the Wall: An Interview about the IFI Conference in January

Members of the IFI prayer conference climbing up to the hilltop fort at Castel.

Clare Short and Charles Swan are members of a weekly prayer group for Israel, in Northumberland, on the Scottish/English border. Clare has been to the Intercessors for Israel International Conference in Jerusalem several times; this was Charles’ first visit.

CLARE: It’s been a month since the conference, time to process the richness of teaching and the whole experience. What did it mean to you, Charles, to visit Israel for the first time?

CHARLES: On waking up on the first morning, I was praying for Jerusalem as usual when with a sense of shock I suddenly realised I really was IN Jerusalem! What a difference it has made, actually being in the Land praying for the Land and feeling so connected to it and in the centre of God’s will.

In our weekly meetings we regularly use the online Friday prayer points for intercession so you were not new to the Intercessors for Israel’s way of praying. In what key ways therefore did the conference itself impact you?

The weekly prayer points (which are excellent), meant that what we did at the conference was not a surprise or difficult. The straightforward and clear introduction to each prayer issue was very helpful; I find the focus and accuracy of the prayer points quite remarkable. The understanding that God deals with both the physical and the spiritual came as an increased revelation to me. We are so used to spiritualizing everything here in the Western church, including (disastrously!) scripture, that it has become a dangerous path because it is not based on reality What we were praying for were real live up-to-date needs, on such critical areas as Israel’s internal and external security, her leadership, Aliyah, and the Body of Messiah in Israel. I felt assured that we were praying for what God wanted us to pray for – these were the things on His heart.

After a full week under the IFI leadership team it is clear that these are men who wait on God, are humble, and seek only His direction in intercession. (After all, there is no point in praying against the will of God!). Also, they live here; they know the situation so well. The IFI leadership was absolutely vital to keeping us on track, on target and leading us through the work of prayer; they were our example really. Also, prayer was based on relevant Scripture; applying the Word of God appropriately to events and situations was very powerful. Unity is never automatic, let alone in a group of 200 people from 40 nations as at the Conference, but by half way through the week I believe that we came into great unity and in our prayer we were flowing as one. Prayer is hard work and I was tired at the end of the week! In all things I believe we were praying for the Lord’s will to be done and His great Name to be known and glorified.

Though we were in Jerusalem and at an excellent hotel, I think we would all agree it wasn’t  “holiday” – definitely a working week! What did you think then of having an entire day out, for our visit to the battle sites of Latrun and Castel? Was it helpful, or in a sense opting out of a day’s intercession?

I thought it was a very good interlude from the ‘intensity’ of the prayer and getting out to see an area where the battle for Jerusalem took place in 1948. Being a first time visitor to Israel it was great to see some of the land and connect it Biblically to the day when the Lord stopped the sun in the sky for a day over the valley at Latrun to enable the Israelites to have time to win the battle! The huge physical cost to the Jews in regaining their God-given land was evident at the tank Museum Memorial which commemorated the 4,900 tank soldiers who have given their lives since 1948 for the cause of Israel; we saw it too at the crucial battle at Castel for the hilltop fort. Of course, we continued praying at the places we visited! Does intercession for watchmen ever stop?

For me, praying at these places (and those on the second week, on tour round Israel’s borders) was like a glimpse into the heart of God, in His covenant love for the Jewish people, and His choice of Israel as HIS heritage. Also, one becomes far more aware of realities on the ground both in the past and now. What those visits highlighted for me was that prayer itself is part of the battle for the land and people of Israel. There is a cost, too. We both agree it was fairly intensive output. Were there aspects of the conference that helped you to sustain that, and/or ministered to you personally?

I found the conference a great encouragement to persevere in prayer. Quite often subjects for prayer are repeated and therefore this is about sustained, committed prayer until we see the answer or the Lord makes it obvious that we need no longer pray over that issue. I think this often happens quite naturally in that one moves on and there doesn’t seem to be that pressing need to pray over the previous issue. Of course it may return later. The leading of the Lord is absolutely vital so that our intercession is according to His will. The Holy Spirit does lead a humble and willing heart. There is also inspiration and the fellowship with other Believers committed to intercession. Being one together in the Spirit is a great thing and often others will pray exactly what was on your heart to pray. That’s an encouragement! I think also that the praying was on a very practical level. I learned there is no real need for long, lengthy prayers, nor the need to relate the issue back to God – He does know about it and is wanting us to work with Him in our praying.

As a retired teacher, Charles, could you mention one or two specific ways in which the conference actually formed a SCHOOL of prayer?

Yes I think it was important that one went along with the attitude of wanting to learn the “how” of prayer, (and, essentially, how to pray corporately – something completely unknown in so many fellowships and congregations!). That takes some humility. You put yourself under the authority of the teacher. It’s about listening to instruction and being prepared to follow it, to the letter as it were, and not going off course. Is that not how we are to be before our Father, as children? It was how His Son was when here on earth – He did nothing outside of what His Father showed and directed Him. If for Him, so much more for us. We need to lay down our own agendas. And so all of this is a discipline and coming into line with the teaching as to how it is done. If we got it wrong, and in the conference that did happen, then we had to be prepared to be corrected, take it on the chin and not get into a state about it but learn and move on boldly in line. Being attentive to instruction does mean that we develop more quickly  as pray-ers and intercessors. As mentioned before once a unity of purpose was developed then we moved very much as one in that unity of the Spirit. This is powerful in the Lord. Wandering off course is a distraction and a waste of precious time.

A final question Charles. What was your assessment of the theme in the conference title “Truth has fallen in the streets”?

This was such an apt title for the world we live in – a wake up call for all of us. The church in the West generally has so lost its way, aligning with the world rather than scripture and the Word of God. This has serious repercussions for the way the church sees Israel. We now also see political leaders following paths of almost complete madness and delusion and peoples following those paths. The scandal of BDS, a UN fixated with condemning Israel, and a biased global media are clear signs of the times. There is nothing more important for us than that we continue faithful to God’s call to be intercessors, which includes praying for more to hear that call, and dedicate themselves to prayer as the return of Messiah draws ever closer.

And may the Lord give us and even more intercessors from around the world the privilege to be back interceding in Jerusalem next year too!