Lurgan, Northern Ireland
Alain Emerson helps run Emmanuel Church in Lurgan, NI, and heads up 24-7 Prayer for Ireland. With raw, authentic faith and a story of personal struggle, Alain has a testimony of what prayer can do for individuals and the local church.
Why do you think prayer is so important?
Prayer is like breathing; it’s like taking in oxygen. For any relationship to stay alive we need communication, that’s all prayer is. We need to connect with our Maker and that’s what we want to do and we want to help others to do that too. I think we need to de-clutter all the religious stuff; prayer isn’t a performance, it’s honest relationship with God.
What have you learnt about prayer through your personal journey?
I’ve learnt that it’s wild, adventurous and exciting – and that it’s the most natural thing in the world. We come as we are and not as we should be. I’ve also learnt a lot about unanswered prayer. My first wife passed away aged twenty-seven from cancer and not having my prayers answered was such a difficult thing to understand but, at the same time, prayer sustained me. You have to be honest and God invites that.
I’ve found out that the prayer of pain is a prayer of praise and God wants us to come to him as we are. The Bible is a rich resource and it’s full of grief-stricken, heart-broken laments and in it we see that we have permission to grieve in prayer. We can bring anger and sadness to God, we don’t have to hold back. I like to think of it as ‘soul articulation’.
Another thing that’s stuck with me is a quote I heard a while ago, that ‘it’s better to pray badly than not at all’. I think that’s so helpful to remember, that prayer isn’t something you can do wrong You just have to be real and honest.
Why and how did you get involved with 24-7 Prayer?
I fell into it really. I was a youth pastor in my home church in Lurgan. I was seventeen or eighteen and as a youth group we knew we needed to start praying together. Over a long weekend we decided to go away and we just prayed night and day for four days straight and God showed up. I saw faith rejuvenated and, for us, a culture of prayer and mission developed from there. 24-7 Prayer was developing as a movement and I naturally fell into a national leadership role and have seen it grow since then.
How do you see prayer in relationship to Alpha?
At a local level we’ve run Alpha at our church for about five years now and it’s become a big part of who we are and we’ve seen it bring newness and life. When we’re running a new Alpha, we pray it in. Prayer fits alongside Alpha naturally, they complement each other really well. At a national level I think prayer is crucial to Alpha because intimacy with God leads to involvement with the world – when we pray and build that relationship with God we get inspired go out and impact our communities and nations and Alpha is a great tool to help do that.
What advice would you give to people launching a new Alpha?
I’d say that prayer really does matter. I think it’s a good idea to get creative and find ways to invite people to join in. Pray for issues locally and globally and don’t be afraid to be real and honest in prayer. I think for Alpha it’s so important to remember to prioritise the presence of God and prayer is the way to do that.
In a practical way I’d say, pray for people: get a list of names of everyone on Alpha and pray for them individually and also pray for people you want to see come and explore faith. Pray together as a team running Alpha too, corporate prayer can help us inspire and engage one another. Essentially, just pray.
Thinking of running Alpha? Discover everything you need to know here.