Discovering the depths of prayer has been central to OM over these past 60 years. From the beginning, when Dorothea Clapp prayed for the school opposite her house, asking the Lord to save and scatter students to the nations, prayer has been part of our DNA.
Dale Rhoton says of the early days, ‘The best ideas always came out of the prayer meeting.’ The OM movement began in a prayer room in Chicago in the 1950s, where OM founder George Verwer, Dale and a small group of Bible college students met. Mr Verwer suddenly jolted during prayer, exclaiming that God was pointing them to Mexico. This was how Operation Mobilisation was formed in 1957.
After a tough leadership meeting, looking at what OM lacked in people and finances for a major summer outreach, Mr Verwer declared in a prayer meeting, ‘God has told me to go for a ship’.
Six years later, MV Logos launched into service, forcing many of us into desperate seasons of prayer because of the seemingly impossible situations we faced: finance, people, permissions to visit countries, and more. But it was in those seasons of prayer that we discovered wisdom from above, provision from God’s hand and doors swinging open as we prayed into the night and early morning.
Many of us were shaped by half nights of prayer, crying out for nations and people. A recent email from leaders in a US church who were with us in the 1980s testified, ‘Probably the biggest impact on our lives was [that] we really learned how to pray in OM, and that foundation has caused us to lead tons of prayer meetings throughout the years’.
Adventure of a lifetime
We saw God do extraordinary things as we prayed. It was the adventure of a lifetime seeing God answer specific prayers. God protected us through prayer. During the Cold War, the Greater Europe team smuggled Bibles across the Iron Curtain. Only years later did we learn that one contact was an informer for the East German secret police who, linked to the KGB, sought to stop the stream of Bibles and literature heading to the underground church.
We were a handful of zealous youths against an oppressive state. And yet through our weekly half night of prayer, specially constructed vehicles and contacts in the East, God kept us hidden and effective.
Prayer in OM was caught, not taught. For the Vienna team in the 70s and 80s, Thursday night was normally prayer night; worship would lead us into two hours of prayer for OM work around the world.
After a short break, the focus until midnight was on our teams on the road, the church in the East, critical needs, and for walls to come down, which they did in late 1989. No matter what time the meeting finished, it was work as normal the next day.