There are about 300,000 Protestant churches in America. While each is surely unique, most of them probably have worship services on Sundays (and, perhaps at one or two other mornings or evenings during the week). But, one church -- Kansas City, Missouri's International House of Prayer (IHOP) -- has been in an ongoing prayer and worship service 24 hours per day, seven days per week since 1999. Literally. A live feed of the never-ending service can be found here. IHOP explains its service breakdown as follows:
There are two basic worship and prayer formats. Each twenty-four hour day is divided into six two-hour intercession sessions and six two-hour worship with the Word sessions which are more devotional in nature.
Below, Mike Bickle explains the cost -- more than $100,000 per month -- to run the technology associated with the movement:
The New York Times recently profiled the church, which was founded 12 years ago by Mike Bickle, a self-trained evangelical pastor. The church has a massive 1,000-member staff (they call themselves missionaries) who have abandoned their careers and moved to be near the church. These individuals spend several hours each day in prayer. In addition to an enormous staff, another 1,000 students attend the church's Bible college where they engage in intense evangelical instruction. The Times has more:
The well-populated prayer room and the devout community growing up around it are at the epicenter of a little known but expanding national network: dozens of groups that are stressing perpetual prayer in a way seldom seen in modern America, said Marcus Yoars, the editor of Charisma, an evangelical magazine...
Mr. Bickle has won praise from many evangelicals, but he has also been criticized by some pastors for what they describe as unorthodox theology and a cultish atmosphere, charges that Mr. Bickle rejects. Some former students said they had been expelled for questioning the fascination with mystical healings, prophesies, angels and demons.
While some pastors believe that Bickle's church is too extreme, others contend that the spiritual leader has gone too far in his belief that the Jesus' second coming will occur during the current generation's life time. But, supporters fully embrace the never-ending worship and educational experience, claiming that it has changed their lives. Bickle believes that the non-stop prayer has a real-life impact on the world. The Times has more on IHOP:
The staff and students here are required to spend at least 25 hours a week in the prayer room, and they also engage in weekly fasts of a day or more. The focused worship, Mr. Bickle says, affects real-world events by weakening the demons and strengthening the angels that swirl among us. Most important, he says, the incantations, multiplied worldwide, may help usher in the long-awaited final days: seven years of bloody battles and disasters that will end with the Second Coming, with true Christians spirited to eternal bliss and everyone else doomed to hellfire.
Right Wing Watch posted a recent video in which Bickle calls Oprah a "cool," "charming" and "classy" woman, but concedes that she is "utterly deceived." Bickle says that she is a "forerunner to the Harlot movement." Watch below:
Read more about this fascinating church movement here.