We are eternally grateful for the sacrificial, fragrant offering of this incessant proclamation and for the way it has changed us—and thousands of lives all over the world—forever.

My IHOPKC Experience: Matt & Dana’s Story

by Matt and Dana Candler
3 weeks ago 20th Anniversary

The year 1999 was filled with beginnings. Our marriage was only days old the day that IHOPKC went 24/7, and fresh from the altar, we gladly joined in building that little prayer room whose songs would not cease, day or night. Yet we’d both say that September 19, 1999 wasn’t the actual beginning for us. For a few years before IHOPKC began, the Lord had been drawing each of our hearts with powerful truths from His Word: Jesus was a Bridegroom King with passion and delight in His people, and He was returning to a church consumed with love for Him. As college students, it was these truths—preached and proclaimed by a man named Mike Bickle—that laid hold of us and caused us to desire to give our lives to growing in knowing Him deeply, to searching out His beauty, and to understanding His story. When IHOPKC opened its doors with the intention of never shutting them, we felt the Lord building upon what He’d already been putting in our hearts by inviting us to take our place in that sanctuary.

The Glory of Singing the Word in Prayer

The early years of prayer meetings always felt like digging for gold—gold you absolutely knew was there, just waiting to be found. Though we were new at intercession and new at singing the Word, we couldn’t help but feel as though we’d been given a gift and privilege beyond measure in this assignment of keeping that sanctuary, agreeing with Him in intercession, and gazing on His beauty, morning, noon, and night. And though many days it was dry and mundane, we also experienced many times of finding something glorious together: the joy and fascination of discovering another insight, another life-altering perspective about Jesus, leaving different than when we came. In fact, if we had to highlight one most impactful thing from our early years of IHOPKC, we would say it was discovering the glory of searching out the beauty of Jesus by singing His Word in prayer, both individually and corporately.

Dana: In those early years, I remember leaving many prayer meetings, after singing together from a passage in Isaiah or Psalms or Song of Solomon, and sitting overwhelmed in my car, tears in my eyes and wonder filling my heart—struck by the passion and emotions of God’s heart for His people—for me!—or by the sobriety of His coming. Those experiences in the Lord hooked my heart forever and even to this day, after 20 years of singing the Word together with worship teams, I consider nothing more exhilarating in Jesus and more bonding with brothers and sisters in Christ than discovering His beauty and worth as we sing, proclaim, and agree with God’s Word in prayer together. Over and over again, countless times, I have found my love for Jesus, for His Word, and for those ministering with me to deepen and increase in a palpable way.

Matt: Once bored-with-the-Bible and speechless-in-prayer people like us crashed headlong into the boundless beauty of God in bite-size meditations and corporate cries of intercession. But it didn’t begin that way. In the early days, singing the Bible was a new idea to me. It took awhile before I understood or had enough experiential history in it to know how it would become the singular most transformative activity in my relationship with the Lord. And for me personally, it was one particular conversation with Mike Bickle that marked me and set me on course to discover this.

I’ll never forget his boisterous smile as he flung the light silver Honda Accord into drive and we followed the U-Haul truck to the downtown conference center to unload the packed truck for the upcoming conference.

I got a question for ya, I said to Mike.

Great; shoot!

I went on. As I’ve seen your life, your love for Jesus and the Word, and your joy in hardship, what one thing would you say, “Do this,” and everything else will fall into place? In other words: if you could only tell this generation to do one thing, the only sentence you could leave with us, what would it be?

What I thought might create a pause for a minute or two, took only a moment.

Oh, easy. I got it. 

Really?! I was so excited! I was about to get the secret formula from a man of God I respected. Not only that, I could already taste the sweetness of the fruit of the Spirit that was about to come forth in my life.

Hmm, okay. Well, what is it?

Turn the Bible into a conversation with Jesus. 

Wait, what? I said.

Yep. Use your voice and talk with Jesus about what you read in the Bible. And if you really want more to happen faster, sing it. Sing the Bible. 

Sing the Bible, like when you are in a worship service?

Yes, but more than that. When you spend time in the Word at home alone, in the prayer room, or in your car, sing the Bible to God. 

You did this before IHOPKC? I asked.

Oh yes. I have sang through most of the Bible, even the genealogies. I don’t really recommend that so much, though, he laughed. I don’t have the best voice yet, he joked, but there has never been anything more transformative in my spiritual walk than praying and singing the Bible in a conversation to Jesus. But here is the deal. It is so simple that few people do it, and that is one of its greatest challenges. The other big challenge is that you can’t evaluate if it is working until you have done it every day for ten years.

Ughten years, I thought. It seemed like an eternity to me. But I couldn’t evade his clarity, conviction, and testimony and what it might mean for my life. And so, reluctantly at first, I set my heart and mind and began to fumble my way into singing the Word in conversation back to the Lord. And even harder, I committed to not evaluate or draw conclusions for ten years. But it wouldn’t take me a decade to begin to believe what Mike said was really true. In fact, I realized years later that he was only reiterating what David called his one desire: “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple”—all within the context of singing (Psalm 27:4, 6). Now, I too seek to talk others into the very thing Mike talked me into: Just try it, without evaluating, for ten years!

The Perpetual Proclamation of His Beauty and Worth

That decade that once seemed so daunting when Mike first spoke of it came sooner than we imagined, and before we knew it, we had been intercessory missionaries for ten years; then eleven, twelve . . . and now, twenty years. As the years have continued to unfold one by one, becoming parents to one, then two, then three, and then four children, we’ve served in many roles and known many differing seasons at IHOPKC—both times of extensive growth and times of considerable pruning. We’ve experienced both increase and decrease, times of favor and times of testing. We’ve felt the pain of friends and comrades moving away as well as the joys of having a spiritual family all across the earth. We’ve had seasons of confusion, of disheartenment, and then those of tender renewal. We’ve known countless times of feeling the wonder of this assignment as well as the many times of feeling a burdensome stigma related to it. Yet in all of the highs and lows and differing circumstances, something profound never ceases to realign us—the underlying truth beneath the songs and prayers: Jesus, You are worthy.

Joining ourselves with noble singers and musicians continually ministering to the Lord, we proclaim this intrinsic truth beneath whatever specific prayer or song is being presently offered. Perhaps more profound than the songs themselves, than the cries of intercession—anointed as they may be—is this statement beneath it all, the declaration that is made simply by the continual offering of sincere love and worship and agreement. He is worthy of our love. He is worthy of night-and-day prayer. He is worthy of constant adoration. He is worthy of continual agreement with His heart, His desires, His promises, and His plan. 

Like the Holy, holy, holy around the throne never ceases, this constant chorus doesn’t stop, and its persistent cadence informs and reinterprets our circumstances, our perspectives, and our day-to-day lives. This repeated refrain redirects our affections to be riveted upon Him. Over and over, we are revived and stirred with fervent love through these songs of adoration and cries of intercession.

Dana: Recently, while prayer leading with Jonas Park’s team on an ordinary Thursday afternoon, I wept and wept, overcome by the sheer privilege of giving my life to join with a few noble singers and musicians and lift our voices before the throne of God in prayer and adoration. Together, that undergirding message of all of our songs and prayers was: Jesus, we love You. We pour out our worship upon You. Again, today, we agree with Your heart and Your ways.

We are eternally grateful for the sacrificial, fragrant offering of this incessant proclamation and for the way it has changed us—and thousands of lives all over the world—forever. To every singer that has lifted His name, every musician that has ministered, every intercessor that has labored, every person that has served this house and spiritual family, we are profoundly indebted. The names and faces have changed many times over the years, but the grand mission of exalting His name together remains the same and requires a great company—yesterday, today, and into the future.

Reaching twenty years of night-and-day prayer, now looking to the dawn of this new decade, we have a joyful and sober expectation (1 Peter 4:7–8). With zeal and joy, Jesus will faithfully lead us forward and finish the work He has begun (Philippians 1:6–11). We look ahead to a glorious future, knowing that those truths that overcame our hearts in our youth He intends to multiply far beyond what we’ve yet known. We’ve only heard the whispers of His glory as the Bridegroom King who will return and make every wrong thing right (Job 26:14).

Yes, we have come to the twenty-year mark, but the truth is we’ve only just begun.

What is burning in your heart right now?

Matt & Dana Candler

position

    Matt and Dana Candler live in Kansas City, Missouri, with their four children. They both serve on the leadership team and are the directors of internships at the International House of Prayer of Kansas City. Matt and Dana are also instructors at International House of Prayer University, a full-time Bible school. Dana is the author of Deep unto Deep: The Journey of the Immesurable Love of ChristEntirety: Love Gives All, and Mourning for the Bridegroom.

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