A New Semester and the Harp and Bowl Model

My second semester at IHOPU began on Monday. This quarter I’m taking Foundations of Biblical Eschatology, New Testament Survey, and Forerunner Messenger Practicum. The Practicum is broken up into three rotations, one of which is Harp and Bowl (the model for combining prayer and worship that we use in the prayer room). For my other two rotations I chose Preaching and Teaching, and Writing, out of options including Social Media, Creative Media, and Drama. I know, I know, Drama would be right up my alley, but I already spent four years developing my personal philosophy of Christians in the arts. I would not be able to come into that class with an open mind. Besides, drama is already something I know I have. Preaching and teaching is almost completely new to me, and both that and writing are things I’m feeling called to step into more.

Also, as part of the practicum, I’ll be placed as a singer on a student harp and bowl team. I was on an intern worship team for about three weeks during my internship, but other than that (and one Sunday morning singing at The Refuge) I’ve never been on a worship team before. I am SO excited for this!

For those not familiar with the harp and bowl model, it’s drawn from Revelation 5:8.

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
~Revelation 5:8

Anything that combines prayer and worship (specifically of the musical variety) can be considered “harp and bowl,” but the way we do harp and bowl is a whole structure that is designed to provide an atmosphere for maximum engagement in the room. Singing brings unity, and singing the Word and singing prayers from the Word–WOW!!

At IHOPKC, we mostly do two kinds of harp and bowl sets: worship with the Word, and intercession. Both are structured essentially the same, with times of corporate worship interspersed with times of spoken prayer developed by spontaneous singing. Here’s what your standard two-hour harp and bowl intercession set looks like:

Intercession set several years ago (old stage design). See that far right seat in the front row? That’s my seat. Every time.

  • The worship team consists of a worship leader on (usually) guitar or keys, at least three prophetic singers, musicians, and a prayer leader. At the start of the set, the worship leader will begin leading a familiar worship song as the rest of the team is transitioning onto the stage. We’ll have a time of corporate worship for 20-40 minutes, mostly consisting of worship songs that everyone already knows with maybe a bit of spontaneous singing sprinkled in as the Spirit leads.
  • When it’s time to transition into the prayer time, the worship leader will initiate several minutes of singing in the Spirit. (“What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” 1 Corinthians 14:15) At this time, everyone will sing at the same time, either in tongues or with whatever words of praise are on their hearts.
  • Then, the prayer leader will start leading intercession from the podium just off stage right. The musicians will usually start playing something with a more driving beat, and many people in the room will stand up if they’re not already to help themselves engage more fully. The prayer leader will choose a verse, preferably an apostolic prayer, and pray from that for 2-3 minutes. It may go something like this:
    • “Praying for the ending of sex trafficking in Thailand from Ephesians 1:17-19. ‘That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.’ So God, I pray that You would break into Thailand with the spirit of wisdom and revelation. Open up their eyes to see You rightly. Let the traffickers see who You are and be transformed, and let those trafficked see You and be filled with hope…”
  • After the prayer leader finishes “in the name of Jesus,” the singers will one by one sing spontaneous phrases inspired by the verse and the prayer. The prayer leader may interject phrases of spoken prayers to help guide the singers. It may sound like this:
    • “Oh, God, bring wisdom and revelation to Thailand…”
      “Wisdom and revelation…”
      — “Open up their eyes!”
      “Open up their eyes and let them see You…”
      — “Bring deliverance!”
      “Great Deliverer, bring deliverance…”
  • After a minute or two, the chorus leader (the first singer) will launch a short, simple chorus that the whole room can jump in on, and then will end with a name of God. Maybe something like:
    • “You are the God of justice
      You are the God of deliverance
      Open up their eyes
      Open up their eyes
      [repeat]
      Open up their eyes, oh God”

      [Note: I just made up all of these prayers and choruses off the top of my head, so what you’d actually hear in the prayer room may be quite a bit better.]

  • After the chorus, the prayer leader will either pray again, or another person will come up to pray, and the process will repeat.
  • At some point during the intercession cycle, the prayer leader will invite a time of rapid fire prayer. At this time, anyone in the room can come line up behind the podium to pray a short 5-10 second prayer on the chosen topic. Every ten or so people, the chorus leader will interrupt with a chorus the whole room can sing together for a minute, then the prayer line will continue.
  • After the line ends, the worship team may continue with a chorus, someone may feel inspired to sing a solo prophetic oracle for a few minutes on the intercession topic, or the worship leader may take the room back into corporate worship.
  • After another 20 minutes or so of worship, another intercession cycle will commence.

A worship with the Word set is essentially the same, except that instead of a prayer leader leading intercession, there will be a prayer leader guiding the team through meditation on a short passage of the Bible. Phrase by phrase, the singers will develop the verse (paraphrase, interpret, and expand it). One person’s insight will spark another’s, and as a corporate body we will go somewhere in the Spirit we couldn’t go alone. Singing the Word, whether in intercession or meditation, is the best way I know of to make it a part of you. You may forget the verse you heard in a sermon, or even the verse you read in your own Bible, but you’ll find it difficult to forget the verse you sang. The centrality of the Word is of primary importance in every harp and bowl set.

This model is incredibly flexible and is easily adapted to any culture or context. It fosters unity and an atmosphere of enjoyable prayer–and enjoyable prayer is sustainable prayer.

“These I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
~Isaiah 56:7

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle Morrison
    Mar 14, 2014 @ 16:43:18

    I’m catching up on making comments…The worship time sounds awesome. 🙂

    Reply

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