People often ask me where the idea of Redeeming Our Communities (ROC) came from. The answer is that it was inspired by seven years of inter-church city-wide prayer in Greater Manchester. Concerned for our reputation as ‘Gunchester’ which described some of the serious social issues we were experiencing as a city, we felt stirred to start a united prayer movement back in 1993. Seven years later, we had over 200 churches of different denominations and streams praying together. Our aim was to change the spiritual atmosphere and reduce incidents of violent crime.

I’m a great believer in specific or informed prayer. We can only be specific if we have knowledge. Informed intercession is powerful.

Someone said general prayers are a breeding ground for unbelief”. Think about it, if we can’t be bothered to do any research, our prayers will just be very generalised. Being specific holds us accountable and fires up our faith when we see the answer to our specific prayers.

Imagine how we felt when we prayed no more Gunchester” in a packed velodrome in 2008, only to read on the Manchester Evening News front page headline six months later: Is this the end of Gunchester? Violent crime has fallen by 38 per cent in the last six months”.

Prayer is a powerful first step.

Seven years of persistent prayer

Following seven years of persistent united prayer we felt led to start ROC. The idea of people of goodwill working together towards safer, kinder communities” was born. We knew that no one organisation could transform a community working on their own, but that collaboration and partnerships were key. Our partnership with the police came first but quickly opened the door to working with other organisations. Prayer turned into action and new projects emerged such as the ROC Café afterschool youth clubs, which aimed to reduce anti-social behaviour.

However, we didn’t leave prayer behind. As we started to tackle social issues, the call to intercede only increased. I can honestly say that what we prayed as a team at our regular Friday meetings and what we heard from God in the prayer room formed the basis of what we did next.

As we started to tackle social issues the call to intercede only increased.

What started in Manchester quite quickly became a national movement. We launched ROC nationally at the Trumpet Call prayer event at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in 2006 with 7,000 people attending. I remember so clearly that we called all the police officers to the front and we prayed for them and thanked them publicly. One officer left the hall in tears. He said later, In 30 years of service no one has ever said thank you to me.” We heard that three months later he attended an Alpha course and gave his life to Christ.

The event at the NEC directly led to our launch in Northern Ireland. Sir Matt Baggott, formerly chief constable in Leicester, was called to the police service of Northern Ireland and he invited us to start ROC there. I was told it can’t be done, ROC won’t work here”, but we had 1,500 guests at the launch event in Waterfront Arena in 2012, and ten years later the work is thriving in Northern Ireland.

We love to bring communities together and around ten years ago we developed the ROC Conversation” community engagement model. The whole community is invited to meet under one roof to explore ways of working together to tackle local issues, followed up by forming a multi-agency action group. What’s interesting is that when we’ve found a local prayer group to work alongside us the results are far more remarkable. Prayer and action truly work hand in hand.