Prayer Pioneers

‘Total Availability and Radical Obedience’ – Historic Thanksgiving Dinner for Australia’s Prayer Pioneers

On 17 February 2024, 140 people came together to honour and give thanks for Australia’s prayer pioneers – those who’ve pioneered the prayer and intercessory movement in Australia.

The resounding theme of ‘total availability and radical obedience’ covered the entire thanksgiving dinner for Australia’s prayer pioneers. Such a theme fittingly describes all those who sacrificially laid down their lives to begin and grow the national movement for prayer across our great nation.

The dinner, organised by Canberra Declaration, both honoured the past and, importantly, laid the foundation for the future.

An evening to acknowledge leaders in the prayer movement in Australia is unprecedented. “Prayer”, Warwick Marsh stated, is often “the secret, hidden seed. Because the nature of prayer is to get close to God, and God is very, very humble.”

As a result, those who pioneer prayer, by nature, are often hidden people. This is in line with Count Zinzendorf’s famous saying: “Preach the gospel, and die forgotten.”

While true, this is not the complete story. James Condon gave a fitting welcome to the thanksgiving dinner. He grounded the significance and appropriateness of the occasion in the instructions found in 1 Thess 5:12–13.

Paul is explicit that it is right to “Honour those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work” (NLT).

Fittingly, a glimpse of the hidden prayer pioneers became visible so that all the glory could go to God.

As James Condon challenged, “What is God calling us to? Surely, to be faithful, to be fervent prayers – to pray without ceasing, and to follow in their footsteps – to follow in His footsteps.” Watch the full event below.

Professional photographers took many snaps during the evening. These are publicly available by clicking this link here!

Prayer Pioneer Awards

There were two different awards given out during the evening. Both awards were “In appreciation of your sacrificial commitment to prayer to advance the kingdom of God in Australia and the world.”

The first award was the ‘Prayer Pioneer Lifetime Award’. More details of these recipients and their ministries are given below.

The second award was the ‘Prayer Pioneer Lifetime Certificate of Appreciation Award’. These recipients have faithfully served with the Australian Prayer Network (APN).

Those who received this award included Robyn Butt, Bryan (in glory) and Val Clarke, Greg and Judith Code, Val Cutler, Elizabeth Epstein, Gordan and Priscilla Griffiths, John (in glory) and Fay Holland, Steve and Ros Lazar, Warwick and Caroline Pollard, Nick and Alison Ridley, Magdy and Iman Zakary, and Caroline Prosser.

Those who received the Prayer Pioneer Lifetime Certificate of Appreciation Award but were not present on the night included Jonathan Gould, Julie King, Martine Mahler, Gayle Moore, Faith Pankhurst, Len and Helen Rossow, Robin Walker, and Trevor and Jacky Young.

Noel and Barbara Bell

In many ways, Barbara and Noel Bell are the true pioneering parents of national, coordinated intercessory prayer in Australia.

They founded Intercessors for Australia in 1973 with encouragement from Alan Langstaff, Cannon Jim Glennon and Ps Paul Collins.

Barbara & Noel Bell

Intercessors for Australia began holding days/weekends of prayer. These events called people to be watchmen for their cities, towns and churches. Elections and governments were targeted for prayer, along with the challenges Australia faced.

The Bell’s teaching during their intercessor schools focussed on preparing for revival and praying for cities, while at the same time believing for these cities to be filled with public praise and worship to God. Arguably, their prayers were answered as Australian praise and worship hit both the secular cinemas and the mainstream music charts.

The work of Intercessors for Australia came to particular fruition on 8 May 1988. On this day, over 40,000 Christians gathered to dedicate Parliament House and the nation to God in prayer at the National Gathering. This day was Australia’s largest prayer meeting. The National Gathering in 1988 was in part inspired by the then Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who had refused to open Parliament House with prayer!

After 20 years of pioneering the prayer movement in Australia, Intercessors for Australia formally came to an end in 1993. However, the Bells continued their amazing ministry as mothers and fathers to the Australian and global prayer movement. While Noel was promoted to glory in 2017, Barbara continues her ministry supporting prayer in the nation.

At the thanksgiving dinner, Barbara responded, “What a wonderful privilege it is to be able to pray for your nation. We always felt it was such an honour to be involved and to encourage other people to come and gather together for what He has for this nation.”

“Right from those early days, we believed that the Lord had a special destiny for Australia in these end times. We look back and see how the Lord has orchestrated all the prayer meetings, all the prayer movements all dovetailing together. So that He is the One who conducts it all.”

“We are so grateful for what He’s done in the past, what He’s continuing to do today, and the wonderful surge of prayer in this nation in the last ten years.”

Barbara is grateful for the past. But she is also hopeful for the future. “He will raise up the men and women who He knows will be able to take the prayers… to bring this nation to its destiny. I want to thank the Lord… and glorify Jesus who has done it all.”

Jenny and Brian Haggar

Jenny Hagger, with her husband Brian, is the Founder and former Director of the Australian House of Prayer for All Nations. This ministry was established in 1990, becoming the first House of Prayer in Australia, training intercessors, and leading them on local, national, and international prayer assignments.

Jenny & Brian Hagger

In addition, Jenny and Brian founded Mission World Aid in 1992. Since its inception, this mercy ministry has sent 133 shipping containers of aid to 35 different nations.

Ben Gray and Brian Pickering invited Jenny to join the Australian Prayer Network in 1999. She worked with them for almost a decade.

Jenny has pioneered and established an extraordinary amount of prayer and intercessory initiatives. Revival SA is a monthly, city-wide, worship and prayer gathering in Adelaide that Jenny raised up in 1998. It continues to this day.

The Lighthouse Prayer Tower, situated in the heart of Adelaide’s CBD, began in 2001. She also founded the South Australian Parliamentary Prayer Network in 2003, with teams continuing to pray weekly in Parliament House.

Jenny and her husband Brian planted the Father’s House in 2006, a community church connected to the Australian House of Prayer. Recently, in 2020, the South Pacific House of Prayer was founded to pray for the islands of the South Pacific.

Jenny was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2008 for pioneering the work of prayer and mission aid work around the world. Today she serves on the leadership team of The Global Watch.

At the thanksgiving dinner, Jenny first thanked Noel and Barbara Bell for pioneering the prayer movement. “It’s hard for you all to understand now”, she addressed the audience, “but there was nothing back then.”

“And they called us forth.”

Jenny then turned her attention to Ben Gray and Brian Pickering. “These two men believed in me when I really struggled to believe in myself. And the way they mentored me, the way they led me, that’s the fruit.”

She finished by acknowledging the need to continue the work and see it grow and develop. “That’s what I want to do now in my life, I want to mentor the younger ones. I want to call them forth. I want to cheer them on. I want to say, ‘You’re the next one to carry prayer in our nation’.”

Tim and Dianna Edwards

Tim and Dianna Edwards’ passion for promoting and teaching about prayer was imparted to them by their elders, reaching back over the past four generations. Now, with their children launching out in ministry, that makes five generations of passionate prayer warriors!

Tim and Dianna Edwards

The Edwards’ passion for prayer began with a dream in 1983 to minister to their own indigenous people. However, God had other plans and enlarged their heart to reach all of Australia and travel all over the globe.

Over the last 40 years, Tim and Di have ministered in over 100 indigenous communities across Australia. Internationally, they have travelled to over a dozen different countries, praying for people and leading prayer in churches and public events. They have prayed in the underground and the above-ground churches in China.

Together with Ben Gray and Brian Pickering, Tim served on the advisory board of Aglow Australia. He also established the Global First Nations Prayer Network.

Tim’s prayer ministry includes praying for Australia’s Prime Ministers. He prayed for John Howard in 1996 and in 2015, Tony Abbott. In addition, he has prayed for many other Australian politicians and government officials across Australia and overseas.

Tim helped Warwick Marsh and Peter Walker launch the Praise Corroboree at Canberra’s Parliament House in 1996. Tim brought busloads of indigenous youth from Cairns each year to help lead 72 hours of prayer, praise and worship to God for our nation. He also helped Brian Pickering with the Australian and British reconciliation in 1999.

Reflecting on his family prayer heritage, Tim remembers hearing his Dad praying in his room. Tim didn’t want to go in and interrupt “because there was something special in there.”

“What was in that room was the presence of God”, he recalls. “And that was something that we desired and pressed hard after – was the presence of God.”

“And not just to be over our lives but to change atmospheres in the cities, in communities, in the remote place, and also wherever we go.”

Peter and Maria Walker

Peter and Maria Walker are elders of the Bundjalung tribe from the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales. Ps Peter Walker is widely regarded as the leading Indigenous Christian elder in Australia today.

Peter and Maria Walker

The Walkers were mentored in ministry by many great indigenous leaders. These include Ps Peter Morgan from the NT, Ps Ronnie Williams from Kalgoorlie and Ps Gordon Nagas from NSW.

Peter and Maria have been involved in ministry for more than 40 years. They served in pastoral ministry at Redfern Indigenous Church in Sydney for 10 years from 1987 to 1997. Then, they pioneered the Mt Druitt New Covenant Fellowship in Western Sydney until 2010.

The Walker’s have ministered in the UK, Israel, South Africa, Korea, PNG, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, and New Zealand.

Peter was the Chairman and leader of the Praise Corroboree, a 72-hour cross-cultural gathering to glorify God and pray for our nation, at Parliament House in Canberra from 1996 to 2001.

Together, the Walkers helped Brian Pickering with the British-led Australian/UK reconciliation process in the late nineties.

Peter’s prayer ministry also includes ministry to two governor generals. In 1998 he led a cross cultural delegation to pray with Governor General William Deane. In 2020 he prayed with and for Governor General David Hurley in front of Parliament House. This was during the National Day of Prayer and Fasting in 2020.

In 2020 Peter was asked by the President of the National Council of Churches, Bishop Philip Huggins, to lead the nation in a two-day National Solemn Prayer Assembly. This was an unprecedented and historic prayer event for our nation.

On the night, Peter reflected, “If it wasn’t for this woman alongside me, I wouldn’t be standing here. She’s the prayer woman. She motivates me.”

Peter gave thanks for the synergy that the husband-and-wife team has brought. He used the illustration of two horses pulling together which is stronger than the strength of one. Peter then made this point: “And that’s what kept us together – its synergy in the Holy Ghost. We can’t do nothing without the Holy Spirit.”

Ben and Liz Gray, Matthew and Kathryn Bolte, and Kenn and Yvonne Kilah: Pioneering Trailblazers with the Australian Prayer Network

The story of the APN is one about an amazing group of praying people, backed up by a great team of volunteer leaders together with incredible ministry trailblazers.

These trailblazers include Matthew and Kathryn Bolte and Kenn and Yvonne Kilah. Both couples have sacrificially volunteered full-time with APN since 2014.

Matthew and Kathryn Bolte

Kenn and Yvonne Kilah

In addition to these are so many other volunteers too numerous to count. While we cannot give proper recognition here, the fact remains that the reward of these ‘hidden people’ is in heaven.

Ps Ben and Liz Gray are the foundational ministry trailblazers of the APN. They founded the prayer network in 1993 and handed its leadership over to Brian Pickering in 1996.

Ben and Liz Gray

Since that time Ben and Brian have worked together strategically in prayer across Australia and in over 24 countries around the world. A special focus of these prayer and mission assignments includes North Africa, Israel and the Middle East.

In 1998 in Guatemala, Ben & Brian led a team of 130 Pastors, Leaders & Intercessors from Australian & South Pacific nations to play a strategic role in the AD 2000 Spiritual Warfare Prayer Conference in Guatemala City and Mission Outreach to Almolonga.

Since 2012 Ben has helped Brian spearhead the Watchmen Schools of Intercession, which have seen thousands of people across Australia trained in prayer, intercession and mission. Ben also has a passion for training the next generation.

Ben is a speaker, publisher, author and pastor with a broad range of life experiences. He has planted and assisted in the establishment of many churches and ministries in Australia and across the globe.

After accepting his award, Ben acknowledged the usual suspects in prayer – the Bells and the Pickerings.

“Standing here looking back over 30 years”, he began, “to a time when I went to Noel and Barbara Bell. I spend a weekend in their house for guidance, wisdom and prayer. Four years later, the Lord singles me out, and singles out a man, Brian Pickering, to release as coordinator for the prayer network.”

Ben made special mention of “the wonderful, wonderful people who have joined the APN on this crazy journey of the Holy Spirit.”

“I thank my lovely wife, who’s just a wonderful encouragement and support. Without her, I couldn’t do some of the things that I do.”

But above all, Ben acknowledged the true source of the prayer movement. “When I stand here, I have to stop and say, ‘Thank you, Father. Thank you, Father, for what you’ve done. What you’re doing. What you’re going to do. For the wonderful movement of the Holy Spirit.”

“I’m glad to have a little part in a big divine plan and purpose of God. And I look forward to what God has for us as a nation.”

“We really have a mission not only in our own country to do what God has called us to do, but in the world. Can I say, the world is waiting for Aussie, prayer, mission, dedicated people.”

Brian and Robyn Pickering

Brian and Robyn Pickering received special honour on the evening. The Pickering’s remarkable story in the prayer movement began in 1984.

Brian and Robyn Pickering

Inspired by the call of God and encouraged by a prophetic word from Alan Langstaff, together they founded ‘Spirit Alive Ministries’. This soon became a highly effective ministry facilitating prayer and intercession across NSW – and then across Australia.

It was this initial beginning that led Ben Gray to commission Brian as the National Coordinator for the APN, in July 1996.

The APN has led some standout national prayer initiatives such as the British/Australian reconciliation, Vietnam War reconciliation, national prayer gatherings like the Uluru Prayer Gathering in 1999, and National Days of Thanksgiving from 2004 to 2018 – to name just a few.

For the past 24 years, the APN has led tens of thousands of intercessors in praying for the nation through a 24/7 national prayer watch. For many decades Brian Pickering has also resourced prayer movements through weekly emails and digital web-based resources. Up to 100,00 people received the newsletter through prayer groups and churches affiliated with the APN!

At the end of 2012, Brian Pickering was thinking about retiring. So, he asked God, “What should I do?” God answered him with a question, “Will you give me one more season?” To which Brian answered, “Yes Lord, what do you want me to do?” The Lord replied, “Go and teach what you have been doing for the last 30 years”.

This started a new season that became known as the Watchmen Schools of Intercession, with the goal of raising up prayer across Australia. Incredibly, over the past 11 years, Brian Pickering and his team have trained over 16,500 intercessors and leaders through their Watchmen School of Intercession!

The impact of this will only be discovered in heaven.

Prayer Pioneers

In his address, Brian began, “First of all, I want to acknowledge that all the credit for the past 40 years of my life goes to God. Nothing could have happened without God’s hand being upon it.”

For 40 years, Brian worked in a bank, reaching a senior position. He states, “I was a born and bred banker understanding finance the way the world understands finance.”

With this financial knowledge from a natural perspective, Brian points unequivocally to God’s supernatural provision for the APN. Miraculously, the APN never charged for any ministry it has undertaken. It has paid all its own Australian-based travel and ministry expenses, solely relying only on the generosity of its “mobile army” of supporters.

It is truly a unique ministry experience!

For this reason, Brian remarks, “I want to acknowledge that God Himself has provided for this ministry for over 40 years in what I know is a miraculous way. If you knew what it cost to travel the nation and travel the world for 40 years” and that “we paid for every person who came to the school”, you can come to no other conclusion.

Despite the huge costs of holding prayer schools across the country, Brian “never once appealed for money” for the APN. Why? Because “God has provided every step of the way.”

“I know also we made no effort to raise up this ministry. And yet it became one of the largest cross-denominational prayer networks in the Southern Hemisphere.”

“We only ever went where we were invited. And only undertook national ministry events after the confirmation of three prophetic words. We had no one, two or five-year plans. Just radical obedience.”

Brian gave special thanks to “Robyn, who has faithfully stood by my side.”

“No woman could have given more than Robyn, who gave up her life for us both to be able to live a life of total availability and radical obedience.”

“When we began, I was told that many people said to Ben Gray, ‘I think you made a mistake, mate, appointing him as your national coordinator. What would a banker know about prayer?’”

“Well you see, it wasn’t me – it was God. I am just an ordinary, humble banker. And any of you could follow in my footsteps if you’d give God the two things He asks for from us: our total availability and our radical obedience. To God be all the glory. Amen.”

Prayer Pioneers

Giving Thanks for the Past; Hope for the Future

The thanksgiving dinner for Australia’s prayer pioneers was a monumental occasion. The past and present were honoured.

And just as importantly, the future was prepared and declared. Until the Lord returns, the job is not complete.

At the end of the evening, those who wished to be a part of God’s plans for the future were invited to come forward. Australia’s prayer pioneers then prayed for God to raise up the next generation and carry the prayer movement onwards.

Prayer Pioneers

As it has often been said, “History belongs to the intercessors.”

And to this, we can add one more line. History belongs to those with total availability, and radical obedience.

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4 Comments

  1. Barbara Bluett 28 February 2024 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Wonderful

  2. Craig 29 February 2024 at 11:56 am - Reply

    I was blessed by the ministries of Intercessors for Australia and have fond memories of Noel and Barbera Bell. My wife and I were there at the Canberra Gathering all those years ago and recall the privilege, euphoria, unity and opportunity to pray in and for our nation’s Capitol and parliaments.

  3. Anna Soh 2 March 2024 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    It was a blessing and a privilege to be a part of this very special day. Thank you Warwick and your team for all the hard work to organise this event.

  4. Warwick Marsh 12 March 2024 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Thank you, Anna. It really was an amazing time, and the video is a rudimentary documentary on the Australian Prayer movement over the last 50 years. It will inspire many!!!!!!!

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