(Editor's note: Pastor Eric Freeman of Columbia, South Carolina, kindly contributed this post to Africa.com. Find him on Facebook to learn more about his growing prayer circles.)
"Honey, is there something you need to tell me? Your phone has been buzzing all night!," my wife said one morning.
This awkward moment in the summer of 2009 marked the beginning of a strange flow of events that no one could have predicted.
Three days earlier, a colleague and mentor in the mission field asked if I would be willing to adopt a "fledgling" prayer group on Facebook. He knew my penchant for social networking and thought perhaps I could find a unique way to engage the group, which happened to be based in Kenya.
I said to myself, "No problem. I'll just create a 'prayer series' and send a Facebook message to the group each day with a prayer!" It was a little risky, but I figured I had a warm audience.
So on a summer evening, I prepared my first prayer. It was simple. My goal was to have the group focus for 21 days on the importance of being thankful.
"What could go wrong with this?," I mused. I chuckle, even now, at the glibness of that statement.
Since the group was in Kenya and I was in the U.S., I knew I needed to adjust for the time difference. Midnight, my time, seemed perfect. They were seven hours ahead. And I thought, "What an awesome way for the group to start their day."
That evening, I went to sleep feeling pretty good.
It wasn't until four hours later, at the beckoning of a concerned wife, that I came to understand just how much I underestimated the size and zeal of the group. What my mentor neglected to share with me was that the group was a very active prayer community on the ground—and their size exceeded three thousand.
Needless to say, my Facebook inbox was flooded!
While changing my Facebook notification settings, I began to think of ways to harness the power of this newly discovered community. I knew we were on to something special and I didn't want to miss the moment.
As we pressed to day seven of the prayer series, I was overwhelmed with friend requests from members of the group. They wanted to be more intimately connected with their leader.
The only problem was, I had already exceeded the 5,000 friend limit for Facebook. And I hadn't cultivated in any meaningful way my own fan page.
The success of the campaign was now exposing the presumptousness of my strategy.
With few options, I hurriedly decided to include a link to my fan page in the daily prayers. It was my hope that this would redirect the flow of traffic and abate the mounting pressure. To my surprise, the community began to migrate over.
As I continued the prayers through the fan page, I was now able to engage the community in fresh and innovative ways not possible on a group page. The page quickly grew from 900 to 5,000.
Things were moving rapidly and the community seemed to be going with me.
My local church had been streaming services over the internet for years. But something unusual had begun to happen. There was a new trickle of traffic streaming from the continent of Africa. In an effort to get connected with our worship services, the community had now migrated from my fan page to the church's web site.
Little did I know at the time, that this migration was creating a context for a miracle.
It was a Thursday evening in early fall 2009 and we were streaming a prayer event from the church. I led the prayer. And as I prayed, I turned to one of our cameras and began to pray for those streaming.
I prayed for their families. I prayed for their finances. I prayed for their relationships. I prayed for their well being. I prayed for an abundance of blessings to rain in their life!
"Let it rain," I declared. "Let it rain!"
By the time I returned to my study, there were numerous emails and Facebook posts awaiting me. They were from those streaming in Kenya who wanted to express their gratitude for our prayers during this time of drought.
"Drought...," I thought to myself. "I didn't know there was a drought. But God does move in mysterious ways?"
What happened next is almost unfathomable. It rained!
I prayed and it literally rained.
Obviously, the word spread fast of our "miracle" and our Facebook prayer group and fan page began to grow exponentially.
What ensued next was a virtual clinic on the power of social media. There is much to be said on this. But our time is short.
Just suffice it to say that a simple prayer from Columbia, SC gave birth to what became a prayer community of more than 100,000 people.