The Joyful Watchman

At 7 a.m. Nigerian time each weekday morning, Pastor Jerry Eze, often accompanied by his wife and a church staff member, broadcasts a live prayer meeting on YouTube. Among the 1.7 million subscribers globally, no one would mistake it as a time of quiet, reflective intercession. Instead, it’s marked by an intensity, fervency and spiritual passion as the threesome claim specific Scriptures and name specific needs from a formidable stack of printed prayer requests piled in front of them. Toward the end of the broadcast, they play videos of people testifying of answered prayer, often miraculously and supernaturally.

Going by the unassuming name New Season Prophetic Prayers and Declarations channel, it is possibly the world’s largest daily online prayer gathering. The online prayer sessions are an outgrowth of Streams of Joy International Church, a congregation founded by Eze. Today, boosted by the vast prayer session viewership, the church draws 20,000 every week to its primary location in Abuja, and 25,000 more from the campuses across Nigeria, and even more from 12 campuses worldwide.

According to Eze, popularly known as Pastor Jerry or P.J., he didn’t have a plan for the church to flourish this way. When the pandemic shut down the in-person services, he began livestreaming. Eze simply wanted to find a way to inspire his congregation. 

A Joyful Mandate

Growing up in church, Eze noticed people who “manifested God a lot—in their integrity, their walk with God, and their communication in prayer. There was so much God around them, including the gifts of the Spirit. They knew God better than I did. I didn’t hear God the way they did, and I didn’t feel that I loved God the way they did.”

This inconsistency triggered in him a yearning for God that he carries with him to this day. 

“My prayer then and now,” he says, “is not to ask anything for myself, but rather to ask, Use me, let your will be fulfilled in my life. Let it never be about me.

His pathway of prayer has continued to mature. “God leads me to groan over cities and nations,” he says. “God has never failed to remind me, I’ve set you up as a watchman. The watchman doesn’t sleep when others sleep.”

As a result, Eze finds himself wanting to stay up most nights in order to pray, commune and receive from God. 

“I’m mindful that his yoke is easy and his burden is light,” he says, “but I don’t want to miss a nighttime appointment with God. That’s my ongoing journey with him.”

At the same time, not only is Eze’s preaching regularly marked by joy, but he’s convinced that God led him to use the word joy in the church’s name—Streams of Joy International. 

“My mandate is joy,” he says. “God specifically said to me that I have a mandate that everyone who walks through our door must have joy.” 

One of the church’s oft-repeated verses is Psalm 46:4–5, “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. … God shall help her, and that right early.” 

“One meaning,” he explains, “is to find the true meaning of joy in chaos and in the raising of relationships that come from being connected with God.”

Conversations With God

When I asked Eze what advice he would offer to American church leaders, he replied without hesitation, “The most fundamental thing is to be mindful about your secret place. Then he quoted Psalm 91:1, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

This idea is not a vague ideal to him. “There is no public manifestation of the glory of God, no demonstration of the fullness of God, and no exemplification of the supernatural without the secret place,” he says. 

Eze affirms that everything from the growth of the ministry to the miraculous answers to prayer, both in church services and on its internet extension, are an example of what has happened in the secret place. “I’m even a surprise to myself [as to] why I manifest this level of God,” he says.

What specifically does it look like? For him it happens alone at night. “For the past 15 years, I’ve prayed all through the night. It’s a place of groaning, becoming and making.” 

On some nights it’s laden with instruction, while other nights are filled with conversations between him and God, and yet other nights it manifests as a weighty encounter as he senses God to say, Young man, let’s appraise you. Or, Eze says, “maybe it’s a night where God is unpacking stuff in my life, or unpacking revelations for the future or leading me in a specific way.”

Some days Eze meets the morning tired. Other days he’s charged up with messages he can’t wait to express. Either way he continues to have these nighttime encounters because, he says, “I love God, and I want to spend time with him.”

With a wife and two children who keep more traditional nighttime schedules, it hasn’t always been easy. 

“Everyone around me has adjusted to knowing that this is who Pastor Jerry is,” he explains. “They understand that I am a libation that has been poured out.” 

Led by the Spirit

Does Eze expect other church leaders to practice their secret place with God the same way he does? No, but he does watch their prayer life. 

“Every true burden is given in a place of intercession,” he says. “You cannot claim a burden for impact when you have not truly had the same burden for intercession. Something must power it. One powers the other.”

He also watches their expressions of spiritual anointing. Sometimes “it literally feels like there’s a fire burning in my heart,” he says. “It’s because of where I’m coming from. You’ll discover a raw presence of God in the atmosphere, something you might not find in other churches.”

Eze notes Bible passages such as Numbers 11, where God took of the spirit of Moses and gave it to the 70 elders, or the request of Elisha in 2 Kings 2 where he asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. 

“I try to discern how much of the Spirit that God has put inside of me that my protegees are able to access,” Eze says. “My prayer is, Let my people grab of my spirit. The best mentorship I give is to get people into the Word and seeking what the Spirit wants to do through it today.”

It always comes back to the high places of Psalm 91. 

“My secret place is my devotion and commitment to God,” he says. “It is my anchor.”

Abuja, Nigeria
Lead Pastor: Jerry Eze
Founded: 2013
Attendance: 20,000 (Abuja); 25,000 (rest of Nigeria); 5,000 (outside Nigeria)

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