Salford is a city forming part of Greater Manchester, and has been experiencing a high level of change – one could even say transformation. This has developed over the last couple of decades on a number of levels across the city, including spiritual, social and physical transformation.

This wave of change began at the same time as our churches started to come together as one and begin to pray for our City of Salford. We’d realised the responsibility we carried in prayer for every aspect of the life of this city, and our responsibility to live out our Christian life as a witness in and to the city.

Before I explore some of the lessons we’ve learnt through this journey in Salford, I’ll give you an idea of some of the transformation we’ve begun to see in our city.

The spiritual transformation includes:

  • Church growth – We are now seeing a number of churches in our city grow in ways we’ve not seen in a very long time. We’re seeing churches needing to put on extra services to fit extra people in, building extensions or planning to move to or build buildings with larger capacity.
  • Church plants – We’re also seeing new church plants.

Salford’s social transformation includes:

  • Population growth – Salford had over a number of decades seen a decline in its population. This has started to change in the last few years. As hope for the future has started to rise, so has the population, with the 2001 census showing a population of 216,103, rising to 242,040 in 2014’s figures.
  • Education pass rates – In 2005 32 per cent of pupils were attaining five good GCSE passes, including English and Maths. In 2016 this rose to 52 per cent.

And the physical transformation includes:

  • Media City UK – Phase one of this is the hub of over 100 media companies, including ITV, a third of the BBC, and a wide range of companies involved in many aspects of media. This area is also home to a school, two colleges and Salford University Media department; all of which are training our young people for a career in media. Phase two is now in the planning permission stage, with a proposed £1 billion of investment planned for the area.
  • Middlewood Lock – This development has housing, retail and commercial elements to it, and is situated about one mile from Media City UK. This project has an investment of £700million.
  • RHS Salford – This will be the fifth RHS Garden in our nation, at the cost of £100million of investment. This will be a garden of national significance and will be based on the grounds of the old estate of the Third Duke of Bridgewater, here in Salford.

So, in all of this change and transformation, what are some of the lessons we’ve learnt about the role of the Church in prayer?

The great changes we’re witnessing in our generation are not just based on our prayers alone, but also on the prayers of others – those who did not see the answers to their prayers in their generation, but kept faith that this city would be transformed.

1. Generational prayer

Although we’ve seen an increase in prayer across our churches in the last couple of decades, churches and individuals have been praying for and in our city for many decades, and even centuries. Some of those generations who prayed in and for this place saw great change, others saw only decline, but they stayed faithful and prayed, believing that change would come.

The great changes we’re witnessing in our generation are not just based on our prayers alone, but also on the prayers of others – those who did not see the answers to their prayers in their generation, but kept faith that this city would be transformed.

Likewise we have not and will not see all our prayers answered in our generation, but we are leaving a legacy of prayer for our children’s and grandchildren’s future. Cities develop and grow over generations – both physically and spiritually – and this is one of the key lesson that we’re learning more about.

2. Strategic prayer

To see a city change we have to get God’s wisdom, understanding and knowledge for how our city should work, function and grow. He has a plan for each city and how it should develop, as he does for each individual in the city.

Praying strategic prayers looking for specific outcomes is one of the lessons we have learnt.

For example, we needed a growth in good education results in our city. Not only have we seen exam pass rates increase, but we’ve seen all our high schools receive new buildings – significant because the environment someone is educated in is very important to the outcome of education.

We also realised we needed an increase in opportunities for employment and business development for our young people on leaving education, to have aspirations to excel and not give up. We have also seen this starting to develop across our city.

Praying strategic prayers looking for specific outcomes is one of the lessons we have learnt.

3. Praise in prayer
We had to learn the lesson to not just look for the next step, or next need in prayer, but to stop and say thank you to God for each step of change we have seen.

The healed leper in Luke 17 who came back to say thank you to Jesus is a lesson we have tried to build upon.

For many years churches prayed for growth in their churches in Salford. Growth has now started, but only after we learned to say thank you for each indication of change. A spiritual atmosphere has been created in the city which means we are seeing an increase of people coming to faith. Praise in prayer is one of the lessons we have learned.

In Salford we’ve learnt some lessons over the last couple of years, and we are still learning, still growing, still developing.

We may at times not see what we’re praying for happen according to our timescale, but we know we have a Father who has a future for our city – and for yours – as well as a heart to see all our places change, and even be transformed, in him.

Connect with Dave King through the GATHER network – a national network of vibrant missional unity movements in villages, towns, cities and boroughs.