Another instalment from ex-disciple Giles about life as a disciple in SCOAN. Again this is a personal account and the views expressed are those of the writer only:
The church owns a large area of land not far away, called “Prayer Mountain”. It’s actually not a mountain, its a swamp, and just as Moses, Jesus and various other Biblical figures had spiritual experiences on mountain tops, they see it as a spiritual mountain that is set aside for prayer.
When I say swamp, get out of your head stinking marshes where the Swamp Thing lives. Its actually pretty beautiful the way it’s been done up with water channels, wooden pathways and beach sand. Very peaceful. There are different areas accessible by zodiac, like a wooden hut, or sometimes just a bit of open ground that are prayer areas (I can imagine its changed alot since I last visited). TB Joshua is a big believer in there being no break in prayer, that “a break in prayer is a break with Christ”. So teams of “prayer warriors” take it in turns at going there and spending 24 hours praying for the him and the SCOAN ministry. You arrive there early in the morning and relieve the previous team, beginning straight away, everyone walking around in a circle with the lead guy saying the “prayer points” (prayers taught by TB Joshua) and everyone following behind saying amen, amen. “May TB Joshua be a channel of shinning light where there is darkness”, “AMEN!”, or quoting psalm 51 and using TB Joshua’s name in verse 18 instead of “Zion” and SCOAN in place of “Jerusalem”.
You’d take turns at being the lead person, and later at night, you would have just the one person take turns at it while the others slept. Disciples are taught that in praying for TB Joshua and his ministry, God will answer your prayers too.
You dont eat or drink anything during your prayer vigil.
A lot of miraculous things have been reported at Prayer Mountain, and for this reason its widely regarded as a special place among the Scoan congregation. Many would want to go there to pray for certain pressing issues cos you’re taught that its a holy place, therefore the assumption would be your prayers are…stronger I guess? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure of the official explanation as to why it was so important to go there for your prayers. It was all a bit vague. I remember one disciple explaining it to me as it being “not an ordinary place”, and went onto tell me of some miraculous deliverance, ending again with “because its not an ordinary place”. So I can understand why people with desperate issues wanting to go there to pray to God. I mean, when my mother was dying of cancer I remember thinking “if only I could get to prayer mountain in Lagos”.
Here’s the catch. You needed a pass to get onto the area. The church is divided into separate groups, named after Biblical names, and each member is registered. When tithes are collected, the person collecting tithes would put a tick next to your name to show you have payed your tithe, appropriate to the salary you are marked as earning. Everything is recorded. So a good member would have an unbroken string of ticks beside your name to show you’re a good tithe paying citizen of heaven. One of the benefits of this is getting considered to have a Prayer Mountain pass and be allowed onto prayer mountain at certain times. Of course, to apply, you needed a clean record. Other groups, like the Youth, would get nights at Prayer Mountain to themselves. Again though, everyone is registered back at the church on the tithe-list.
Another group who would have a Prayer Mountain Pass were members of Emmanuel TV. You needed to make a contribution of at least $50 (yes, i also thought a minimal amount was cheeky when I later set up a direct debit to contribute to the tv station), and in return, you get the pass, and certain nights of the week would be for that group. I remember standing at the entrance of prayer mountain one night with a couple of disciples checking EmTV passes. One guy was a new member of scoan and husband of a pass-holder. She could get in, but they werent allowing him in with her and I remember thinking how wrong it seemed, and how uncomfortable it made me. I felt like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings standing on the bridge screaming YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!
So in the same way the fear of being kicked off the disciple list was a way of keeping disciples on their toes, the prayer mountain also kept members on their toes. Keep paying your tithes, get your pass and you’ll get to pray there and God will hear you and you’ll live happily ever after and if not, you’ll just grow old and lonely.
Again, it has to be said here that there is definitely a need to regulate people in some way though. There are thousands of members wanting to get onto that particular bit of land, so they’d obviously have to take turns. But money and control play a big part of the whole thing. If you ever stop paying your tithes, or fall foul of the ministry in anyway, you dont get to go there anymore.