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Cleaning Out the Muck: Renewal Prayer Night in New Jersey


Walk into Covenant Christian Reformed Church in North Haledon, N.J., on a Wednesday night, and you might find yourself standing in front of a fish tank full of muck as part of Renewal Prayer Night, an evening of personal repentance and prayer.

“We renew our relationship with our Lord and Savior through prayer, listening to God’s voice, confession, and adoration,” said JuleAnn Martin, one of the monthly event’s organizers.

Those who attend Renewal Prayer Night experience a different activity each month related to renewal. That’s where the mucky fish tank comes in. Staring at the tank, participants “reflect on the necessity of repentance and the need of a Savior,” Martin explained. After this, “each person was encouraged to symbolically remove filth from their life by scooping handfuls of muck from the tank. The tank was then washed clean and new water was poured in, symbolizing our cleansing through Jesus.”

Another time participants wrote a personal prayer request on a piece of paper cut into the shape of a hand, which they then pinned to a bulletin board. Finally, they placed another hand on someone else’s prayer request and prayed, lifting each other up in prayer.

Renewal Prayer Nights began in the fall of 2012 when Covenant’s youth pastor, AJ Santino, and his wife, Larissa, organized prayer nights they called Sacred Assemblies, based on Joel 1:14: “Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God and cry out to the Lord.”

There was a great response and interest in having these on a regular basis. By 2013, pastor Trevor Payton and JuleAnn Martin came on board to help plan an evening focused on Good Friday. “After that,” Martin explained, “a multigenerational planning team was assembled, including Brynmor Anderson and later Nadine Bordongia.”

In Covenant CRC’s newsletter, Martin wrote, “This night is not for super prayer warriors or super prayers. We are all trying to learn to be better communicators with our Lord.”

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