The leader of Prayer Storm on wimpish prayers, speaking in tongues with his ten-year-old and the incomparable joy of learning to commune with God

James Aladiran looks at me expectantly. “Have you ever spent three hours praying, looked at the time and it was only 15 minutes?” he asks. I smile nervously, not wanting to admit that, despite my best intentions, my experiences of prayer are usually the exact opposite.

Interviewing Aladiran is in equal parts intimidating and inspiring. The half-Nigerian, half-Ghanaian missionary kid who was born in Liberia and moved to the UK aged 17 is everything you’d expect from someone who runs a prayer movement. He spends the half-hour car journey to school each day praying in tongues with his ten-year-old. He unapologetically teaches his children that too much TV dulls the spiritual senses, instead encouraging them to spend time with Jesus every morning before brushing their teeth. And they all actually do it. When I ask him why we find it hard to sit still in the presence of God, he doesn’t pull any punches. “Prayer can be challenging on our flesh,” he tells me. Even church leaders mistake a few minutes of “wimpish” prayer for an actual prayer meeting, he says.

But Aladiran is also refreshingly down to earth and self-deprecating. He laughs hard and often and is as brutally honest about his own shortcomings and struggles as he is about the spiritual temperature of the UK Church and what we need to do if we want to see real change. 

Growing up, he did not aspire to ministry and “hated public speaking”. Yet during his time at Salford University, he discovered The Ramp, a US-based ministry, on the internet. “I was really impacted by how passionate the young people were in their pursuit of God,” he says. “I remember being on my face, weeping and praying and saying: ‘Lord, I want to see this in Manchester.’” 

After graduating, Aladiran travelled to Alabama to attend The Ramp’s summer conference. There, founder Karen Wheaton unexpectedly invited him onto the stage. Unbeknown to Aladiran, Wheaton had visited Manchester some years before, ministering to students on the streets and seeing them encounter God in powerful ways. She had returned to America but continued to pray for an outpouring of God in the city. “Fast forward to 2007, and I show up,” he grins. “That moment basically unlocked the next season of my life.”

James (7 of 8)

He goes on to describe what happened next as a miraculous, God-ordained chain of events. “One day I’m praying and I heard a name. I guess it was a word of knowledge,” explains Aladiran. He’d never heard of Debra Green but, when he looked her up on the internet, he discovered she was “one of the pioneers of prayer in the city of Manchester”. He sent her a video of the young people praying in Alabama which she then shared at a prayer day at The Message, a large Christian ministry based in the city. He was invited to meet with CEO Andy Hawthorne who invited him, on the spot, to become their prayer coordinator. 

Prayer Storm grew alongside his work at The Message, eventually becoming its own separate ministry. Today, their YouTube channel reaches more than 200,000 people and their events, resources and training courses are all designed with one singular aim: “We believe in building the Church,” Aladiran explains, “because God is going to move – and if we’re going to be a part of it, we have to be strong in spirit.” 

What is the heart behind Prayer Storm?

To be a catalyst for prayer. When you go to church, you don’t look at the worship leader and think: Oh, they’re going to do my worship for me. You think: They’re there to help us all worship together. Prayer leaders are just as important. 

If you’re not praying you’re malfunctioning

Some people love to pray, but they are not prayer leaders. When they get the microphone, people disengage. However, there are some people that, as they pray, everyone is stirred to pray. They carry an anointing. It doesn’t mean we outsource our prayer lives to them and say: “Hey, pray for me for this and this.” That’s what most people do in church. [They say]: “OK, pray for me.” It’s not wrong to do that, but we need to realise leaders are not there to do all the praying for us. We’re there to do it together. 

What should prayer look like in a Sunday morning church service? Should we spend as much time praying as we do singing or listening to a sermon?

Absolutely. I’m really passionate about this.

I love worship, I love prophecy. But Jesus didn’t say: “My house shall be called a house of worship.” He didn’t say: “My house shall be called a house of preaching.” He declared that the primary identity of the Church was to be “a house of prayer for all nations” [Matthew 21:13; Isaiah 56:7]. 

Many leaders say they’re going to have a prayer meeting for an hour, but they spend 45 minutes preaching, ten minutes singing and then the last five minutes, some wimpish prayers – and they call that an hour of prayer! It’s not! You just had a church service. If you’re going to pray, do it like the early Church. Let’s pray!

The early Church were there for ten days praying and, out of that, the Church was born. Just think about that. The Church right now has deviated from how Jesus started it. [Prayer] has become something that we’ve delegated to some old women at the back that have nothing else to do; they’re retired and they just want to pray, so we’ve outsourced our prayers to them. No! He wants us to be people of prayer. 

There’s no such thing as a ‘gift’ of prayer. We can all learn to pray. It can be challenging on our flesh. That is part of the process, so don’t shy away from the awkwardness, embrace it and you will grow in it and become a warrior in prayer.

Having done this for many years, I have realised that you don’t learn to pray until you do it. A lot. In an environment where people love to do it. There’s a spirit that rubs off. 

James (2 of 8)

Most Christians find prayer hard. Do you have a theory on why? 

It’s not what comes naturally. Romans 8:26 says: “We do not know what we should pray for as we ought” [NKJV]. Maybe we don’t even want to pray as we ought to, because it’s a picture, as the King James version says, of the “infirmities”, or weakness, within us. Many people run away from it, as opposed to embracing it. 

Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” [Matthew 5:3]. The fact that you don’t feel like praying does not mean you’re less spiritual, it just means you have to confront that poverty and realise that feeling is your flesh. Your spirit, however, wants to pray, because you’re built to commune with God. 

Jesus said in Luke 18:1: “men always ought to pray” [NKJV]. If we’re not communing with God – if you’re not praying – you’re malfunctioning. You are built to do this in your spirit, but the problem is your flesh. I don’t know anyone that finds prayer easy all the time. But as you lean into God, you overcome the flesh.

Initially, you might find it challenging. We have to embrace boredom. We will not encounter God if we don’t learn to shut out the noise. Initially, the flesh is gonna cry out. You’ll want to reach for the phone, watch something on the TV. But when you learn to stay, the reality of his presence begins to manifest. There is a real joy in encountering God on your own.

If you feel discouraged in prayer, be honest with God. There’s no point trying to hide

I hear people say: “It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.” But imagine a husband saying to his wife: “Let’s just have a five-minute power conversation, and then I’m going to ignore you.” That’s not gonna go down well! The reality is, the more quality you have, the more quantity you want. And if you want to get quality, you have to spend quantity. 

The more the Church encounters God, the more we’re going to realise: the world has nothing better to offer than this. 

Distraction is a massive issue, even in my own prayer time. The major hurdle of prayer is getting to the place where prayer happens. I keep pressing through those distractions, but I know I haven’t quite got to the place where prayer is flowing from me, so I push through. When you get to that place, there’s such an ease. You start to enjoy God as opposed to enduring God.

What’s your advice to parents looking to involve youngsters in prayer more?

The enemy is out to get the next generation with such aggression. So we have to be deliberate in raising our kids in prayer. 

I teach my son about what the flesh is like. There was a time when we were teaching him about entertainment, and how the more you have of it, it causes you to be dull spiritually. One day, he came out with this profound statement: “The more entertained you are in the flesh, the more bored you will be in the spirit.” And that’s true!

When I’m having my personal prayer time, if my kids come in, I get them involved. I was praying one Saturday morning, and if you’ve got a young family, you’ll know you can’t really have any quiet time, but I just carried on with my prayers. [My ten-year-old son] Justice said: “Daddy, I want to play video games.” So I said: “Justice, Daddy is having prayer time right now. How about you pray with me for the next hour, and then I can play video games with you?” 

He sat there and prayed with me for an hour, mostly praying in tongues, praying over his sisters. As we’re praying, I noticed he was praying similarly to how I was praying. I realised: you disciple people in prayer not by teaching them but by doing it with them. The theology should be taught, but there’s something about catching the spirit of it, too. 

For parents, I would say: don’t underestimate your lifestyle of prayer, and get them to be part of it. Justice reads his Bible most days and prays by himself. He knows that is how we live. Then he starts to have his own encounters and grows in love for God as well. 

We are one year on from the Asbury outpouring in the US; are we going to see a move of God like that in the UK? 

Asbury was just a glimpse of something that is yet to come. I believe the Lord is already prepping some key voices that will spearhead the move of his Spirit in this nation, and young people [will be] at the forefront. We haven’t seen it manifest in its fullness, but we see pockets of God moving with young people. It’s not that the older ones will not be part of it, because Joel 2:28 talks about old men dreaming dreams and young men seeing visions. There’s an emphasis on the younger generation, but there’s a connection to the older generation. 

I don’t believe the Lord brought me to the UK just for the sake of having a nice ministry. I believe God hasn’t forgotten the sacrifice of all those who went to the different nations of the earth and gave their lives for the gospel. And so he’s sending people like me back here, because he wants to move. We’re contending for the awakening of the intercessors. Young people catching a passion for prayer is going to be a key part of this. 

Many people who visited Asbury commented on the young people leading, but also on the willingness of the older generation to release and support them well. Do you think that’s going to be important as the Church moves forward?

Yes, absolutely. What God starts in one generation should increase in intensity in the next generation. My children should be standing on my shoulders. They shouldn’t be starting from scratch spiritually. 

There’s a real need to invest in children, not just teenagers, to teach them spiritual things. A lot of them have been indoctrinated with demonic ideologies, so they need to become more discerning, to know how to respond. 

I said to my son: “It would be wrong of me to just let you play video games and watch TV all day. I’m not against you doing that, but we’re at war in the spirit and I need to train you to be spiritually strong. That’s why we’re going to do some of these things, so that you have a strong and sensitive spirit, and you don’t just fall by the wayside.” 

James (5 of 8)

Have you ever had a period when you didn’t hear God’s voice? What do we do when God feels distant?

Let me just be real here: this morning, I had to get myself to pray. I didn’t feel anything when I prayed, but I still prayed. I do it because of relationship. I do it to commune with God. I do it to be healthy in my spirit. It doesn’t mean I don’t have challenges and struggles. 

People I’ve prayed for have died. I’m not denying the reality of these things, but I do understand the areas that I lack revelation. If you’re thinking: God is not hearing me, perhaps what you lack is his perspective. A good prayer to pray is Ephesians 1: “Father, fill me with your ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation’. I want to discern what’s really going on.” When you see God’s perspective, your whole attitude changes. 

I’m still passionate about prayer, despite the areas of my life where I’ve not seen breakthrough, because I understand that God is not a vending machine, such that I come to him when I want him to do something for me. 

When we don’t see breakthrough, we need to go back to Jesus in humility: Jesus, have I missed something here? Many Christians are offended at God. When offence gets in your heart, you can’t pray effectively, because offence builds unbelief. 

I love coming before God with humility [and praying]: “Lord, help me. I’m feeling really upset about this. I’m asking you to help me perceive it the right way.” Many times I’ve seen the Lord shift my emotions. God is concerned with how we feel. If you feel discouraged in prayer, be honest with God. There’s no point trying to hide. 

James Aladiran Profile podcast

God is in the business of transforming us, and that process is not always fun. The Lord uses trials to conform us to his image. I am not saying he sends [the trials] but he uses them! So be encouraged. Don’t give up.  

James Aladrain will be speaking and hosting at Spring Harvest, Minehead this year. Book tickets at

To hear the full interview listen to Premier Christian Radio at 8pm on Saturday 2 March or download ‘The Profile’ podcast