Southeastern student mobilizes Las Vegas church plant to intentional prayer
Lauren Pratt | October 20, 2017
Heiden Ratner and his wife, Neena, had just finished their dinner at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada the night of October 1. An hour later, Ratner began receiving texts informing him of what became the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.
It was on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort that 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired gunshots into the Route 91 Harvest concert venue, killing 58 and injuring nearly 500.
In the aftermath of such a horrifying event, Ratner, pastor of WALK Church in Las Vegas, is seeking to spur on his congregation to intentional prayer for the city.
“Prayer is where the action is so I feel like God is going to accomplish more in five minutes than in 50 years of our own human activity,” said Ratner.
Ratner grew up in Las Vegas and became a Christian while in college. It was also in college that Ratner met his wife, Neena, at a Bible study he was hosting. He played college basketball at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, played one season of professional basketball in Israel and coached one season of basketball in Kentucky. But it was after this that Ratner sensed the Lord leading he and Neena to move back to their hometown of Las Vegas to start WALK Church.
WALK Church was planted in the fall of 2015 out of Hope Church in Las Vegas, led by pastor Vance Pittman, and the North American Mission Board.
Ratner has also been taking classes online at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary while pastoring and plans to graduate in December with a Master of Arts in church planting.
The Wednesday following the shooting, many gathered inside WALK Church’s ministry office for a monthly prayer gathering.
Fifty-eight chairs were set up that night and labeled with names of victims from the shooting. Through tears and in a state of solemnity, people shared specific prayer needs for their friends and family who were directly affected by the shooting. Various members of the congregation led in times of prayer, including one police officer who prayed for first responders and a drug and alcohol addictions counselor who prayed specifically for the counselors in the city helping people work through trauma.
Ratner described the following week’s sermon as “difficult,” but “timely,” also noting that with an attendance of about 215 people, WALK Church’s October 8th service was one of the largest all year. He sensed the Lord leading WALK Church to primarily be a specific and intentionally praying church. With that in mind, he presented this idea to the leadership team and they came up with an acronym based on the word P.R.A.Y.: Pray for people, redemption, awakening and yourself all in relation to the city of Las Vegas.
“A lot of times people think of Las Vegas and instantly they say that’s the city of sin and we always try to redeem that. We say it’s the city of him because God is at work in a real way, but I think our world is seeing that now.”
At the end of the service, Ratner asked for people to stand who had been directly affected by the shooting. Approximately 15 people stood and Ratner ended the service in a time of prayer as members of the congregation laid hands on those who stood.
Ratner focused on passages such as 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Psalm 46, encouraging church members to find refuge in God and to seek the Lord in humility for the healing of the city.
“We desire to see people on their knees praying in our city, we desire to see people drawing close to Jesus in our city, we desire for people to grow closer to Christ in our city,” said Ratner, “yet it’s taken the worst mass shooting in modern American history to move people to pray.”
Ratner has seen the city of Las Vegas unite in an amazing way in the weeks following the shooting. In fact, so many have rallied to help one another’s needs that he was being turned down multiple times after seeking to find ways for WALK Church to help the community.
However, after speaking with a nurse at his church it became clear that along with prayer, the church could serve tangibly as well. For the month of October, WALK Church is collecting gift cards for the Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center and the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada staff that have been working tirelessly to help victims.
“The response was great,” said Ratner. “A lot of people are excited to just give and be a part of that and so that’s how we’re doing our part.”
Ratner desires for the Southeastern community to pray that WALK Church would be a Matthew 5:14 church, which says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” He also encouraged Southeastern to be in prayer for the families of those who were killed or injured from the shooting.
In a city where 92 percent of the population does not attend church, Ratner is hoping for a spiritual awakening in Las Vegas.
“This may be an opportunity where we can see those numbers change,” said Ratner.
*Photo by Omar El-Takori
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