Tongsung Kido: Korean Corporate Prayer

by Molly Dashiell, correspondent

Tongsung kido, or pray aloud, is a method of prayer popular in the South Korean church, where the congregation comes together for a specific amount of time, interceding or supplicating for others. According to UMC Discipleship Ministries, they “all pray aloud at the same time.”

Rather than be distracted by others’ prayers, it creates a body of unity and they can concentrate on their own prayers. This is traditionally not done on Sunday mornings, but rather at dawn prayer services, according to Christian Reformed Church. Dawn prayer services begin anywhere from 4:30-5:30 a.m. and are set up so that people can come to the church for fervent prayer before they go to work for the day.

First noted in 1907 in Pyengyang, Korea, Tongsung Kido began when Christians were meeting for Bible class, and during a call to prayer, the whole congregation started praying in unison.

“The effect was indescribable. Not confusion, but a vast harmony of souls and spirit, a mingling together of souls moved by the irresistible impulse of prayer,” someone who was there that day said. “The prayer sounded to me like the falling of many waters, an ocean of prayer beating against God’s throne.”

This tradition has continued on since, and unifies the church in praying for others, both in the church and outside.

Reverend Samuel Moffett, professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and child to missionary parents in Korea, experienced this firsthand.

“Their prayer life is remarkable, and the whole congregation prays together,” he said. “In the country churches, you sometimes have to ring a bell to get them to stop.”

In the last century, Christianity has grown very quickly in South Korea. According to Pew Research, in 1900, only 1% of South Koreans were Christians. In 2010, about 29% of South Koreans proclaimed to be Christian.

Most Christian South Koreans are Protestant, and this extends to their cousins that have come to America; of the 71% of Korean Americans that claim to be Christian are overwhelmingly Protestant (61% Protestant in contrast to 10% Catholic).

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Christianity has had a large influence on Koreans. In fact, their outwardly focused prayer lives have produced many missionaries. According to The Christian Science Monitor, there are over 16,000 Korean missionaries all over the world.

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