The Baptist Messenger recently sat down with Gregory Reed Frizzell, prayer and spiritual awakening specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Frizzell, who has authored numerous books on prayer, talked about the BGCO’s 40-day emphasis on prayer, Sept. 23-Nov. 4, and what it could mean for Oklahoma and the entire country.
Messenger: What prompted you to write your new release Forty Days of Seeking God and lead Oklahoma Baptists toward this upcoming season of dedicated prayer?
Frizzell: One of the main reasons for writing this work and having this emphasis is that we have had so many prayer emphases in the past, really, 40 years. Frankly, in that time, our nation has been going down spiritually even though we have had prayer focus. So I sensed a need for something that is more a genuine return to God, not just a surface emphasis.
This book and prayer emphasis is about a deepening with God that can last. It does have a focus on praying for the election. However, the book and prayer emphasis are in no way political. We have been careful not to tell anyone how to vote. God will do that. This time is designed, though, to give guidance on how to pray in specific ways, for His mercy on our land and to experience a genuine return to God. It is really deeper than a quick prayer emphasis.
Messenger: This prayer emphasis does not offer a microwave-speed solution, but it recognizes that we are calling on God to do something we cannot do on our own. You point out we are at a unique moment in history. Could you talk about that?
Frizzell: It is pretty sobering. We have had 50 years of baptism ratios declining, even though the population has more than doubled. The impact of the church on society, studies show, is a lot less than it was at one time. We have had an unprecedented moral—not decline—but collapse and family collapse. All of this has happened in a time when we have had an all-time high explosion of education, programs and innovative methods, as well as prayer focuses. So it is very unique to have all of these good things going on, like education and strategies, which of course are very good, and yet have this big collapse. So the uniqueness of where we are is that we need something beyond what we have done.
Scripture tells us that there is a certain type of prayer and a certain type of surrender that always brings the great awakenings. I think, unfortunately, we have kind of been in “first gear” when revival comes from “fourth gear” prayers. These 40 days of seeking God, we believe, will in a practical way, help believers get back to the type of prayer and surrender that can finally see real power in our efforts and in our prayers. So, it is a unique time of decline, but most revivals have come about during such circumstances, when it is really dark and discouraging. God has not lost His power. Even though it is a sobering time, that is often times when God sends a mighty move of His spirit.
Messenger: Amen! What we like so much about this emphasis is that you are not telling us to just shout at our televisions about what is happening, but to cry out to our Father to help us out of this mess we have made. Through this emphasis, you have made it clear that it’s not a short-term project, but a shift of focus.
Frizzell: It is important that we not just have a temporary emphasis. In Scripture, we see many times they would have their solemn assemblies. There were very intense times, including fasting, praying and crying, yet God said He hated them. He did not hate the people, but those efforts. You have to ask why? It’s because they were not making changes. They were going through religious ritual or prayer effort, but there was no real lasting covenant to walk with God. That is what is unique about this emphasis on seeking God. It helps people obtain a very specific covenant of how they are going to walk differently. For churches and individuals who did not obtain my new (book), we have a free, 40-day guide on www.bgco.org to participate.
Messenger: What do you see in the days ahead? What is at stake?
Frizzell: It does not take a prophet to see this. If we do not have a great awakening, but continue the track we are on—even economically—it’s probably hard for us to imagine what is coming down the road for us spiritually and morally. We are not going to just rock along. Things are really escalating. In previous times, we have had just mercy drops. 1905 was the last year even close to approaching a great awakening. If we had another awakening, 35 million people would be born again and join churches in about the next three years. If what happened in Wales happened here, it would occur in six months. Obviously, that would change everything in Washington and Hollywood and everything in the middle. That sounds impossible. It sounds like a fairy tale, but that really is what God has done, percentage-wise, in times past. If we don’t have one of those, it is hard to imagine where we will be in 10 to 15 years. If we do, we will all be so much better in a great way. There is hope. God is at work.
Messenger: Thank you for that, Dr. Frizzell, and for leading us through this time to pray for revival, elections and key leaders.