On Oct. 20, about 300 Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) pastors and staff met to fast and pray. We came together believing that time spent in unified prayer had value. Together we worshipped, praised, confessed, interceded, cried and cried out. Many who attended expressed to me and Nick Garland, BGCO president, how good it was to step aside from other distractions and give unhindered and concentrated time to commune with our God through prayer.
As we left the prayer gathering, Brother Nick challenged us as leaders to go home and begin a new emphasis on prayer. He called upon us to plan a specific and focused service of prayer in our local church. His call was passionate, and he asked us to hold one another accountable.
When we look in Scripture for those times when God sent revival and restoration to His people, there seems to be a common denominator. The people of God humbled themselves, confessed, and cried out for God to work among them. Prayer became more than a perfunctory action to begin and end a worship service, but rather prayer became a passionate priority.
As I have travelled the world, one common thread is found in each place where God is mightily at work. This thread is passionate, concerted, unified prayer by a humble people. In Africa, I found impoverished people praying with a fervor rarely seen in the American church. God was moving. In East Asia, persecuted people who were constantly pressured by the government to walk away from their faith faced the threats by crying out to God to give them boldness to declare their faith in God.
I long for our churches to find a far deeper move of prayer than ever before. I am talking about prayer that moves from praying for surface issues to Kingdom issues; prayer that moves from me-centered prayers to others-centered prayers; prayer that is not just a few random thoughts brought together, but prayer focused like a laser beam toward Heaven in regard to things that have eternal consequence.
I would challenge you to research and read the prayers recorded in the Bible. Read the Psalms, which often are expressed in such personal terms, yet aimed toward eternal things. Read with an eye to the level of spiritual warfare expressed in these prayers. Even the Disciples’ Prayer (we call it the Lord’s Prayer) is far more spiritually focused than earthly.
My heart’s desire is that our Baptist churches would become houses of prayer where we minister to one another in prayer, and worship would not just be singing and preaching with a prayer or two thrown in, but that seasons of prayer would be included as a part of worship. Our Sunday School classes should be where we pour out our hearts before Almighty God and pray in faith that He will accomplish mighty things, not just pray for sick class members (when I am sick, I covet the prayers of a Sunday School class, so I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t pray for the sick).
Quiet time prayers are important, and influence our public praying, but I am calling for a renewed and revitalized prayer movement in the local church. Pastors and staff will need to lead the way. Deacons and Sunday School leaders should not be far behind. Leaders can be creative and innovative in the times and ways we pray, which will keep prayer energized and fresh. Let the Spirit lead and set your heart on developing a prayer-centered church.
Read the Scripture and discover that when God’s people prayed, God responded in Power and Might. God desires to pour out His hand of mercy and grace upon us when we pray. I believe with all my heart, conflict and dissension melt in the face of fervent prayer. Prayer opens the windows of Heaven and revival comes.