In January 2012, Southern Baptists are once again being called to a time of prayer and spiritual awakening. The date adopted by the Convention for this emphasis is the last Sunday in January. But pastors are encouraged to select a time that best fits the ministry needs of their local church to lead their churches to focused prayer. This year's Southern Baptist Convention Call to Prayer is an opportunity to focus on praying missionally.
"I can't think of a better way for our churches to start the New Year than to be in prayer for our families, our churches, our new church plants, and our efforts to reach the unreached people groups of the world," said NAMB president Kevin Ezell. "NAMB is pleased to have the privilege to coordinate this effort this year. I can't think of anything more essential in our efforts to reach North America and the world."
NAMB will provide resources to assist churches in participating in the prayer emphasis.
"We are encouraging Southern Baptists to begin the New Year praying for spiritual awakening that will penetrate lostness," said Al Gilbert, executive director of NAMB's Love Loud ministry. "Continuing in the spirit of what happened at the SBC in Phoenix, NAMB and the IMB are working together to provide specific ways for people to pray for our communities, our nation and our world.
"We are providing tools for pastors to use anytime in January. These tools will assist church leaders in calling their people to prayer," said Gilbert.
State convention prayer leaders will help assist churches in their states implement Call to Prayer strategies (see sidebar below). Roger Byrd with the California Southern Baptist Convention is one of those prayer advocates.
"Our desire is to see our people, our churches praying for God's movement among us," said Byrd. "The most important thing as an outcome from the SBC Call to Prayer is that our churches will pray together in unity of spirit. We desire people to pray that God's Holy Spirit will be working among us, that God's Spirit would be raising upon us, leading us to reach our communities for Christ."
Suggestions for the Call to Prayer include five areas of emphasis:
My Family and Friends. Select a friend or family member and pray that they would come to faith in Christ.
My Church. Select a church staff member, volunteer, or ministry, and pray for them in their efforts to penetrate lostness.
My Nation. Select a Send North America city and pray for the church planting efforts in that area (www.namb.net/cities).
My World. Select an unreached people group and pray that the Gospel would be advanced among these people (www.imb.org/prayerthreads).
My Southern Baptist Convention. Select a national, state, or local leader and pray for guidance in leading the Southern Baptist Convention.
Byrd is a member of PrayerLink, a fellowship of Southern Baptist prayer advocates. The group's members include representatives from several of the SBC entities, each state convention that cooperates with the SBC, the Canadian National Baptist Convention, and other prayer ministries. Claude King is LifeWay's PrayerLink representative.
"Throughout North America, leaders, denominations, and ministries are calling for days and seasons of prayer and fasting for nearly every conceivable prayer target," said King, a LifeWay discipleship specialist. "Our culture seems to be growing darker and more ungodly than ever.
"As we seek to mobilize people to pray to penetrate the lostness in our families, with friends, in cities, our nation, and the world, let's keep in mind the wonderful promise from James 5:16 that the intense prayers of righteous people are powerful and effective," said King. "Let's help each other prepare ourselves to be right with God and one another so when we pray we pray with penetrating power."
To plan your church's Call to Prayer, visit www.namb.net/sbccalltoprayer.
The Spirit of God is prompting state convention leaders to call their churches to focused prayer in 2012. The Louisiana Baptist Convention has launched "Awaken 2012," an emphasis on prayer. Several states are participating in this initiative: Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wyoming. Other states have introduced a variety of initiatives—a statewide solemn assembly during the month of January (Arizona); a state staff prayer tour to pastors and churches (California); major emphases on prayer and repentance, encouraging churches to use one of three books on prayer and spiritual awakening (Oklahoma); and a call to fast one meal a week for clarity of call, unity of purpose, and priority of mission (Tennessee). Alabama will host a regional prayer gathering in the areas affected by last spring's tornadoes. The Florida Baptist Convention will provide a prayer booklet and prayer guide to the churches in its state. Illinois churches will be challenged with a prayer evangelism ministry through a "Prayer, Care, Share Lifestyle" ministry initiative. The North Carolina Baptist Convention will distribute a Kingdom Prayer guide, with a focus on missions, spiritual awakening, and evangelistic effectiveness during Easter. Texas (SBTC) is in a multiyear "cultivating a culture of prayer" emphasis. Ethnic fellowship leaders are also calling their supporting churches to focused prayer. The 777 Prayer and Fasting call—seven days, 7:00 am and 7:00 pm, for three weeks—is an intercessory request for a church planting movement to sweep across our nation.
Joe Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board.