In 1857, businessman Jeremiah Lanphier acted on his burden for the spiritual condition of New York City by organizing a prayer meeting. The first gathering on September 23 was attended by only six people. But starting with those six, God began a great revival. Within six months, over ten thousand New York businessmen were meeting everyday for prayer. A Great Awakening had begun.
We are in need today of another Great Awakening. Churches both inside and outside the Southern Baptist Convention are struggling. The difficulties are as numerous as the churches, but the vast majority of them could be resolved by a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit on His people.
Our culture is also in great need of God’s intervention. By practically every measurable standard our nation is in spiritual freefall. If we continue on our current path, we can only expect a greater judgment from God than we are experiencing today.
Thankfully, our God continues to offer grace and extend mercy. He is the God of hope and second chances. In 2 Chronicles 7:13–14, He tells us what moves Him from judgment to blessing. Notice the conditional element: “If.” Notice who is addressed: “My people.” Notice God’s response to His people’s heartfelt worship: If . . . My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
Believing that God’s people hold the key to spiritual revival and national renewal, the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and North American Mission Board have joined together to claim the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:13–14 and call our churches to prayer.
The 40/40 Prayer Vigil for Spiritual Revival and National Renewal will bring God’s people before Him to pray for the church and our nation. We are encouraging churches and individuals to participate in one of two ways—forty days of focused prayer or forty hours of intense intercession.
During the forty-day vigil, intercessors pray about several related topics. First, they focus on their personal relationship with God, asking Him for seven days to search their own lives. Then prayer branches out to other areas, including revival in the church, salvation of the lost, renewal in the nation, and the upcoming election. The forty-hour vigil follows the same format, in hourly increments rather than daily.
A free prayer guide for this prayer initiative is designed to stimulate personal reflection. It includes no written prayers, only suggested prayer points. The intercessor is encouraged to formulate the prayer points into his or her own words in worshipful prayer to God, engaging both the mind and the spirit.
While the guide is undated and the choice of when to pray is left to personal preference, we encourage people to pray daily during the forty days from September 26 to November 4 or during a forty-hour period of time beginning on Sunday afternoon, November 2, as part of a prayer movement across the nation. We also encourage pastors to launch and/or conclude the prayer vigil with a special service on a Sunday morning. The church that devotes this much time to focused prayer is likely to be ready for a special work of God in their midst.
More information and materials are available at www.4040prayer.com, including the free prayer guide, available in English and Spanish, and a recorded conversation about the vigil between ERLC president Richard Land and Larry Wynn, vice president of evangelism at NAMB.
Participants can register their commitment to pray at the site. We will keep a running tally of people and churches to encourage others to be part of a vast movement of prayer warriors who are committed to seek God’s face for revival and national renewal.
We have a deep desire for God to restore His hand of blessing on our nation and pour out His Spirit on His church in a way that we have not experienced in our lifetimes. The Great Awakening which swept the Northeast in 1857 started with prayer. By the time it subsided, more than a million people were added to the churches, and in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as our sixteenth president.
Prayer is one of the Christian’s greatest spiritual tools, yet it is under-utilized. It is our prayer that millions will join a great crescendo of intercession this fall that will move our God to revive His people and heal our land.
Barrett Duke is vice president for public policy and research at the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and is a member of Weems Creek Baptist Church in Annapolis, Maryland.