Southern Baptists are being urged to pray specifically each week for the United States, its leaders and the nation's military, according to a joint statement issued by the presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention and SBC Executive Committee.
"We call upon the 16 million Southern Baptists and the 42,000 Southern Baptist churches spread across this land to commit themselves to regular, specific, and focused prayer for our nation and for its leaders in these trying days," reads the statement, signed by SBC President James Merritt and SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Morris H. Chapman.
In addition to the statement, Chapman announced the creation of a special Internet prayer site at www.inallthingspray.net. A prayer guide has been prepared to assist those who will commit to this investment of time and spiritual energy to pray pointedly and with purpose.
A multimedia tribute featuring the music of Michael W. Smith and the photography of Baptist Press is available at www.acalltoprayer.net. The multimedia presentation was unveiled at the Baptist Press Student Journalism Conference, Sept. 29 in Nashville, Tenn.
The statement follows in its entirety:
"On September 11th, we issued a statement, which said in part, 'We call upon our Southern Baptist family everywhere to begin a prayer vigil; to go upon our knees for the families of the victims of these attacks, for our nation's leaders, and for our beloved country, that God would turn the hearts of our nation back to Him.'
"We believe it is time to give new emphasis to that call to prayer. The need for faithful vigil is not less today than it was on that day — if anything, it is greater.
"In times of crisis, God's people have often been called to pray, and to repent, and to seek the face of God for His blessing. In a time of great national disaster, Joel exhorted his people to 'sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry to the Lord.' (Joel 1:14, 2:15)
"Another illustration comes to us from about 800 years before the coming of Christ. Ancient Judah was in mortal danger as vicious enemies threatened the peace and safety of their land. Their leader called them together and cried out to the Lord, 'If a calamity comes upon us, whether a sword of judgment or plague or famine, we will stand here in your (God's) presence, in the temple that bears your name, and we will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.' (II Chronicles 20:9). In humility he cried before God, and said, 'Lord we have no power, and we do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.' (II Chronicles 20:12). That thoughtful and godly leader modeled the approach needed today.
"These two examples encourage us to call God's people to serious, focused, and constant prayer. This hour in America is a great test of our moral and spiritual character. As individuals and as a nation, we have wandered very far from the Lord, and need to come home to Him now. We have no right to expect others to pray when we do not do so. No one in the nation is more responsible to pray and seek the face of God than are the people of our churches.
"We call upon the 16 million Southern Baptists and the 42,000 Southern Baptist churches spread across this land to commit themselves to regular, specific, and focused prayer for our nation and for its leaders in these trying days. We are specifically asking that individual Southern Baptists devote a quarter hour, a half hour, an hour, or more, each week praying for our nation, its leaders, and our military men and women who are in harm's way. We also ask each Southern Baptist pastor, in churches large and small, to devote a special time of prayer for our nation in at least one Sunday service each month. Many are already doing that, and more. We further invite all believers of good will to join us in this work of God.
"The Lord said, 'Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.' Now — together, join us in this holy work!"
"Thank You, Southern Baptists!"
From a Non-Southern Baptist
A Wall Street banker who lost some of his closest friends in the September 11 attack, including four who had been in his wedding party, recently called the SBC Executive Committee to express his appreciation for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts. Following are excerpts from his remarks in a phone interview.
I live down in Battery Park in New York City, which is only three blocks away from ground zero. My wife and I had been displaced since the attack. We finally came back to our home with our nine-month-old son. But going down there back and forth in our neighborhood, I noticed the Southern Baptists working there. I can't even tell you how much I appreciate their presence. It really, really has made a difference. They are very dedicated, they want to help, and they are very conciliatory — just super people that you sent up here — and I just wanted to say thank you!
I just can't tell you what their presence means to the people out here.
When I saw the American Red Cross and the Southern Baptists working side by side I can't even tell you how nice it was. I asked the Red Cross people, "Who are these people with the yellow caps and shirts on?" They said they were the Southern Baptists. I about fell out of my chair! I couldn't believe how helpful, nice, and courteous they were. The people were so conciliatory. I was going to work today and I saw some Southern Baptists with their yellow caps on. So I told the cab driver "hold on one second" and got out and said, "Excuse me, you're Southern Baptist, right?" I said "Thank you!" and I got back in the cab. That's how impressed I am with these people.
You shake your head because in New York City that doesn't happen too often.
I can't thank you enough, and don't think I'm not telling everybody I know about what your message is.
Accidents, Not Punishments
From a sermon delivered by C.H. Spurgeon on Sunday September 8, 1861
Spurgeon preached this message in response to two train wrecks outside of London the previous two weeks, claiming thirty-seven lives.
In cases of accident, such as that to which I refer, and in cases of sudden and instant death, again, I say, I enter my earnest protest against the foolish and ridiculous idea that those who thus perish are sinners above all the sinners who survive unharmed. ... Scripture teaches us that providence is a great depth in which the human intellect may swim and dive, but it can neither find a bottom nor a shore, and if you and I pretend that we can find out the reasons of providence, and twist the dispensations of God over our fingers, we only prove our folly, but we do not prove that we have begun to understand the ways of God. Why, look, sirs; suppose for a moment there were some great performance going on, and you should step in in the middle of it and see one actor upon the stage for a moment, and you should say, "Yes, I understand it," what a simpleton you would be! Do you not know that the great transactions of providence began near six thousand years ago? and you have only stepped into this world for thirty or forty years, and seen one actor on the stage, and you say you understand it. Tush! you do not; you have only begun to know. Only He knoweth the end from the beginning, only He understands what are the great results, and what is the great reason for which the world was made, and for which He permits both good and evil to occur. Think not that you know the ways of God; it is to degrade providence, and to bring God down to the level of men, when you pretend that you can understand these calamities and find out the secret designs of wisdom.
As I look for a moment upon the poor mangled bodies of those who have been so suddenly slain, my eyes find tears, but my heart does not boast, nor my lips accuse. ... While we can thank God that we are preserved, yet we can say, "It is of thy mercy that we are not consumed," and we must ascribe it to His grace, and to His grace alone. ... Then the next question is, "Have I repented of my sin?" ... Since I am liable to the same calamity, am I prepared to meet it? Have I felt, through the Holy Spirit's convincing power, the blackness and depravity of my heart? Have I been led to confess before God that I deserve His wrath, and that His displeasure, if it light on me, will be my just due?