Padgett's Creek Baptist Church hopes to rekindle a 200-year-old spiritual awakening in their rural community of Union, S.C., this year. But while an emphasis on prayer is likely similar to the revival early in the church's history, their methods are decidedly 21st century.
The church is one of the first to use a new software and Bible study resource, PrayTimer: Real Time for Real Prayer, published by the North American Mission Board. Pastor Keith Andrews said it is helping him not only organize and maintain church prayer lists but also to implement a comprehensive prayer strategy throughout the church.
"PrayTimer is going to be a key asset," Andrews said, "in getting our people on their knees and focusing on spiritual renewal."
That was just the sort of role envisioned by Thomas Wright, a prayer evangelism specialist who supervised development of the software and wrote the companion Bible study on prayer. His motivation was just the sort of disparate prayer lists that can often overwhelm Christians, even those committed to praying for as many needs as possible in the time they have for prayer.
"I wanted one system where I could organize my prayer lists and pray for the most people in the least amount of time," he said. "And one of the best ways to do that of course is a database. But the PrayTimer study also tells how to create these prayer lists even if you do not use the software."
The PrayTimer database that resulted benefits individuals, small groups and entire churches. The user can input specific prayer requests, organize them by source, record answers and make various printed reports. The software also enables scheduling of prayer requests, allowing the user to decide whether to pray for that particular item monthly, weekly or daily. A list also can be configured for the weekly prayer meeting that omits personal items.
For Andrews, that scheduling allowed him to directly import his membership roster and set it up so he prays for everyone in the 218-member congregation by name every month. There also are modules for automatically importing daily Bible readings, missionary birthdays, missionary prayer requests, and other lists.
In developing the software, Wright said he soon realized that the tool could be greatly enhanced by in-depth training on the role of personal and corporate prayer in the life of an individual and the congregation. The interest shown in test versions of the software revealed an obvious need.
"We found out that a lot of people interested in prayer aren't Christians, and the outreach Bible study grew out of the need to present the biblical expectations for prayer and the prayer," he said.
The study covers the biblical basis for prayer and provides models for developing an effective prayer life that are supported by the software. Suggestions are included, for example, for praying for specific areas of national leadership and ministry on different days of the week. The software allows those lists to be automatically included and updated from the www.praytimer.org Internet site. Endorsements for the book and software have come from T.W. Hunt, Evelyn Christenson and other prayer leaders.
Wright also encourages the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) model for prayer in both the Bible study and in the PrayTimer software, allowing users to input specific thoughts for each item. This also allows the software to be used as a prayer journal.
"Psalm 100:4 says we need to enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise, but so many of us begin with our supplications and demands for what God ought to be doing," Wright said.
At a time when national tragedy has prompted renewed interest in the spiritual, Wright said the time is right for churches and individuals to bolster their own prayer strategy — which throughout history has preceded spiritual awakening.
"The PrayTimer is going to be a good tool for us to give to people who are seeking prayer in this awakening that we've had since Sept. 11," he said.
PrayTimer: Real Time for Real Prayer is available through LifeWay Christian Resources and LifeWay Christian Stores.