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Annual Meeting Sunday prayer gathering, prayer room to feature changes

Southern Baptists gather to pray in advance of the 2023 SBC Pastors' Conference in New Orleans. File photo by Madison Sardana

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) — Several additions and changes to the Sunday prayer service and prayer room at the upcoming annual meeting will reinforce its importance to the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches, the SBC’s national director of prayer Kie Bowman told Baptist Press.

“It’s tempting to put prayer as an aside as if it’s just a devotional issue,” he said. “In reality, it is the spark plug that makes action possible in every other kind of ministry.

“Prayer does not replace any other ministry of the church. Prayer reinforces every other ministry of the church.”

The 2024 Annual Meeting Time of Prayer will take place on Sunday, June 9, from 4-5:30 p.m. in Halls H/I/J/K of the Indiana Convention Center. That is notable because it’s the same location for the SBC Pastors’ Conference that starts at 6 p.m.

“[The location] is a big upgrade from previous years,” said Bowman, pastor emeritus of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. “It’s a lot easier to find and right there in the main flow of traffic.”

Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., and Bill Elliff, founding and national engage pastor of The Summit Church in Little Rock, Ark., return to lead the Sunday prayer gathering. This year they will be joined by Shane Pruitt, national Next Gen director of the North American Mission Board; Paul Worcester, NAMB national collegiate director; and Stephen Rummage, Pastors’ Conference president and senior pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

The event will include times of worship as well as corporate prayer. Leaders will take participants through specific areas of prayer.

Pastors and others who attend will be encouraged, Bowman said.

“In 2022 Lifeway did a survey of pastors and found that 72 percent of them wanted help with consistency in their prayer life,” he said. “In the last year or so I’ve been corresponding with pastors across our Convention and find that it’s true. If our leaders struggle, imagine how difficult it must be to create a culture of prayer in the local church.”

That has led to a personal drive toward encouraging pastors through conferences and other avenues.

“If pastors become the men of prayer they desire to be, our churches will reflect that in years to come,” Bowman said.

Prayer room to include hourly worship, prayer leaders

“The prayer room [at the annual meeting] has been in existence for as long as anybody can remember, but I’ve dropped by many times and, honestly, it’s pretty sparse,” Bowman said.

That will be different this year. For the first time, he said, there will be people designated for each hour the prayer room is open to first lead in a worship song and then read a passage of Scripture and lead a prayer.

The prayer room will be in Room 140 of the Convention Center and open from 2-9 p.m. on June 9. It reopens from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, then from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Enlisting leaders has come through the efforts of Indiana state prayer coordinator Tom Savage, pastor of Sugar Creek Baptist Church in West Terre Haute, and Mickey Henderson, blended worship pastor at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C.

“Both have put in a tremendous amount of work,” Bowman said.

Giving the prayer assignment to the Executive Committee in 2021 was a major, if perhaps underappreciated, step for Southern Baptists, he noted.

“That was a big deal,” Bowman said. “It gave prayer a bigger platform than it ever had before, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I believe God will use our commitment to prayer to bring revival. I’m praising God because I think it makes a statement about our commitment to prayer as the power that moves the hand that moves the world.”