News Articles

Awakening National Prayer Conference seeks to convey information, spark transformation in churches across U.S.

Pastor Steve Gaines speaks during the opening session of the Awakening National Prayer Conference held April 18 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Photo by SWBTS

FORT WORTH (BP) — The question was as sharp as it was simple.

“When you die,” Steve Gaines asked, “what do you hope to do in heaven?”

Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., told the crowd gathered at the Awakening National Prayer Conference on the campus of Southwestern Seminary on April 18 that he looks forward to seeing a number of people in heaven. Jesus, of course. His father, mother, and brother. Historic saints from the Old and New Testaments, ranging from Joseph to Joshua to John.

Amidst that shuffle of faithful faces and well-known names, Gaines said he will be looking for someone whose name he doesn’t know, a “little Baptist lady” that made his voice crack upon mentioning her. Though nameless (for now), her impact on his life was tremendous.

Gaines explained that when his mother was 24, she was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts. Doctors told her a double mastectomy would be required to save her life. Because of the severity of the procedure in those days, surgeons started with one side of her chest and sent her to a post-op shared recovery room, where she spent the next day in and out of consciousness, waiting to recover enough to undergo the second part of the procedure.

In that same room was the little Baptist lady, who had also just undergone a double mastectomy. Gaines said once the women learned of his mother’s condition, she crawled into his mother’s hospital bed, laid her head in her lap, and prayed for her over the next 12 hours, asking God to heal her.

The next morning, the doctors and nurses came in to prepare Gaines’ mother for the final portion of the procedure when, to their shock, they couldn’t find the cancerous lump they had previously located. An X-ray confirmed the miracle—the cancer on the other side of her body was gone.

“What happened?” Gaines’ mother asked through tears.

“God healed you,” the little Baptist lady told her. “I prayed for you last night, and I asked God to heal you, and He did.”

Speaking to the prayer conference, Gaines asked, “Does anybody believe that God can still heal?” Late last year, he announced his own cancer battle—one he has said is improving. “ … That lady then led my mom to Christ. She got healed and got saved on that same bed.”

The anecdote underscored Gaines’ message to kick off the conference, rooted in Daniel 9: Prayer can move the hand of God. Prayer can also reveal the will of God, he said, and it blesses the heart of God. Prayer mattered for Daniel, who Gaines estimates prayed tens of thousands of times over the decades of his life, leading God to grant him favor even in captivity. And prayer mattered for his mother, who came to know Christ because a little Baptist lady gave up a night of her life making her requests known to God for a woman she didn’t know.

“There are things God does for praying people that He doesn’t do for people who don’t pray,” Gaines said. “ … Some of you are discouraged, and all discouragement is just the devil taking courage out of you. Some of you are discouraged because you don’t pray. God wants to encourage you. He wants to put courage back into you, and if you will pray, you won’t lose heart. You won’t be discouraged.”

The prayer conference featured some of the country’s leading voices on prayer and revival. Sermons were delivered by Southern Baptists of Texas Executive Director Nathan Lorick; Bill Elliff of The Summit Church in Little Rock, Ark.; Ronnie Floyd, author and pastor emeritus of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark.; and Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. A pair of breakouts on the topic of prayer and revival were also offered, featuring Gaines’ wife, Donna, and pastors Todd Kaunitz and Nathan Lino. Worship was led by Julio Arriola, director of the church planting Send Network SBTC.

The event drew participants from not only Texas, but states as far away as Oklahoma, Ohio, and Indiana, according to Kie Bowman, the national director of prayer for the Southern Baptist Convention who organized the conference. Bowman said his heart was not only to inform conference participants about prayer, but to equip them to “move the dial” regarding prayer in their local contexts.

An increase in prayer has been credited for a number of notable movements of God around the country. Included in that have been thousands of people surrendering their lives to Christ on college campuses nationwide and churches crying out to God in desperation to see Him revitalize their congregations and communities.

“Every morning when we wake up, all of hell should shudder—not because of our capabilities or who we know or what we can fund, but simply because the believer’s greatest weapon against the demons of hell is prayer,” Lorick said.

Lorick, who has championed the vital importance of prayer since being called to lead the SBTC in 2021, said crying out in desperation—and not our abilities or accomplishments—is what will impress the heart of God most and lead Him to do things only He can do.

“The truth of the matter is, prayer is not missing in our churches,” Lorick said. “Almost every church has some form of transactional prayer. We pray before the service, we pray before the offering, we pray at the end of the service.

“But what we must seek after is not transactional prayer, but transformational prayer,” he continued. “I just wonder what it would look like if believers and pastors and staff and churches took on a new posture of desperation [in prayer].”

    About the Author

  • Jayson Larson