EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is part of the call to prayer issued by Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world.
NASHVILLE (BP) — For each “Elijah,” God has reserved to Himself thousands of unnamed but faithful servants who have refused to bow their knees to the “Baals” of our modern era.
Elijah served as prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel during a particularly wicked period in history. Reaching an emotional and spiritual low-point in his ministry, Elijah was about ready to throw in the towel.
Ministering to Elijah through a “still, small voice,” the LORD ordered him to get up out of his pouts and return to his place of duty. The LORD also gave him this encouraging reminder: “I have reserved 7,000 in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18, NKJV).
On Monday and Tuesday, January 13-14, hundreds of Southern Baptist pastors and other leaders will convene in Atlanta to fall on their faces in prayer to the Lord. They will cry out to God for personal renewal, church renewal, Convention renewal and national renewal.
Their hearts, longing for a fresh encounter with the Living God, will rise in intercession for a wayward nation, spiritually weary church leaders and spiritually lethargic churches.
They will request divine wisdom to discern new ways to engage lostness and penetrate darkness with the changeless Gospel of Jesus Christ. In short, they will cry out to God for spiritual awakening.
As these spiritual shepherds gather to intercede for us, we, as thousands of unnamed but faithful followers of Christ, have a duty to intercede for them. In every church, the Lord has preserved for Himself a remnant of faithful pray-ers, men and women who have a passionate and vibrant love relationship with Abba Father in prayer!
Susie Hawkins, who directs GuideStone’s “Widow’s Might” prayer ministry, recently wrote in a letter to her prayer partners, “I enjoy reading anything by Elisabeth Elliott, and have just finished her devotional book, ‘Be Still My Soul.’ I loved this paragraph:
“‘Let my prayer be counted as incense before Thee’ (Psalm 141:2).
“‘The four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints’ (Revelation 5:8).
“In these verses, our prayers are described as being like incense to God. All of our prayers are included, from the most eloquent to the most inarticulate groaning. What is incense good for? It appears to serve no practical purpose at all, and its smoke and fragrance soon dissipate. Our prayers are like that because they seem to accomplish little and they soon vanish, but God likes the smell of them.”‘
Hawkins then noted, “This is part of the mystery of prayer — we don’t always understand God’s ways or His answers. But we DO know that the very act of prayer pleases God. I sometimes imagine those bowls of incense, overflowing with the prayers of God’s people over these many centuries. Someday the bowls will be full and the time for intercessory prayer will be completed. But until then, we must press on and be faithful!”
Ask the Lord to move among these gathered leaders — and among us — in unprecedented ways.
Ask the Lord to shine the light of His holiness into every corner and recess of their hearts — and ours — exposing all known and hidden sins, prompting genuine brokenness, repentance and humility.
Ask the Holy Spirit to infuse them — and us — with radiant love, power and effectual vision.
Pray that something new will begin in that room — and in our personal prayer closets — that will carry back to the churches and communities where they serve.
Pray, knowing that the very act of offering prayers for these leaders pleases God.
We must never forget that the prayers of unnamed intercessors are counted as incense before God. He is gathering them in a bowl. The effect of our prayers may seem ephemeral and fleeting to us; but they have eternal value to the Heavenly Father!
Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).