NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A wave of prayer for revival is beginning to sweep through evangelical Christianity in the United States, and one veteran Southern Baptist leader believes spiritual awakening is America’s only hope.
One of the new prayer initiatives –- www.ifmypeopleprayusa.org –- is a 40-day prayer emphasis launched by the National Religious Broadcasters, an association of Christian ministries across America. Dean Evans, a Memphis businessman promoting the prayer challenge, compares the NRB initiative to the newspaper ads placed by New York City businessman Jeremiah Lanphier in 1857. Lanphier’s initiative was followed by a wave of revival that swept the eastern United States.
“We’re doing what Jeremiah Lamphere did. We’re holding prayer meetings. We’re asking other people to hold prayer meetings,” said Dean Evans, a member of Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett, Tenn., who is among a group of Memphis businessmen praying for revival in the U.S. “Jeremiah Lanphier put ads in the newspaper. That isn’t quite cost effective for us today, but we knew the NRB would be a very cost effective way to spread this message.”
Dean’s group approached his Sunday School teacher, Bill Skelton, newly elected chairman of the National Religious Broadcasters’ executive committee, about the idea. Skelton took the idea to NRB and the prayer initiative launches Sept. 1 with a variety of resources posted online at www.ifmypeopleprayusa.org.
The NRB initiative joins a growing list of prayer calls among Southern Baptists, including pray4sbc.com, a challenge issued by SBC President Bryant Wright in mid-July that calls on church leaders and their congregations to take missions engagement to a whole new level.
In a video on the website, Wright, pastor of the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, asked for prayer that Southern Baptists would be “willing to do whatever it takes to reach more people for Christ than ever before, with a renewed passion on fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission to His Church.”
One veteran Southern Baptist leader believes spiritual awakening is America’s only hope.
“Every movement of God in history was preceded by passionate, intercessory prayer,” said Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee. “God promises to respond when His people seek Him through repentance, brokenness, humility and prayer.”
Chapman, who retires Sept. 30 after 18 years in that role, bookended his tenure with nationwide prayer initiatives. He launched his ministry with the Watchman National Prayer Alert in 1992 (http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=31334) and in 2009 issued a call to prayer and evangelism under the theme “One More Soul” (http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=31307) as a way to support the challenge for a “Great Commission Resurgence” among Southern Baptists.
Chapman praised the National Religious Broadcasters’ focus on 2 Chronicles 7:14 -– “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
“I long to see a Great Awakening of 2 Chronicles 7:14 proportions come to our country during my lifetime. I rejoice that these prayer initiatives are capturing the interest and attention of God’s people,” Chapman said. “America’s only hope is for the fresh wind of God’s Spirit to sweep across our hearts, bringing genuine revival to our homes, our churches, our convention and our land.”
A 40-day focus on the kind of repentance seen in 2 Chronicles 7:14 in all aspects of a congregation’s life will free God’s Spirit to do a new work among His people, Evans said.
“I know a church that started preaching on that passage back in July, offering altar calls and leaving the church building open for prayer,” Evans said. “I talked to the pastor yesterday and he said, ‘We’re having revival in our church. We’re seeing people saved. Relationships are being mended. We’re seeing God move in our church in a way that we haven’t seen in a long, long time.’ And all he’s done is preach on 2 Chronicles 7:14 and called people to the altar for prayer — and God seems to be blessing it.
“The pastor said, ‘When we started this altar call for repentance, we started seeing a difference,'” Evans said.”
In addition to the NRB’s www.ifmypeopleprayusa.org initiative and Bryant Wright’s www. pray4sbc.com campaign, other challenges to pray for revival include:
— Charles Stanley’s 140 Days of Prayer, www.intouch.org/resources/140-days-of-prayer.
— The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s 40/40 Prayer Vigil, www.erlc.com/4040.
— The University of Mobile’s twelve23 Prayer Movement for America, www.twelve23.org.
Another prayer initiative, the Broken Before the Throne solemn assembly, is underway July 24-30 at Virginia Avenue Baptist Church in Hagerstown, Md., www.brokenbeforethethrone.com.
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.