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Election, candidates focus of bipartisan prayer initiatives

BLACKSHEAR, Ga. (BP) – Georgia resident Kim Strickland describes it as the hardest thing she’s ever done – maintaining a bipartisan focus in the year-long 365-Plus Prayer Project she birthed while simultaneously supporting individual political candidates.

“Probably my biggest challenge has been having a bipartisan prayer project, 100 percent completely bipartisan,” Strickland told Baptist Press, “and yet individually me having to, or choosing to, represent publicly the party of my choice and why. That has been extremely difficult for me to navigate through that, but I did it. I did it with backlash and I did it with support. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”

Similarly, 95-year-old retired North Carolina pastor Fred Lunsford has his own favored candidates, but the founder of Praying on the Mountain admits that God might see things differently.

“We don’t need to put our political affiliation between us and God,” Lunsford said. “I’m not praying for a particular candidate; I’m praying for whoever’s elected. I’m praying that God will invade the White House, the halls of Congress and the Senate, and all of our other municipalities all over the nation, that God will invade their ranks, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Kim Strickland

The two prayer initiatives are among many involving Southern Baptists that have focused on the election at times throughout the year.

The yearlong 365-Plus Prayer Project, supported by the Piedmont Okefenokee Baptist Association and Christians from other denominations, culminates today (Nov. 3) with numerous volunteers praying and fasting nationwide for the nation and all political candidates at every level of the electoral spectrum. Every day since Nov. 2, 2019, people in every state have voluntarily fasted and prayed in 24-hour segments for the 2020 elections, Strickland said.

“What we have on our calendar is a phenomenal response,” Strickland said of the 365-Plus Prayer Project. “But (what) I’m trying to actually get at is the response is so much greater than what we even know.” Today, she anticipates “a unified, final stretch just to invade the throne of our nation.”

Praying on the Mountain culminated Nov. 1 with nearly 650,000 registrants praying globally for spiritual awakening, with many also focusing on today’s U.S. elections. While registrations were tabulated at prayingonthemountain.org, Lunsford said he feels certain from spiritual discernment that a million were praying Sunday, including those in the U.S. and numerous foreign countries.

Fred Lunsford

“I was praying about this the other day at the prayer garden, and God showed me that there would be a million or more praying by Nov. 1, not to worry about it,” Lunsford said. “We know that well over a million people prayed as a result of this around the world.”

Praying on the Mountain officially launched May 5 with nearly 270,000 registrants but has continued to expand, attracting petitioners globally from South Korea, Africa, Germany, Japan, Russia, South America and other locations, leaders said.

In addition to the launch event May 5, Lunsford has led monthly prayer meetings on “Light House Mountain,” a mountain he owns about 2 miles from his home in Marble, N.C., where he still goes daily to pray. As many as 35 have joined him on the mountain on the 5th of each month since May to pray.

Ronnie Floyd, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee president, hosted a virtual prayer meeting with Praying on the Mountain organizers and other pastors in conjunction with the launch.

When praying for the election, Lunsford has avoided partisanship.

“I know there are others who would say you need to be more specific; you need to pray for Donald Trump that he’ll be elected,” Lunsford said. “When I look at the stance on abortion, same-sex marriage and stuff like that, I prefer him for sure over the other; that’s my preference. But I want God’s preference. … And I believe it could be God’s will for that to happen, for Trump to go back in. That’s my feeling; but again, that may be my feeling, not God’s.”

Among those who have prayed with Lunsford are Chris Schofield, director of the Office of Prayer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC), and Greg Mathis, senior pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C. Both helped Lunsford organize Praying on the Mountain, which will continue in 2021.

Mud Creek Baptist is among many churches that participated in Sunday’s culminating 2020 prayer emphasis for Praying on the Mountain.

“I led our church in a series of prayers including the election, praying for a fair election and praying that God would make it where everybody that wanted to vote could, and that He would protect (the process) from any kind of fraud or anything like that,” Mathis said.

Additionally, the church’s sanctuary was open from 6:30-8 a.m. Nov. 1 to pray in advance of the election.

“I heard of other churches that did similar things,” Mathis said, “and we’re certainly not unconscious of the fact that it’s such a critical time in our country for this election. And we just prayed that God, His will would be done and we realize our need is so much greater than political; it’s spiritual.”

Praying on the Mountain leaders plan to repeat the emphasis in 2021, again kicking off in May.

Schofield said the emphasis has not only impacted North Carolina Baptists, but is important to the spiritual health of the nation.

“It has just been a significant call to prayer,” Schofield said of Praying on the Mountain. “It’s brought pastors together to seek the Lord, to lead their churches to seek the Lord. It’s been so encouraging to see pastors jumping on board with what God is doing in calling His people to pray right now for revival and awakening.”

Schofield has led various Southern Baptist prayer initiatives for nearly 25 years, and is currently on the leadership team of Southern Baptist PrayerLink.

“The greatest need we have in the life of the church in America is a rekindling of the vital spiritual life of Christ, individually and corporately,” Schofield said. “That’s what revival and awakening is all about, and that’s what God is calling His people to seek Him about, is to return to Him that we might see a rekindling of His manifest, holy presence.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and the current national uproar surrounding the issues of justice and racism only made the prayer initiatives stronger, leaders said.

Strickland encourages Christians to follow God’s leading, even when the reasoning and details are not clear.

“I had no clue what 2020 had in store,” Strickland said. ” If you feel God leading you to do something, even though you don’t fully understand it, just do it. Because He’s not even showing you yet, everything He needs for you to know possibly, but just do what He’s telling you to do then. And along the way, as you’re faithful, He will unfold more and more of the reasons why He called you to the task in the first place.”