LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–In June of this year, Southern Baptists affirmed a report from our Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. That task force began their work by challenging Southern Baptists to pray for a Great Commission resurgence. More than 6,000 people publicly affirmed their commitment to pray.
Now that we are several months beyond the adoption of the task force report, the praying must not decrease; it must only increase. To stop praying now is to retreat from the power of God when the hard work for our churches and denomination is really just beginning.
Great Commission praying should not be difficult, however. We know that the Word on which we stand resounds with the Great Commission mandate. From God’s victory announcement in Genesis 3:15 to the triumphant celebrations in Revelation, the Word points to a God who loves the world, who died for sinners, and who is drawing a people to Himself. It is through the work of his church — through us — that God is redeeming his people. If we really believe the Word, we will be a Great Commission people.
That same Word shows us that prayer matters. Abraham, Moses, Nehemiah, David, Jeremiah, Daniel and others prayed. Jesus prayed in the morning, into the evening, and through the night. He prayed passionately for His followers and for those who would follow after them. Paul, too, prayed for believers and nonbelievers; indeed, his prayer for Israel was that they would be saved. If we Southern Baptists really believe the Word, we will be a praying people — a Great Commission praying people. Once more, though, that task should not be hard.
The Word again helps us here. The Apostle Paul called believers to pray that God would open doors for him to speak the Gospel (Colossians 4:3). More specifically, he wanted them to pray that he would speak the Gospel boldly and clearly (Ephesians 6:19-20, Colossians 4:3-4). If we simply prayed these prayers for our church leaders every day, our denomination would already be a stronger Great Commission people.
Or, consider the time you spend reading the newspaper or watching the news every day. During one recent week, I read about mudslides in Guatemala, boats capsizing in the Congo, a mine disaster in Chile, and conflicts in Central Asia, Europe, Central America, and Africa. In each of these regions are people who need to know Jesus and missionaries who seek to tell about Him. Reading the newspaper with my Bible in hand and an atlas nearby leads me to pray for people that I might not have otherwise considered.
Think about the people you pass every day in your neighborhood. That neighbor whose name you do not yet know. The friends you do know who are experiencing family strife. The teacher who influences teenagers for six hours a day. Those children playing in the street, even on Sunday morning. Redeem the time as you drive or walk through your neighborhood by praying that the people who live around you will know Jesus.
As you go through the day, listen closely. Listen for stories of anguish, and offer prayer for wounded people. If you listen to radio talk shows, pray for callers and hosts who verbalize something less than a Christian worldview. Listen for foreign languages spoken, a clear sign that God is bringing the world to us. Allow the stories and the voices you hear direct you to pray for those who need to know Jesus.
During the week, use your church’s bulletin to trigger Great Commission praying. A recent bulletin from the church where I have been preaching shows that the Hispanic church will meet Sunday afternoon, a new apartment ministry will begin this week, the GROW team will visit on Tuesday, college students will meet for worship on Wednesday, and the youth will soon begin the GPS Bible study series. Each of these events is an occasion for evangelism — and an opportunity for me to pray.
Finally, pray for God’s current and future Great Commission laborers. Sign up at www.namb.net and www.imb.org to receive e-mail prayer updates. Lead your family to pray together at least weekly for our Southern Baptist missionaries. Systematically pray for the children and youth in your church, focusing on one Bible study group each month and asking God to raise up a new generation of pastors and missionaries. Take a step of faith — pray that your children and grandchildren will be future Great Commission leaders, wherever God may lead them.
Pray, and then pray some more. Great Commission praying really isn’t so hard, but the stakes are high. Southern Baptists will see a Great Commission resurgence only if we march into the future on our knees.
Chuck Lawless is dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.