MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (BP)–One of the lessons that emerged from a nine-day prayer gathering in West Virginia was the need for renewed spiritual discipline among a majority of Southern Baptists across the nation, according to the pastor who organized the event.
“One of the sins that has been confessed and recognized by more people in the Southern Baptist Convention is that prayer is neglected in the church and in the pastor’s and in the layman’s life,” Dan Biser said.
“Just straight out, the sin of prayerlessness has not been dealt with for decades [as well as] the neglect of God’s Word, where preachers and church members do not read their Bibles,” he told Baptist Press. “The disciplines have to be restored in order for God to bless us again. We have to get back to prayer. We have to get back to the Word. We have to get back to devotions. We have to get back to [Scripture] memorization.”
Biser, pastor of Zoar Baptist Church in Augusta, W. Va., and Fox’s Hollow Baptist Church in Romney, added that “there has to be something instituted within the Southern Baptist Convention that will restore the hungering and thirsting after righteousness through these things.”
The Nov. 3-11 prayer gathering at Westview Baptist Church in Martinsburg drew 500 people total, and Biser said a significant number of them stayed throughout the conference. Sessions were three hours in length and were generally characterized by two hours of worship and teaching followed by an hour of prayer. Between 200 and 300 people attended a particular session during peak times.
“On Saturday night when we were getting ready to finish up, I asked how many people had stayed for the entire 23 sessions, and there was a good host of people that had been there through the entire week,” Biser said.
Speakers during “Broken Before the Throne” included Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, Sammy Tippit, Francois Carr, T.W. Hunt, Al Whittinghill, Frank Page, Greg Frizzell and John Franklin. A two-day women’s conference featured Tex Tippit, Bobbye Rankin and Elaine Helms.
“The speakers knew that this was not just a conference; it was an actual prayer meeting like in Acts where they were praying in unity and waiting for God to move,” Biser recounted. “That was really one of the biggest encouragements, to know that to these guys who travel all over the world to all these different conferences where most of the time people are just going through the motions of saying prayers, we were steadfast in laboring for prevailing prayer for revival.”
During the first few days of the meeting, those who led in prayer emphasized confession, Biser said.
“There were at least four days straight where we were really pouring ourselves out because of the church’s neglect of prayer and the neglect of being true to God’s Word,” he said. “There were pastors and laypeople there who were really searching their hearts and the Spirit was working with them to be cleansed. We couldn’t really move forward until that had taken place.”
God clearly orchestrated a move to intercession after the time of confession, Biser said.
“Al Wittinghill and Sammy Tippit really led us into a deeper pursuit of how God wanted to use the church and to use us in the Kingdom’s work,” Biser said. “Most people walked away with that, from the cleansing to intercession, ready to go back to their respective places to continue.”
When speakers finished their presentations, they led the group into times of prayer as individuals, as members of small groups of up to six people, or into larger groups for corporate prayer. Some of the times included directed prayer focused on specific issues while other times allowed participants to pray about what was on their hearts.
“I was grateful to see the focus of our prayers kept on the Kingdom of God instead of some laundry list of things we wanted God to do for us or our families,” Biser said. “One amazing thing to me was the way God physically strengthened me and the participants for such an extended time of prayer and intercession for revival. No one complained of fatigue although many of us were in most of the 23 sessions.”
Southern Baptists from 18 states and Canada and South Africa approached the conference with different expectations, the pastor noted, with some having read articles about it and others happening upon it during Internet searches.
As he mingled with the conference participants, Biser recognized a common thread among them.
“These were intercessors that came, and they almost all had the message, ‘We’ll never be the same from this day on.’ When tears were rolling down their faces, saying, ‘God met with me this week,’ this was truly a God event,” Biser said. “He wanted us to assemble, and He wanted to meet us. He was faithful to do that.
“I think the expectations going into it were that we were looking for a divine visitation where national revival would be the product,” Biser added. “Some of the great awakenings we’ve read about saw revival just spread in a matter of days. Even though that was not the result of this, there is a movement going forth from this with a great hunger and passion, and God is awakening His church in the United States.”
Several people have asked Biser how he’s going to plan a similar event for next year, but he said he doesn’t yet feel led to try it again himself. Most of the speakers agreed that the progress made at the prayer gathering needs to continue, and Biser said a door might open for someone else in another region of the nation to take the lead next year.
He also expressed concern that the gathering not take on a manufactured tone.
“The simplicity of this event was that it was just God leading and we obeyed,” Biser said. “There wasn’t the organized structure behind it of these other movements that have a name behind them. The humbleness of that is still fresh upon it.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. John Adams, editor of the West Virginia Southern Baptist newsjournal, contributed to this report.