NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–From two small ethnic Southern Baptist congregations in North Carolina to the Louisiana Statehouse, a movement to encourage prayer and fasting among evangelical Christians is spreading across the nation.
The 130 members of Grace United Community Church and its Hispanic church plant, Nuevo Amanecer, are calling on their fellow Southern Baptist congregations to fast and pray for the nation every Tuesday.
“We may be a small church, but we believe that God would have us give this challenge to our Southern Baptist Convention,” said G.L. Brown, associate pastor of missions for Grace United and a bi-vocational church planter. “This is a call to spiritual arms for our country during this time of crisis.”
Grace United is a two-year-old African-American congregation in Winston-Salem, N.C. Seven months ago, the congregation helped plant Nuevo Amanecer. The 18 member Hispanic congregation meets in Grace United’s facilities.
“We recognize that this war cannot be won just by military means, but by God’s people being united in prayer,” Brown told Baptist Press. “We issued a national call of prayer and fasting for each Tuesday. Our congregation has been participating since October.”
Following the example of Isaiah, Brown said the weekly fasting and praying will continue until the current crisis is resolved.
“Though to some this may be a new spiritual experiment, this small act gives every citizen a chance to be involved in a personal way and most importantly heals our land,” Brown said.
Brown said the Lord brought the idea of praying and fasting to his heart on Sept. 25. “I brought it to our senior pastor and he said go for it,” he recalled. “He gave me a chance to preach on a Sunday morning and bring the vision to the congregation.”
Taking his theme from a popular movie show, Brown called his message a “Sermon for Guys who like Sermons.”
“It was an earthy sermon because we were talking about war and the pain that war causes,” Brown said. “This is a war where our troops are going to need spiritual protection and we need to pray for them.”
Brown said the response from men in the congregation was particularly strong.
“Many came forward immediately to commit themselves to prayer and fasting,” he said. “It is a unique thing because it is something that men can take hold of, to pray for those on the front line.”
That same week Brown preached at another congregation in Winston Salem, Crestwood Baptist Church.
“They were strongly motivated as well,” he said. “By that time, I had shared the vision with some of our state leadership and from there it’s started to slowly spread across the state.”
One afternoon, he was at a Campus Crusade for Christ rally when a pastor approached him and determined that the movement was of God and he was encouraging his church members to join the grassroots movement.
Brown said he’s not surprised that God is using their small congregation to make an impact.
“That’s the way it should be,” he said. “We are a convention of churches and these things should come from God’s people in the trenches.”
The call to prayer has also been sounded on the national level by leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention.
SBC President James Merritt and SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Morris H. Chapman recently issued a joint statement urging Southern Baptists to pray specifically for the United States, its leaders and the nation’s military.
“We call upon the 16 million Southern Baptists and 42,000 Southern Baptist churches spread across this land to commit themselves to regular, specific, and focused prayer for our nation and for its leaders in these trying days,” read the statement signed by both leaders.
In addition to the statement, Chapman announced the creation of a special Internet prayer site at inallthingspray.net. A prayer guide is being prepared to assist those who will commit to this investment of time and spiritual energy to pray pointedly and with purpose.
In Louisiana, the House of Representatives passed legislation marking Nov. 21 as a day of prayer, repentance, and reconciliation.
“Therefore, be it resolved that the members of the Legislature of Louisiana do hereby recognize Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2001, the day before Thanksgiving, as a day of prayer, repentance, and reconciliation, do hereby urge the governor to recognize this day by proclamation, and do hereby call upon the citizens of the state to join in their respective places of worship on this day for the stated purpose of prayer, repentance and reconciliation,” the resolution stated.
The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Anthony Perkins, who represents East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes. Perkins is a graduate of Liberty University.
Brown, who has a religion degree from Gardner Webb University, said fasting isn’t what most people imagine.
“It could be giving up meat or sweets,” he said. “Or you can fast all solids while taking in juices.”
However, the most important issue, Brown said, is to follow the example set forth in Isaiah 58.
“Isaiah teaches us that our prayers and fasting should include personal humility, that we should loosen the bonds of wickedness, that we should divide our bread with the hungry, bring the homeless and poor into shelters and clothe the naked,” Brown said.
He encouraged Southern Baptists to give money that would normally be spent for meals on Tuesday to various relief organizations, churches and charities such as the SBC’s Disaster Relief teams.
“Let your fasting not just be giving up, but giving to,” Brown said.