NEW ORLEANS (BP)–The Leavell name is well-known at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, with two members of that family — Roland Q. Leavell and Landrum P. Leavell II — having served as president of the school and several buildings and academic chairs at the school bearing the name.
That influence continued during the seminary’s Oct. 12 chapel service as David Leavell, son of Landrum Leavell, called the seminary community to more fervent prayer.
Leavell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Millington, Tenn., and a current NOBTS trustee, read from Matthew 6, focusing on verse 6.
Matthew 6:6 reads, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (NIV).
Leavell said that, in verse 6, Jesus first calls Christians to find a setting for prayer. “Effectual, fervent prayer,” he noted, “necessitates a place of retreat.”
For people in the 21st century, solitude and silence can cause some serious discomfort, Leavell said. The continuous flow of information via radio, the Internet and television has trained people to desire constant activity and distraction.
“We fight solitude in favor of activity. We fight quiet in favor of noise, and our souls never have time to rest and rejuvenate,” Leavell said. “Have you ever tried to just listen to God instead of your iPhone?”
Turn the electronics off, find a place to be alone and listen to God, he counseled.
One of the people from whom Leavell learned the importance of a “personal prayer closet” was his great-grandmother, who devoted an entire room in her Oxford, Miss., house to prayer. Leavell tied much of his family’s impact on Baptist life in the 20th century to that foundation of prayer.
Leavell also pointed to the responsibility of prayer found in verse 6. The verse starts with “when you pray,” and readers shouldn’t overlook that short phrase, he said.
“So often we say our prayers but we never really pray,” he said. “We never pray about Kingdom matters. Usually, our prayers are concerned with nothing more than personal pet peeves.”
Leavell then asked, “If God answered every request on your prayer list, would his Kingdom be advanced and the lost saved, or would your life just get a little less hectic?”
If people do not spend time in actual prayer, they will never experience a reward for prayer, Leavell said in his third point, focusing on spiritual rewards for fervent prayer.
“Why haven’t we had revival?” he asked. “We’re not praying and we’re not believing.”
Though it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenges that arise each day, people should not lose focus on the solution to those challenges, Leavell said.
“I know this: The problem’s not bigger than the answer, and the answer is Jesus,” he said.
Chuck Kelley, the seminary’s president, reminded students as he introduced Leavell how influential the Leavell family has been not just at NOBTS but across the Southern Baptist Convention.
“You may have noticed as you walk through the campus that the name ‘Leavell’ appears from time to time,” Kelley said.
From the seminary’s chapel to its Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health to endowed academic chairs, the Leavell family has left an indelible mark on New Orleans Seminary and on the convention, Kelley said. Members of the Leavell family pioneered Baptist staples like discipleship training and collegiate ministry, Kelley added.
“All over the Southern Baptist Convention in the first 50 years of the 20th century, there was no family of greater influence on the overall purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention than this single family,” Kelley said.
David Leavell was born to Landrum and JoAnn Leavell in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1964. He grew up in both Wichita Falls and New Orleans. He has pastored churches in Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Tennessee. He and his wife Vicki have three children, John David, Laura Leigh and Justin Walker.
Reported by Frank Michael McCormack, assistant director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.