MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptists pray, but Southern Baptists need to be persistent “praying people,” Tom Elliff said to a quiet room of International Mission Board trustees during their meeting March 19-21 in Memphis, Tenn.
The IMB vice president for spiritual nurture believes most Southern Baptists are not praying with enough vigor and fervor —- and a lost world is going to suffer the consequences.
“Survey after survey after survey indicates that the time pastors generally spend in prayer each week is not numbered in the hours but in the minutes,” said Elliff, former pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla.
“And, churches don’t rise above their leadership, do they?”
The problem, Elliff added, is not that Southern Baptists don’t know what to pray or how to pray. Most just aren’t praying with the passion needed to reach the lost.
Referencing Luke 11, Elliff said there needs to be a renewed sense of the power of prayer as Southern Baptists ask anew, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Elliff told a story about a missionary couple who returned to the United States from a militant Muslim area. The husband shared how he and his wife had prayed for six years to lead people to Christ. But at the end of the six years, no one had accepted Christ into their lives.
“They were just in despair,” Elliff related. “He said, ‘We did everything we knew to do to see people come to know Christ, and not one person was saved. Not one.’”
Still, the missionaries kept praying. Elliff compared the couple’s prayers to the persistent hammering of waves against a cliff — until one day rocks began to fall into the ocean. Two years later, the couple had seen 300 people accept Christ and 19 churches form.
“Every [people group] sits up there on a rock fortress and it’s not granite — it’s government or it’s culture or it’s language,” Elliff said. “The only thing that is going to win the day is the hammering, hammering, hammering of persistent prayer.”
Prayer should be the foundation of every campaign and every project Southern Baptists have, he added. In addition to goals to raise money for missions, churches also should pledge hours of prayer.
“We know how to pray,” he said. “We know what to pray for. It’s time to pray. Let’s just do it.”
For more information on how to participate in year-round, specific praying for missions — as well as this year’s Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization May 27 — visit http://imb.org/compassionnet/ or call the IMB International Prayer Strategy Office at (800) 999-3113.