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Prioritize prayer, Gaines says in SBTS chapel message

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Southern Baptists should prioritize prayer for unity and evangelism, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines said in a chapel message at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary setting forth key aspects of prayer.

“I’m praying that the priority of the Southern Baptist Convention … will become literally a house of prayer,” Gaines said. “I’m praying that when people think about the Southern Baptist Convention the very first thing they will think of is this: That’s the group of folks, those are the folks that pray.”

Examining the account of the early church in prayer in Acts 4:23-31, Gaines said the early church provides an example of how prayer reveals the intimacy of a Christian’s relationship to God. People talk with and about those whom they love, and prayer is one way Christians talk with God, he said. The book of Acts is about people praying to God and sharing Scripture with others.

“Everywhere they went, they prayed and they witnessed,” Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., said in his April 11 message. “They loved the Lord. And so just naturally, out of their lives flowed prayer toward the Lord and evangelism and witnessing toward other people.”

Unity is a key result from the prayers of Christian believers, Gaines noted.

Southern Baptists “could use a little bit of being unified together around the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “And it will not come unless we spend time talking to God together. We’ve got to talk, not about one another, but we’ve got to talk with each other to the Lord. Something changes in your life when you start praying with other Christians instead of talking about other Christians. Unity comes not from divisive discourse but from unified prayer meetings. When we lift our voices to God with one accord, with one heart, as a congregation, as an assembly, then we enjoy genuine unity in the body of Christ.”

Christians also should be motivated by love and prayer to share the Gospel, Gaines said.

“Every desire you have to tell someone about Jesus comes from the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If Jesus is in your heart, He’ll come out of your mouth. You can’t serve Jesus with a zipped lip.”

Gaines also said prayer helps God’s people overcome persecution, depend on Scripture, exude confidence, offer strategic petitions, experience miracles, enjoy bountiful grace, become exceptionally generous and become gifted leaders.

During the seminary’s trustee meeting on April 10, Gaines was installed as the first Herschel H. Hobbs Visiting Professor of Christian Preaching, honoring former SBC President Herschel H. Hobbs. The trustees established the professorship to honor the two-time graduate of Southern Seminary who was president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1961-1963, served as chairman of the committee that revised the Baptist Faith and Message in 1963 and pastored several Southern Baptist churches.

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., in introducing Gaines, spoke of the importance of Hobbs’ legacy.

“Dr. Hobbs, who has now for many years been with the Lord, rightly must be honored by his alma mater here at Southern Seminary,” Mohler said. “It is a matter of great satisfaction that Dr. Steve Gaines, who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation at Southwestern Seminary on Dr. Herschel Hobbs, has agreed to be the very first Herschel H. Hobbs Visiting Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Seminary.”

Audio and video of Gaines’ chapel message is available at equip.sbts.edu/chapel.