SAN ANTONIO (BP)–With a man’s arms spread wide, facing the open blue sky, the logo for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting said it all: “Lord, send your Holy Spirit.”
SBC President Frank Page’s call to prayer during the June 12-13 sessions in San Antonio was based on 2 Chronicles 7:14: “… [if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land,” (Holman Christian Standard Bible).
Focused times of prayer during the SBC’s three Tuesday sessions and on Wednesday morning involved individual and group prayers as messengers sought God for repentance and revival in the convention.
Page said his desire was for messengers to seek “the Holy Spirit’s renewing power in our lives and in our churches across the convention.”
In part, the prayer emphasis also was in answer to a motion last year by North Carolina pastor Robert Kelley who proposed that each annual meeting include 15 minutes for praise, confession and prayer by messengers.
Rosevelt Morris, director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s office of prayer and spiritual awakening, led the Tuesday morning prayer session, themed “Lord, Transform Your Churches.”
“Do you believe that God answers prayer?” Morris asked. “If God wanted to do something in your life today — if He got in your face — would you talk about your situation? Do you know that your God will hear you and will respond to you? We have the privilege of talking to our Almighty God.”
Morris invited messengers to join in groups of three to pray for God to transform churches in their communities. In response, men and women of different backgrounds gathered in groups to pray with hands clasped or with arms around each others’ shoulders as a quiet buzz of prayers emanated from the vast convention hall.
Closing the prayer, Morris implored, “Lord, we need strength in our churches. … We pray for the heart of Jesus in our communities. Help us rise above our petty differences and our own politics that separate us. Help us fix our eyes on Jesus, and as we fix our eyes on Him, may transformation come to the peoples of the world.”
T.W. Hunt, a speaker and author from Spring, Texas, led the prayer time in the Tuesday afternoon session, themed “Lord, Bring Us to Confession and Repentance.”
Hunt shared how he desperately cried out to God to remove anything that would keep Him from being 100 percent in his life. That prayer lasted for five to six months.
“It was very painful, but I don’t regret it all,” said Hunt, who wrote “The Mind of Christ” discipleship study.
Hunt said that for the last year and a half, he has been praying a prayer of repentance on behalf of the SBC. Specifically, he has prayed “that institutions, churches and every individual would not be man-centered but God-centered,” he said.
Hunt urged participants to pray two prayers: to remove anything that would separate them from being 100 percent available for God and that institutions, churches and people would remove anything that does not come straight from heaven.
During the silent prayer time, some messengers sat with their heads buried deep in their hands, while others’ furrowed foreheads revealed intense conversations with God.
There was a hush across the crowded room for several minutes before Hunt closed with one final prayer, “As we carry out our work, that churches, conventions and our [individual] hearts would know that God is God.”
During a Pastors’ Conference prayer gathering June 11, Hunt also called on the people of the SBC to pray for a return to God-centeredness. The group prayed during focused prayer times — some holding hands with fellow believers, others bowing on their knees.
Hunt said God-centeredness will come when Baptists seek the qualities of otherness, love, humility, supremacy of Christ and nobility — qualities Hunt sees in God. He urged the pastors to pray for a concern for others in SBC churches and entities.
Hunt led the group to pray for sacrificial and divine Christ-like love in the convention, and he called on people of the SBC to live lives of humility.
To close the June 11 session, Hunt called for an end to convention controversies and gossip, which he called “low-minded,” “common” and “vulgar.” He said that believers are being prepared for an eternity in heaven and that God expects nobility of his children.
During the Tuesday afternoon session of the SBC annual meeting, John Franklin, president of John Franklin Ministries in Nashville, Tenn., declared to the convention, “We need an outpouring of God’s Spirit, and we are in a desperate situation.”
Like Hunt, Franklin asked messengers to ask God if anything was in their hearts that would hinder God from sending His Spirit.
Franklin pointed to statistics shared earlier in the day by Thom Rainer of LifeWay Christian Resources, that 65 percent of the older generation claims to be evangelical Christians, while only 4 to 8 percent of the younger generation makes that claim.
“That [difference] doesn’t imply that something is wrong,” Franklin said. “That implies a crisis.”
He told the crowd, before asking them to gather in small groups to plead for a mighty outpouring of God’s Spirit, “We have the assurance of the divine teachings that if we humble ourselves and seek [His] face, our cry of desperation will be heard on high.”
Gregory Frizzell, prayer and spiritual awakening specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, led the Tuesday evening session, themed “Lord, Unite Us in a Cooperative Mission Task.”
Frizzell invited groups to cry out for an explosion of mission passion and mission giving in the SBC.
“We are crying out … that You send a wave of new passion to sacrificially give to missions, to go and to pray with a Kingdom heart,” Frizzell prayed, also crying out for “mighty protection,” “supernatural prayer,” and for “a great and mighty awakening.”
“May we experience one last great awakening … in our giving, in our unity, in our going and in our praying,” Frizzell prayed.
Eddie Cox, director of the International Mission Board’s prayer strategy office, led the prayer in the Wednesday morning session, themed “Lord, Send Revival to Our Convention.”
Cox, who said he meets with missionaries in regular concerts of prayer, asked God for “an extraordinary stirring of the Holy Spirit” so that Southern Baptists would truly glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in the United States and abroad.
“We bow humbly before You, deeply aware of our spiritual condition,” Cox prayed. “Please do not give up on us. … Break our sinful hearts and bring us to repentance. We are drowning in our sin, and we need revival.”
After messengers united in small groups to pray for revival, Cox closed with a final prayer, “Send a raging fire of your Spirit, I beseech You.”
“Prayer is the key to everything,” Jan Davis, a messenger from Kingsland Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., whose two sons are serving with the IMB, said. “I think there’s just something about hearing voices all over the convention center. Prayer is very important.”
In addition to these prayer times, pastors from throughout the convention opened and closed each session with prayer.
The prayer times were consistent with this year’s presidential address, in which Page focused on Psalm 51, a passage he said God laid on his heart the second day after last year’s SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.
“We’re full of non-revived churches among non-revived people who’ve lost passion for the lost,” Page said. “But we’ve become strangely passionate about our agendas.”
He prayed, “God, give us a humble spirit.”
Page cautioned against disunity in the convention.
“You have ignored the prayer request of Jesus if You are not working as one,” Page told the convention, citing Jesus’ prayer in John 17:22-23.
Instead, Page urged the messengers to confess sins before the Lord, call for a spiritual heart transplant, and beg for God’s cleansing.
“Then, with a clean heart and a steadfast spirit, we will be able to teach sinners God’s way and they will turn to Him,” Page said.
In his report during the Tuesday morning session, Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, also voiced a special prayer.
“God, forgive me,” he said. “Humble me. Flood my soul with Your power. Empower me to live for Your glory. May it be so.”
Gary D. Myers contributed to this report.