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Southern Baptists walk, pray on Salt Lake City’s streets

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Bill Graham deliberately walked the streets of Salt Lake City June 5 to pray. Despite sunny skies, a temperature of 70 degrees and snow-capped peaks around him, his mood was anything but jubilant.
The more he walked, the sadder he became. The sadder he became, the more he prayed.
“Despite the beauty, the orderliness and attractiveness of the city, underneath there was an awareness God was not honoring it,” said Graham, manager of the missionary personnel unit at the North American Mission Board and one of 17 participants in the Southern Baptist Convention’s PrayOver Salt Lake City activities.
PrayOver participants came together Friday morning as “the church of God praying over the host city in preparation for the cross of Jesus being lifted up over the city,” said Randy Sprinkle, coordinator of the 1998 SBC PrayOver. Sprinkle also is director of the international prayer strategy office for the International Mission Board.
PrayOver, begun in 1995, calls together Southern Baptists who “love the Lord and know we are powerless to share Christ’s love apart from prayer,” Sprinkle said. The prayer emphasis was started to precede Crossover evangelism activities held on the Saturday before the annual convention meeting.
The 1998 SBC will be held June 9-11 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
Before other convention activities begin, PrayOver volunteers canvass the city, walking and praying “open-eyed and open-hearted, seeing through the eyes of the Lord the people of the city,” Sprinkle said.
As the group returned for a time of sharing after their walk, many echoed Graham’s thoughts of sadness and feelings of oppressiveness, despite a warm welcome by many people and being surrounded by beautiful buildings and scenery.
Although the strength of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is apparent in the city, PrayOver participants voiced conviction that the Lord is stronger. Rather than being left with a sense of hopelessness, group members said they were filled with a renewed hope for Salt Lake City.
“When we walk with God, our thoughts are more characterized by God,” Sprinkle said.
Richard Leach, renewal strategist for the North American Mission Board, said he has an opportunity to share the gospel with many people, but he sees the importance of concerted prayer before evangelism activities begin.
“He (God) wants us to pray first and then follow up,” Leach said.
The 1998 SBC marks the last year PrayOver and Crossover events will be separate activities. For 1999, they will be conducted together as “one seamless garment,” Sprinkle said.
“Prayer is not one activity and evangelism another,” he said. “Prayer ought to be the primary activity in all evangelism.”

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  • Steve Achord