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WORLDVIEW: Want to make an impact? Pray

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A young pastor I met at the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Nashville June 21-22 has all the tools for a successful ministry: a passion for God, eloquence, intelligence, a heart for reaching people with the Gospel.

Like many Christian leaders of his generation, however, he’s uninterested in the traditional marks of pastoral “success.” A large church with a big budget doesn’t excite him. Nor does he seek power and influence among his ministerial brethren.

“We don’t want power,” he said of himself and his peers.

What do they want? The opportunity to make an impact on their culture for Christ by living authentic faith. They yearn for community and often find it via online blogs that connect them with others of like mind. They also want to make an impact on the world.

There are many ways to do that, but the most potent one is prayer.

As much as missionaries need financial support, as much as they want new workers and church partners to work alongside them, the one thing they can’t do without is prayer.

“Every one of them will tell you that’s their greatest need,” says International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin.

Yet even mission-minded folks struggle to pray specifically and strategically for the lost of the globe.

“It’s tough for me to pray consistently for the world,” confessed mission mobilizer Shane Bennett in a recent posting on missionscatalyst.org. “It’s hard for me, and, I suspect, many others because my life is full, the ‘world’ is far away and there is a lack of great information to guide my prayers.”

Bennett solicited ideas from others. He got some heartfelt — and very practical — responses.

“I long for a group of people who will make time weekly to get together to pray passionately for unreached people groups,” wrote Paul from Colorado. “Suffice it to say that my immediate family is that group, at least for the moment….”

Ed in Arkansas likes to pray with a globe beside him. “It may seem a little carnal, but it helps me to look at the country and sort of ‘aim’ my prayers,” he explains.

Rick in Michigan prays in response to international news. “For those who read the newspaper or listen to the news on the radio, I think it is such a good discipline to respond in prayer to the story as I am listening to it,” he says. “This practice also keeps me from becoming numb to the misery of the world and just a passive consumer of media.”

An updated method of “praying alongside the news” comes from Dave. “Use Google Alerts to inform you of articles written about the country or people for whom you are burdened,” he suggests. “You can receive a summary of articles from various newspapers where the headline includes the (key) words you have registered with Google on its news page.” Visit www.google.com/alerts.

Warning: It’s hard to pray consistently for the unreached. It’s even harder to mobilize others to pray.

I tried starting a small prayer group for an unreached people several years ago, and found I lacked the faithfulness and discipline to intercede consistently for the people myself. How could I ask others to do something I couldn’t — or wouldn’t — do? Sometimes it’s easier to take mission trips across the globe than to bend your knees in global intercession in your own living room.

Don’t get discouraged — and don’t give up if you miss a day or a week. A good place to start for specific, strategic prayer requests is the International Mission Board’s prayer site: www.imb.org/compassionnet.

A great new resource is Voices of the Faithful, a 366-day devotional compiled by popular Christian author-speaker Beth Moore and Southern Baptist missionaries. It packs short, powerful mission stories to encourage prayer by individuals, families, small groups and churches. To order the devotional and related resources, call (800) 999-3113 or visit www.voicesofthefaithful.com.

During the International Mission Board’s report to SBC messengers in Nashville, Pacific Rim regional leader Don Dent told of lives transformed by strategic praying.

“Last year, five Islamic jihad warriors gave their hearts to Jesus Christ after having the same dream about Jesus on three consecutive nights,” he said. “They did not know that missionaries living in their neighborhood had asked their Southern Baptist church partners to begin praying specifically — exactly nine months before — that God would reveal Himself through dreams to the people of that area.

“Now that’s strategic partnership,” Dent said. “It’s a spiritual battle, and we need Southern Baptists to join us in prayer.”
Erich Bridges is senior writer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board whose column appears twice each month in Baptist Press.

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  • Erich Bridges