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‘You must pray,’ prof exhorts at inaugural prayer conference

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Christians must make prayer a priority if they hope to fight the powers of darkness and make an impact for Christ, according to speakers at the first annual Great Commission Prayer Conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The conference, sponsored jointly by the North American Mission Board, the Kentucky Baptist Convention and Southern Seminary, focused on the theme, “A Great Commission Prayer Conference … Invading the Kingdom of Darkness on our Knees.” The conference included 180 participants from across Kentucky and Indiana.

“The goals of this conference were threefold: to educate pastors, prayer leaders and laypersons in issues relating to prayer, to encourage those who lead prayer in their churches, associations and state conventions and to aid prayer leaders in building networks through fellowship,” said conference co-coordinator Eric Allen, director of the Kentucky convention’s prayer strategies office.

Plenary addresses were delivered by Bill Mackey, executive director of the Kentucky convention; John Avant, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga.; and Chuck Lawless, professor of evangelism and church growth and senior associate dean of Southern’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.

The March 19-20 conference also included 18 workshops taught by seminary faculty and other leaders from around the United States. Worship was led by teams from several Louisville-area churches.

Preaching from Ephesians 6, Lawless told participants that Christians must pray with persistence in order to maximize the power of prayer in their ministries.

“You are in a battle,” he said. “You are trying to take the Gospel of light into the kingdom of darkness. You are being used of God to rescue people who are held in the bondage of sin, and this battle is intense. This battle is real, and we need prayer warriors who simply do not give up in the task.”

The task of prayer can be grueling, Lawless said. But Christians must continue to pray because of prayer’s power to affect missions and evangelism, he said.

“… You must pray even when the battle hurts. And you must pray on even when it seems like you are praying by yourself. And you must pray on even when the results seem few. You cannot give up in the battle,” Lawless said.

“… We have an obligation to pray for all our missionaries today who are on the front lines, taking the Gospel into the darkness. … Our task is significant. We need to be praying for missionaries.”

Reactions to the conference have encouraged leaders in looking to the years ahead, said John Ewart, associate vice president for distance education and innovative learning at Southern and conference co-coordinator.

“We have already started planning for next year’s conference in partnership with the Kentucky Baptist Convention,” Ewart said. “Our intent is to build upon the success of this year and to continue developing a prayer conference as an annual event. We want to see the ongoing growth of the awareness and practice of prayer on our campus and in our churches.”

Lawless said the conference laid a foundation for effective prayer ministries in local churches across Kentucky and Indiana.

“One goal was simply to raise the priority of prayer on this campus and in this state,” he said. “I believe we gave our prayer leaders practical tools to build prayer ministries in the local church.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PRAYER PARTICIPANT and PRAYER WARRIOR ENLISTMENT.