Last year, our Southern Baptist Convention adopted a new vision entitled Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG). People often ask, "What is Empowering Kingdom Growth?"
Biblically, the definition is captured in Matthew 6:33, Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
EKG "is an initiative designed to call individual Southern Baptists to renew their passion for the Lord Jesus and the reign of His kingdom in their hearts, families, and churches from which God can forge a spiritual awakening marked by holy living, sacrificial service, and global witness."
God has answered many of the prayers of our EKG Task Force members. We had been asking God how we could proceed without someone to respond to the churches and to preach the Kingdom of God throughout the Convention. God knew better than we knew for ourselves. He sent us a man with the scholarly mind of a theologian, the passion of an evangelist, and the heart of a pastor. Dr. Ken Hemphill, until recently the president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has agreed to become our National Strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth. We are so grateful to the Lord for answering this prayer by leading Ken Hemphill to this strategic position at such a crucial time.
Beginning in January, the North American Mission Board is calling each of us to be One in a Million to pray for our Lord to empower us by His Spirit; to pray that God will refresh our hearts when we lose our joy and convict us when our faith becomes weak and our churches become cold.
Beginning in early 2004, the North American Mission Board is launching another prayer effort as a part of Empowering Kingdom Growth. NAMB will be enlisting every pastor and church to join in a Convention-wide effort of "churches praying for churches." Before the end of 2004 every Southern Baptist church will be prayed for by another Southern Baptist church. In order to succeed our Convention needs pastors to lead their people to engage in prayer for other churches. If your church participates in this effort to pray for sister churches in the land, you will be blessed, your church will be blessed, and the churches for which you pray will be blessed. God honors a praying people. Pastors, NAMB will assist you in knowing exactly what to do. You will be getting information that also will be on NAMB's Web site, www.NAMB.net.
The only way for Empowering Kingdom Growth to become the catalyst for a mighty spiritual awakening in America is for us to "pray without ceasing."
Our nation is in a down draft of moral and spiritual decline. There is an oft-quoted verse in God's Word that I fear we have heard so often our ears have grown deaf, If my people who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
The voice of heaven has grown faint in this nation. Forgiveness does not abound for there is little confession. Churches and preachers of liberal persuasion have ceased to declare, "Thus said the Lord God," and are appealing to the sensibilities of men and women who have no moral or spiritual compass. Others are appealing to a cushioned society that no longer wants to be reminded that we are sinners saved by grace.
We need the fresh wind of God's Holy Spirit cleansing our minds and renewing our hearts. Is there anyone willing to lead us in a Spirit-filled revolution? Is there anyone willing to call us to a life of holiness and genuine humility?
The Bible says we are to humble ourselves, pray, repent, and confess. He was talking to us, the people who are called by His name! Where must it all begin? It must begin in our hearts — we are to humble ourselves — in our prayer closets, on our knees, praying earnestly, fervently, as if our hearts will break if we do not hear from God. It must begin in our churches, at the altar in complete repentance and abandonment to self, the part of self that keeps getting in the way of being the person I had intended to be for Jesus' sake, that deflects my energies, that defeats God's purposes, that diminishes my witness.
Where do we begin? On our knees … in prayer!
Philip Henry said, "Pray alone. Let prayer be the key of the morning and the bolt at night. The best way to fight against sin is to fight it on our knees."
Edward Payson wore the hardwood boards into grooves where his knees pressed so often and so long.
If you want to be empowered when you pray, find a quiet time in a quiet place. Jesus took time out in the Garden of Gethsemane and His time in prayer kept Him on course to Calvary.
Humility does not have its eyes upon self, but upon God and others. God puts a great price upon humility of the heart. The Bible says, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble (James 4:6).
Pride, arrogance, and self-praise effectively shut the door of prayer. That which brings the praying soul near to God is humility of heart. That which gives wings to prayer is lowliness of mind. That which gives ready access to the throne of grace is self-abandonment.
Humility is realizing our unworthiness because we are unworthy. Humility is feeling and declaring ourselves to be sinners because we are sinners.
Confession is essential for empowered prayer. The Holy Spirit does not work His work through unclean vessels. He will not empower us when there is unconfessed sin.
But God honors a contrite heart and a broken spirit.
As our fathers in the faith did before us, we have come to the water's edge. But there's a promised land over yonder waiting for us. There's still a river to be crossed. There's still a land to be conquered … for Christ sake. There's still a people to be reached … on both home and foreign soil.
There's a prayer to be prayed. "God, we need the passion to do what we cannot do without you. We need the power to be who we cannot be without you."
Have you been around somebody who, regardless of education, loves Jesus with the simple faith of a child? Isn't that who we all started out to be when we were saved? It is true, isn't it, that you can tell a man who's been with Jesus and whose heart is pure.
Do you know about the praying passion of David Brainerd, the missionary to North American Indians? He was sickly, weak, and destined to live only a few years, and he determined to share the light of the gospel with the Indians on the eastern seaboard of America. He spent whole days praying, simply that the power of the Holy Spirit might come upon him so unmistakably that the people would come to know his Savior. He sometimes prayed for hours in knee-deep snow and was privileged to see one of the greatest movings of God in the history of the North American continent.
As a young man, Edward Payson said, "… of late, God has been pleased to keep my soul hungry almost continually, so that I have been filled with a kind of pleasing pain. When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of Him the more insatiable and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable."
John Wesley said, "Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth. God does nothing but in answer to prayer."
Lord, teach us to pray.