FIRST-PERSON: The primacy of prayer
EDITOR'S NOTE: Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, has issued a call to prayer for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world during 2013. In addition, the month of January has been designated a month of prayer on the convention's calendar. Baptist Press will carry first-person articles during the year encouraging Southern Baptists to pray in specific areas and for specific needs as we petition the Father for spiritual awakening.
NASHVILLE (BP) -- The apostle Paul charged Timothy to establish prayer as the top priority in his life and ministry ("first of all," 1 Timothy 2:1). If our churches are to experience spiritual renewal and our nation is to experience spiritual awakening, Southern Baptists must embrace this same priority in our churches and in our personal lives.
In Scripture, spiritual awakening is always tied to the obedience of God's people. SBC President Fred Luter recently reminded us that revival does not trickle down from the White House; it bubbles up from God's House! God's Word to Solomon still holds true -- "If MY people, who are called by MY Name ..." If revival is to come to America, we must earnestly beseech the Father in specific ways. I mention three.
Pray for our leaders
In Paul's charge to Timothy, he commanded him to pray for "kings and all that are in authority." Few national and international leaders mentioned in biblical history were godly. In fact, the number of godly kings can be counted on less than two hands. On the other hand, the number of evil kings in united Israel and the two divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah runs in the dozens. Add in the foreign kings that dominated Israel through much of its history and we see a sad collection of leaders, few for whom we would want to pray anything positive. It's still the same. Each day's headlines contain another scandal, another policy decision, another looming crisis. It is so vital for us to pray for our leaders. How do we pray for them?
-- Pray that the Lord will place godly people in the paths of our elected and appointed officials who will give good words at opportune moments.
-- Pray that our leaders' hearts will be swayed as they hear godly counsel.
-- Pray that they will have dreams that give them second thoughts.
-- Pray that they will fully grasp the reality that one day they will stand before the Righteous Judge to give an account for their decisions and actions.
-- Pray that the principles of righteousness will find favor in their minds.
-- Pray that they will make wise decisions.
-- Pray for their salvation and subsequent sanctification through the Spirit.
Pray for laborers
Our baptism ratio numbers tell a story -- we have lost confidence in the Gospel to save the lost. As a people, we are not engaged in personal evangelism. Soul-winning devolved into sharing. Sharing became bringing them to church. Bringing them to church eventually became "They know where the church is." And along the way the number of laborers it takes to win one new convert to faith in Christ has quadrupled!
The great need is for ordinary believers to realize we have an extraordinary Gospel! The Gospel remains "the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes." If our nation is to experience spiritual awakening, it will take a mighty army of willing witnessers telling the lost about Jesus! How do we pray for these laborers?
-- Ask the Lord to use you in His harvest.
-- Ask the Lord to give you a compelling "entry point" to share the Gospel with the lost, whether FAITH or the Romans Road or some other biblical gateway that fits your personality.
-- Ask the Lord to guide you to fellow believers you can enlist to join you in telling others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
-- Ask the Lord to provide willing witnessers in other places to tell your family and friends and people you'll never meet who live there about Jesus.
-- Ask the Lord to raise up compelling voices who will find a national stage to share the Gospel through various media -- print, broadcast journalism, citywide events, social media sites.
-- Rejoice when you hear stories about conversions.
-- Ask the Lord to remove any spirit of jealousy or cynicism when others' ministries are uniquely used in reaching people with the Gospel.
Pray for the lost
Paul's words in Romans 9 are deeply moving, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved." How long has it been since we poured out our hearts before the Lord in intercessory prayer for the salvation of specific individuals? Many Baptists claim that they don't know any lost people. Jesus' words are especially appropriate for us -- "lift up your eyes." How do we pray for the lost?
-- Ask the Lord to let you really see the people you encounter on a daily basis.
-- Introduce yourself. Get their names. Create a prayer list, writing their names in a prayer journal or on a paper you keep in your Bible.
-- Repeat their names in prayer each day during your quiet time.
-- Address them by name as you see them along the way, getting to know more about them each time you see them.
-- Mention to them that you recently prayed for them.
-- Ask them how you might pray for them.
-- Continue to lift them up in prayer.
-- Do not become discouraged if they do not quickly confess faith in the Jesus Christ.
-- Take note -- when the Lord sees your passion for the lost, He will bring others into your path who are longing to be saved!
Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).