Chicago-area 'concert of prayer' plows ground for renewal & outreach
ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. (BP)--Nearly 200 Chicago-area Christians united for a "concert of prayer" April 15 for personal renewal in their lives, spiritual revival in their churches and divine rebirth in their communities.
The Great Commission Prayer Conference featured general session speakers and more than a dozen practical workshops to help participants learn more about developing and strengthening a strategic and evangelistic prayer ministry in their churches. David Bryant, chairman of the National Prayer Committee and founder of Concerts of Prayer International in New York City, led the concert of prayer as the culmination of the conference.
A concert of prayer -- a phrase first used by Jonathan Edwards, a preacher from the 1700s best known for his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" -- actively involves the congregation as participants, rather than listening to one or more persons leading group prayers. At the start of the prayer session, Bryant directed the congregation to break up into groups of three, called triplets.
Throughout the concert of prayer, Bryant would lead each triplet to pair up with another triplet, making a six-person huddle. Sometimes, he would ask triplets to break up so people could spend time in individual prayer.
The conference was one of many events being held as part of the Strategic Focus Cities evangelism and church-starting effort which this year is focusing resources and volunteers in Chicago and Phoenix. The event was sponsored by Strategic Focus Cities/Celebrate Jesus 2000 in Chicago, the Illinois Baptist State Association and the North American Mission Board.
Before the concert of prayer, Bryant used two Beanie Babies -- the Energizer Bunny and a bear kneeling in prayer -- to illustrate the two approaches Christians have to evangelism. Most Christians are like the Energizer Bunny; they keep "going and going and going" with activities until something happens.
They need to be more like the praying bear, named Hope, and keep "praying and praying and praying" until God causes something to happen, he said. To move from one outlook to the other, Christians must cultivate a sense of biblical hope, looking forward to what God wants to accomplish. "One of the keys to any victorious prayer life is to get on the same page with God."
Bryant began the concert of prayer by asking members of each triplet to voice thanks for what God was going to do in their churches. After these prayers of rejoicing, Bryant led them to focus on personal and corporate repentance. He challenged people to first confess in silence the sins in their own lives. He next asked people to call out a word or phrase that described one sin in the church that was keeping Christians from carrying out God's evangelistic work.
The voices echoed throughout the worship center. "Rebellion," a woman called out from the back. "Pride," another shouted. The list began gradually and picked up steam as more participated, sometimes overlapping each other. More phrases -- gossip, unforgiving hearts, self-seeking, comfort zone, division, bitterness, self-righteous -- filled the room. Bryant asked people to cover their faces and repeat a prayer asking for forgiveness.
Bryant then instructed people to pray the way many Christians throughout the world pray -- simultaneously and out loud -- as they asked God to "break the forces of darkness trying to thwart the advancement of God's kingdom." After a moment of prayers resonating throughout the auditorium, a praise band led people to sing a chorus of "Jesus Shall Reign."
With time bearing down on them -- the host congregation, Harvest Bible Chapel, Rolling Meadows, Ill., had to prepare the room for a late-afternoon service -- Bryant led the triplets through speed prayers. Each person in the triplet had 15 seconds to pray about each topic he announced, giving them just enough time to pray the first sentence or two that came to their minds. He asked them to pray for the greatest work they wanted to see God do in their churches and for God to send a spiritual awakening to their cities.
Bryant closed by inviting participants to the altar for an emotional prayer of recommitment followed by a chorus of "Shout to the Lord."