In his well-known books on prayer, American author E.M. Bounds wrote, “The success of all real missionary effort is dependent on prayer. The life and spirit of missions are the life and spirit of prayer.”
Thanks to a free resource called “52 Sundays,” churches have a tool to assist them in praying for missionary endeavors all around the world.
“If a church is serious about missions and serious about prayer, ‘52 Sundays’ is a prefect resource because it unites them both,” said Mike Creswell, senior consultant for the Cooperative Program development with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “It provides an easy method for a church to have a congregational prayer time for missions.”
“52 Sundays” is designed so that churches can pray for and learn about specific missionaries and their ministries. The resource includes PowerPoint slides, ready-to-print bulletin inserts, prayer prompts and devotionals that spotlight 52 different missionaries, one for every Sunday of the year. The resource materials may be downloaded for free at ncbaptist.org/52sundays.
One way a church could utilize the resources is by having a missionary spotlight before the offering, Creswell said.
For example, while the PowerPoint slide with the missionary’s picture and place of service is being projected on a screen, the pastor or church leader could call the congregation’s attention to the accompanying bulletin insert, share details from the missionary’s brief biographical sketch that’s included, and then pray over them.
“It’s really that simple,” Creswell said. “A strength of ‘52 Sundays’ is that it’s visual and it’s brief. It’s simple, but it’s profound because it can unite the church in prayer and unite the church in missions support.”
“52 Sundays” may also be used as an educational and promotional tool for the Cooperative Program, which is the unified giving plan that Southern Baptists use to support missions and ministry efforts on state, national and international levels.
All of the missionaries and ministries featured in “52 Sundays” are supported through the combined financial gifts from local churches to missions through the Cooperative Program. The resource also highlights those missionaries who are supported through the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) two annual special offerings – the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
“You can really help bring your church along in prayer, missions awareness and missions education,” Creswell said. “It’s not only a resource to facilitate prayer, but it has an educational component, as well.
“This puts faces with the names of missionaries and offers more of a personal connection with them. Each church can say that these are our missionaries because we are supporting them.”
“52 Sundays” can also be adapted for use by Sunday School classes, home groups, prayer teams or individuals, Creswell said.
Since first being developed in 2006, the use of “52 Sundays” has grown and in 2015 was adopted by the SBC’s Stewardship Development Association, a national organization made up of denominational stewardship leaders from across the United States. The resource is also supported and promoted by the SBC’s Executive Committee, as well a number of Baptist state conventions.
“We send missionaries all over the world and to some of the most dangerous places in the world,” Creswell said. “If we’re going to send them, we should also be praying for them. ‘52 Sundays’ is a tool that helps us do that.”