Prayer and perseverance were the themes as Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines and SBC executive Frank Page preached at Phoenix area churches June 11 ahead of the 2017 SBC annual meeting.
Photo by Shannon Baker, BCMD
Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, visits with church members at First Baptist Church in Chandler, Ariz., where he preached during the first service on June 11.
Gaines spoke at First Baptist Church in Chandler, and Page, SBC Executive Committee president and CEO, preached during two services at the Arrowhead campus of Mountain Ridge Church in Glendale.
Gaines: “Houses of Prayer”
“God has called us as individuals and churches to be ‘houses of prayer.’ And we can change the world – if we pray!” said Gaines, who also serves as senior pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.
He reflected on the prayer life of Daniel, “a very godly man who prayed in an extremely pagan culture.” As a teen, Daniel was taken captive in Babylon and later in the Medo-Persian Empire.
“Kingdom after kingdom, Daniel stayed faithful to God,” Gaines said, noting Daniel prayed three times a day. “He was in Babylon for at least 60 years. That’s over 1,000 prayer times a year and over 60,000 over his lifetime!”
Cautioning that the Spirit of God does not fall upon prayerless people, churches and denominations, Gaines shared three ways prayer make a difference.
First, prayer moves the hand of God.
Gaines pointed to the archangel Gabriel’s words to Daniel: “The moment you began praying, a command was given” (Daniel 9:23, NLT).
The prayers of Daniel moved God, Gaines stressed, as did the prayers of Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Jesus, among others.
When Joshua was in battle, “God stopped the planet from turning,” causing the sun to stand still so Joshua could claim victory. And Jesus, he said, has constantly interceded for Christians since His ascension into heaven.
“That’s one long prayer meeting!” Gaines said, adding that the church – and even missions – was birthed through prayer. “Things happen when we pray.”
Second, prayer reveals the will of God.
“Sometimes we don’t know what we need to know to do what we need to do,” Gaines preached.
In Daniel 9:23, Gabriel told Daniel to “listen carefully so that you can understand.”
“Daniel talked to God, and then God talked to Daniel,” Gaines stressed, pointing to James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
“Too many Christians are waiting for God to draw near to them first. If you don’t talk to God, you don’t love Him like you think you love Him,” he said.
Third, prayer blesses the heart of God.
In Daniel 9:23, Gabriel tells Daniel he is “very precious” – highly esteemed or highly desired by God.
It’s as if God looked across the kingdom and said of Daniel, “You’re the only one who is praying three times a day.”
Gaines shared about his mother, who at age 24 needed a double mastectomy to eradicate breast cancer. As she recovered from the first mastectomy, an older woman sharing her hospital room prayed all night for her to be healed.
The next day, the cancer was gone.
“You don’t have to have big muscles … or have good health” to pray, Gaines said.
“Our denomination needs prayer, not a new program to prop us up for another year. … We’re down in baptisms. We’re down in attendance. What we need is prayer.
“The quickest way to a solution is only as far as your knees to the floor.”
Page: ‘No Greater Burden’
Page used Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3:12-16 as a source of several keys to hopeful living, warning believers against common mistakes made when the difficulties of the Christian walk become apparent.
Photo by Diana Chandler
Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, speaks with Sybil Lieurance, a member of Mountain Ridge Baptist Church, Arrowhead campus, in Glendale, Ariz., after he preached during the morning service.
Faced with such daily struggles, Christians tend to either fake it by pretending to be fine; force themselves into an outward, frenetic pattern of behavior without inward change, or simply give up on even trying.
“There are a lot of people that feel that way, that their life is a great burden, because what is happening is not what should happen,” Page said. “I’ve talked to many people who struggle with life. … We often feel the standards are too high; the goals are too far out there. As a church, as a family, as an individual, we often feel that way.”
Near the end of his life when he wrote the Philippians passage, Paul offered a better way, Page said. Paul exemplified true humility by admitting he wasn’t perfect.
“Humility is the ability to see yourself as God sees you and still love yourself as God loves you,” Page said. “The church is filled with what we call people, and they’re always going to struggle.” Page backed up his comments with Romans 5:8, that God demonstrated His love by dying for the ungodly.
In addition to humility, Paul held to God’s saving grace that would make him completely Christ-like.
“Paul was saying, ‘I don’t possess the goal yet, but the goal possesses me.’ Christ who is the goal had already gotten ahold of [Paul],” Page said. “God in His goodness and His greatness has already laid hold of us.”
Paul was also committed to continued growth. Realistic expectations and reliance on God’s grace allowed Paul to press on.
“I know I’ve been defeated. I know I’ve failed. I know I’ve struggled in life,” Page paraphrased Paul, “but I’m pressing on because I know how God feels about me.”
Part of being perfected is forgetting what lies behind and making every day count toward reaching the goal, Page said.
“We live in a state of tension between the already and the not yet. I believe God not only wants us today to have an attitude of humility and say, ‘I’m not going to fake it anymore; I’m going to be honest,’” Page said. “‘But God also, I’m going to have an attitude of grace and understand what grace is, that you love me. So I don’t have to force it.’
“But it leads us to that third and that powerful initiative, that says I want to grow. I press on, Paul said.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware in Columbia, Md. Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)