Most of us will agree. Our world desperately needs prayer. It is not necessary to itemize the moral, social, cultural, political and personal challenges that overwhelm the present age.
But, could it be that God is working on many levels to ignite the spiritual awakening we need? From where I sit, it appears to me that some positive developments are rising across the dry spiritual plains of North America.
The new Kendrick brothers’ movie, “War Room” is scheduled for release Aug. 28. The Biblical Recorder has published at least three articles describing it as a “family drama with humor and heart, focused on the power of prayer and its primary role in the Christian life.”
Alex Kendrick, one of the movie’s producers, said, “We see God pointing to prayer of repentance and revival over and over.” I believe he is on the right track.
I’ve seen the movie. Its powerful, clear message is one we need to hear. Go see the movie as soon as possible. Apply what you see. I hope the experience will intensify your prayer life. LifeWay has released “War Room” study materials to help your Bible study group or prayer group apply the biblical principles of prayer. Get the materials, and grow in prayer.
This year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, focused on prayer. Under the theme “Great Awakening,” SBC President Ronnie Floyd led a powerful season of prayer during the Tuesday evening session. He called on pastors to spend a full Sunday morning service to lead churches to pray for a great spiritual awakening.
Bob and Phyllis Foy are passionate about prayer movements and disciple-making in the local church. They are senior consultants for the Church Renewal Team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). Bob recently told me that they left the SBC meeting in Columbus to drive to Elizabeth, Ind. The pastor of that town’s First Baptist Church (FBC) took Floyd’s call to prayer with him when he left Columbus.
FBC devoted the first Sunday morning after the SBC meeting to prayer. They used the Sunday School hour to teach on prayer, then the pastor led an hour-and-half season of prayer in the worship service.
Foy said it was “extremely powerful.” “I came away thinking, maybe we’re getting our minds focused on the right things now,” he added.
For more than 40 years the Foys have invested their lives in spiritual renewal. Today they are part of a team of 500 men and women in North Carolina and 2,000 across North America who lead five different kinds of Church Renewal Journey weekends in churches of every size. In partnership with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) they spend half of their time in N.C. and the other half serving churches outside our state. They serve alongside NAMB church renewal coordinators in 18 states.
I want to tell part of their story because I believe what they are doing is a significant part of the genesis of spiritual awakening.
“When lay renewal first came to my church I was earning my salvation, because nobody discipled me,” Bob Foy shared with me. “I just thought that’s what you did. Lay renewal came, and I got so on fire for God, I thought He was calling me to preach. That’s the only calling I knew.
“But we had a second weekend a year later. A guy stood at the pulpit and said, ‘I’m called by God.’ I said, ‘You’re not a preacher or a missionary.’ Then he talked about what the Holy Spirit was doing in his life as a layman. It made me ask, ‘God, have you called me as an electrician all these years?’ I got a new focus – God can use me with my skills and talents. It totally changed my life.”
Now Foy works with churches that invite a Church Renewal Journey team for a weekend of spiritual challenge. “We’ll put a team together to come to the church at no cost to the church – the team travels at their own expense,” he said.
The team leads a Friday night service, serves all day Saturday and participates in the Sunday morning worship. The team goes home after the morning service, but the church comes back together for Sunday evening to answer the question, “What has God said to us?”
Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover invited a team several years ago. Pastor Ed Yount said, “In 30 years of ministry and 17 as shepherd of the precious saints at Woodlawn, I cannot recall anything that has impacted me personally and our church family collectively like the Prayer Renewal Weekend.
“The presence of the Lord was evident during the testimonies, worship, teaching, and times of prayer in large and small groups. Each time we prayed I could hear people weeping. … Sunday evening we had a three-hour service with our people sharing testimonies of how this weekend changed their lives, and no one spoke more than once during the evening. It was incredible as our church family laughed, wept and prayed together.”
Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte was also impressed with the impact of a similar weekend in the church. He told Foy, “Your team swept in here on Friday evening, invading this place with expectancy, with energy and with enthusiasm for what God could do. The weeks of prayer and devotion leading up to the weekend were powerful, but I did not fully realize just how powerful they were. … I have to tell you, I was blown away, … I sensed God was about to do something unique and powerful.”
Small groups before and during the weekend are keys to the journey. Harris said, “The small groups and the home coffees were perhaps the greatest tool that opened the eyes of so many of our people. Being a larger church in a large city, our people travel great distances from around the region to worship and serve at our downtown church.”
The weekend is lay led. This is something that is not done by the “pastor-push,” Foy emphasized. “If this is right for the church, we want the congregation to take ownership of it. We will come to the church to train six different preparation groups to get ready for the weekend.”
If a pastor believes this ministry is a good match a team will present an overview to the church’s lay leadership. They explain what the journey is about, so a pastor does not have to “sell it” to the church.
Foy believes the Bible teaches that all Christians are called into some kind of ministry. “He calls some as pastors, some as electricians, some as fishermen,” he said. “I believe most churches are having conflict and trouble because they haven’t discipled their lay people. In their minds, the pastor has all of the responsibility for ministry, so if he doesn’t do what they want done, they get someone else to be the pastor. There’s a lack of discipleship.”
I believe he is correct. Most laymen do not have a sense of responsibility toward a call from God to make disciples.
“Most churches don’t know we exist,” Foy said. But they need to know that God is using lay persons to stir spiritual awakening in the church.
Looking at the broad picture of the United States, Foy said we have very intelligent leaders who are making very foolish decisions. God cannot bless the direction we are heading. This causes him to ask if we are under God’s judgment. He said when a nation turns its back on God, one of the first things God does is to remove wisdom from the nation’s leadership. “Is God following the course of Romans chapter one, giving Americans over to follow their lusts and impure minds?” he asked. We should pray that our national leaders will call us to prayer and repentance.
Almost two years into the Civil War, on March 2, 1863, Sen. James Harlan of Iowa introduced a resolution in the Senate that asked President Abraham Lincoln to proclaim a national day of prayer and fasting. Under the title “Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day,” the resolution was adopted on March 3, and signed by Lincoln on March 30.
The document opened with the words, “Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.”
The current leadership of all three branches of our U.S. government could learn volumes from Lincoln’s proclamation. In part, it says, “… we know that, by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. … We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!” (full text below)
In closing, I urge you to call your church to prayer in response to Ronnie Floyd’s plea. Go see the “War Room” movie and follow-up with serious study on prayer and implementation of biblical prayer habits. Consider one of the five Church Renewal Journeys available on ChurchRenewalJourney.net. And, attend one of the prayer conferences led by Chris Schofield, director of the office of prayer for BSC. There are many to choose from, but a significant one will be March 11-12, 2016, at First Baptist Church in Charlotte.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Information on Chris Schofield and state prayer events is at NCbaptist.org/prayer. Also visit WarRoomthemovie.com. A full copy of Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation is posted with this editorial on BRnow.org.)
Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of Stat