John Wesley famously said, “God does nothing in the world except in answer to prayer.” That’s probably an overstatement, but the apostles’ experience in Acts verifies at least the sentiment behind it. It was after a 10-day prayer meeting that God gave Peter the power to birth the church through his preaching in Acts 2.
The apostles prayed for 10 days, Peter preached for 10 minutes and 3,000 people got saved. Nowadays, we pray for 10 minutes, we talk for 10 days, and three people get saved. (We need to rearrange our zeros!) And it was during a prayer meeting (Acts 13:2), not a missions conference, that God raised up the church’s greatest missionary, the apostle Paul.
Above all things, our annual meeting needs to be saturated by prayer. We need to pray before it, during it and after it. This convention should not be about what we think or what we want, but what God wants. And the way we discover that is through prayer.
So, I want to call our Convention, whether you are personally coming or not (and you should come!), to a time of focused prayer over the next three weeks. Specifically, I am asking all Great Commission Baptists to join together in committed, specific times of prayer and fasting over the next three Wednesdays – May 26, June 2 and June 9.
We’ve put together a prayer and fasting guide in order to be able to cry out to the Lord together. In addition to that guide, I want to invite you to join me on Facebook Live from 2-3 p.m. CDT each of those Wednesdays on the SBC Executive Committee’s Facebook page for a time of prayer together.
The disciples returned from a missionary assignment tired and beaten. They just couldn’t cast out the demons. Had they not prepared enough? Had they not said the right words? Was their theology slightly off? Jesus, casting out the demon, told them that some things in the spiritual realm will not happen except by earnest, persistent prayer – and some translations add “and fasting.” The challenges that face our Convention are many. The struggles and obstacles are real. We live in a rapidly changing world, desperate to hear good news. I am convinced that God will not give us these victories except through prayer and fasting.
Whether or not you are able to attend the annual meeting in Nashville, I’m asking you to join us for these days of prayer and fasting. We want to see the “finger of God” on our churches, our Convention, our nation and our world. Prayer is, after all, not simply preparation for our work of ministry; prayer is the work of the ministry.
(A QUICK NOTE ABOUT FASTING: It’s OK for it to look different for each of you. Some of you may fast for the entire day. Others may fast for one meal on that day. Others may fast from one thing in particular (like social media) for these next three weeks. You may choose to cut certain foods out of your diet for the next 21 days. Some of you may even feel led to do an extended fast, ranging beyond the three Wednesdays. There are several ways to fast, but the goal is the same – reminding ourselves how desperate we are for God and committing ourselves to fervent, unrelenting prayer.)
Here are the three specific areas in which I’ve felt God calling us to pray:
- Pray for Great Commission mobilization.
At our best, our convention is a group of churches that seeks to carry out the Great Commission, doing whatever it takes to make the gospel known. At our worst, our Convention is a pack of stray dogs with access to Twitter.
Pray for the ministry that our North American Mission Board church planters and International Mission Board missionaries are doing all over the world. Pray that God would raise up an entire generation of college graduates and young professionals who would #Go2Years for the mission of God, all over our nation and around the world.
Pray that we would see our churches find success in sending capacity, not merely seating capacity.
We will continue sending people to the most unreached – and often, most dangerous – places on the globe. As we do, let us pray not only for their safety, but for the gospel to advance through their lives.
- Pray for unity in the gospel.
In His last and longest prayer, Jesus prayed for the unity of all who would one day follow Him. Our unity, He said, would demonstrate the veracity of His message. By God’s grace, the 47,000 autonomous churches in our convention have chosen to join in unity for the sake of the gospel mission.
Pray that our convention and its leadership would reflect the diversity of the Kingdom of God, proclaiming to the world a unity that draws in people of every tribe, tongue and nation.
Pray that we would stand firmly on the bedrock of our unity – the inerrant, infallible, all-sufficient Word of God.
Pray that we would live as one family, celebrating our differences in style, culture and geography while valuing all men and women as image-bearers of our Heavenly Father.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to anoint our meeting and our ministries around the meeting
We want to see God move mightily at our annual meeting. From the many Crossover and Who’s Your One? events happening all across the city, to the SEND Conference, to the meeting itself, we want to see the gospel proclaimed loud and clear to the city of Nashville.
I have been praying specifically that everything we do on the floor at Music City Center – every motion, every resolution, every election, every report, every song, every last word – would tell a lost and watching world about the love of Jesus Christ. May our annual meeting proclaim that gospel in all its beauty and power.
Great Commission Baptists, I look forward to praying and fasting with you in the coming days. And I hope to see you in Nashville!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.)