As part of the steering committee for Prayer '87 I was asked to record a spot on KTIS for its promotion. This is what I said. I am praying that hundreds from Bethlehem will be drawn into this great historic movement of prayer. (Listen Monday, August 30.)
In October, 1744, a group of ministers from Scotland formed a union for prayer. Their aim was that the first Tuesday of every quarter would be set aside for what they called “united extraordinary supplications to the God of all grace … to revive true religion … and to bless the nations with the unspeakable benefits … of our glorious Redeemer …” The movement came to be known as the concert of prayer.
And then a plea was sent to America to join the movement, and a 42-year-old pastor named Jonathan Edwards was ready to take up the challenge. He wrote back to Scotland when the fires of the Great Awakening had cooled and said, “We have been rebuked for our self-confidence … and for trusting in an arm of flesh, and God is now shewing us that we are nothing … we cannot help ourselves … We know not what to do, our eyes are upon thee, O Lord.”
Out of three years’ experience with the concert of prayer in the churches of America came a book from Edwards’ pen called An Humble Attempt. He argues that the united prayer of God’s people for Revival and world evangelization is taught in Scripture as the prelude to a great outpouring of God’s Spirit.
Today David Bryant, who works with Inter-Varsity, has taken up the mantle of Jonathan Edwards in calling the American church to this kind of united prayer. He’ll be with us at the Minneapolis Auditorium Friday evening, September 18, to lead us in what we hope will spark a movement of prayer in our cities.
The reason I want to be a part of this great historic tradition of prayer is that God makes even the effort itself a part of its own fulfillment.
In 1784, when Jonathan Edwards had been dead for 26 years, his Scottish friend John Erskine gave a copy of the Humble Attempt to an English Baptist pastor named John Ryland. Ryland started a prayer meeting among his fellow Baptist pastors for revival and world missions.
Four years later the group republished Edwards’ book to spread the vision, and then within five years on April 4, 1793, one of the young pastors of that group left his homeland to take the gospel to India. His name was William Carey and after a ministry of forty years without a furlough he left behind six translations of the whole Bible and portions of the Bible in 29 other languages. The modern missionary era had begun.
In other words, the prayers of God’s people are never wasted and all the efforts to bring the church to her knees will bear fruit for decades to come.