Why a Conference Commission on Prayer?

Answer: War!

Some of My Prayer Practices

Tuesdays and Thursdays I get up, put on my running shoes, and jog to the Metrodome five blocks from our house. I have Navigator memory cards in my right hand and a tract called “Comfort From the Bible” in my left pocket. My aim is to pray for revival and to tell someone about the greatness of Christ.

As I jog around the Dome on the red brick walkways, I pray for the city—“the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who don't know their right hand from their left.”

O Lord God, by Your great power You made the heavens and the earth! Nothing is too hard for You. Have mercy, O God, on this city! Breathe Your Spirit across these blue and beige and burgundy skyscrapers! Let there be an awesome stirring among the 1,000 churches that stand within 30 minutes of this Dome. Let the movers and shakers in this city wake up in the middle of the night, desperate to know how to get right with God, and let 10,000 priceless nobodies seek the Living and True God.

And I pray for prayer, a movement of prayer, I pray that on November 18 there will be 15,000 believing saints bent down in passionate prayer in this Dome. We call it Prayer '88, a Concert of Prayer for the greater Twin Cities. It will be led by David Bryant. Last year, 5,000 people came to the Minneapolis Auditorium for Prayer '87. Some of us aim to work for an annual concert of prayer for the next seven years—until the Metrodome will not suffice.

And oh, that the Lord would deepen the channels between our Baptist General Conference and the swelling tide of global prayer! Hundreds of our people—from San Diego to Boston—are already riding the waves. I pray we will not be passed over by the “Spirit of supplication” that God is pouring out on the world!

Starting a Prayer Movement

A Conference-wide movement of prayer will not begin in a bouncy atmosphere of positive thinking. It will begin in a broken atmosphere of profound, God-centered hope. But there will be no God-centered brokenness and hope until we feel a desperate need of divine power and taste the promised triumph of Christ.

The crying need of the hour is to put the churches on a wartime footing. Mission leaders are crying out, “Where is the Church's concept of militancy, of a mighty army willing to suffer, moving ahead with exultant determination to take the world by storm? Where is the risk-taking, the launching out on God alone? (Evangelical Missions Quarterly, April, 1988, p. 118)

The answer is that it has been swallowed up in a peacetime mentality. Thousands of Christians do not hear the diabolic bombs dropping and the bullets singing overhead. They don't smell the hellish Agent Orange in the whitened harvest of the world. They don't cringe or weep at the millions who perish every week. They don't reckon with spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places and the world rulers of this present darkness. "In fact, it is not dark," they say. "It is bright and comfortable and cheery. Just look at my home and car and office and cabin and boat, and listen to my new disc player."

What the Church Needs

The need of the hour is a global wartime mentality. I saw “wartime” because life is a war (1 Tim. 6:12; Eph. 6:10ff; 2 Cor. 10:3-5). I saw “global” because “the field is the world” (Matt. 13:38). And because thousands of unreached people are scattered around the globe.

“Peoples,” not just people. The command to the Church is not to win every person before the Lord comes, but to win some from every people. This is the great unfinished task.

  • To Him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Gen. 49:10).
  • Let the peoples praise Thee, O God, let all the peoples praise Thee (Ps. 67:3)
  • Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples (Is. 55:4).

How will Conference Baptists come to feel the extraordinary satanic devastation being wreaked among the remaining unreached peoples of the world? How can our people come to see the irrationality of a bouncy, peacetime, Disneyland mentality when the days are evil (Eph. 5:16), and the god of this world is blinding billions (2 Cor. 4:4), and Satan is filled with rage because his time is short (Rev. 12:12), and the stakes are infinitely higher than any conceivable nuclear World War III (Luke 12:4-5)?

How can a sense of urgency and vigilance and passion and zeal become part of our Conference ethos? How can the sweaty, bruised, thrilling courage of wartime camaraderie become as deeply ingrained in our Conference mindset as the dominant Conference image of a warm and comfortable family? How might we ever get our annual meetings out of the posh, luxurious hotels and convention centers and meet in something fitting for the Calvary Road—something that says wartime austerity and radical sacrifice and Spartan readiness to go anywhere and do anything at any pain for the King?

Embracing Wartime Thinking for the Sake of the Nations

The crying need for the last decade of this millennium is a global wartime mentality in all the pastors and churches of the Baptist General Conference.

And this is doubly true because the sufferings on the home front are so great. (Yes, even the bouncy, positive, air-conditioned, video-equipped dens of America!) In the time that it has taken me to write this article, I have received a call from a man in our church, weeping because his wife is divorcing him, taking the children and most of his income. I have met him and prayed. I have called her and made an appointment. Now I am back trying to write this article.

Just hours later, a woman called to say that her father was dying. I left the article again and drove 30 minutes to his bedside and prayed. Two hours later he died.

Again I am back at the keyboard trying to grasp the need of the world, trying to feel the satanic devastation, not only of my own sin-sick church and city, but also of the cities where there aren't 1,000 churches!

The phone rings off the hook. Your own kids fight and get sick. The marriage in the manse twists with unfulfilled expectations and self-pitying pastoral pouting. A hundred people have different ideas about the new church building, and the organ, and the parking lot.

And many say this is the real battle—divorce, death, disagreement—but it's not the real battle. Is the field hospital the real reason for having troops on the field? What's the real reason sergeants are in the trenches? To settle soldiers' disputes? And do chaplains come along just to bury the dead? Or is there a war to be won?

Winning the War

There is. And the victory is near. But it will not be easy or cheap. The awesome mission is clear: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). Christ has His elect from every people, tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev. 5:9). They are held captive by the enemy (2 Tim. 2:26). And so the minefields must be crossed; the barbed wire cut; the snipers evaded, and the gospel antidotes for Satan's mind-altering drugs administered against immense opposition (Luke 21:12-19).

So again I ask: How will the Baptist General Conference ever come to think this way? How will 100,000 people be brought to wartime readiness and put on military alert? How can the massive mentality of American prosperity and peace with the world and family comfort ever be overcome?

We believe the answer, beneath and behind the renewed empowering of the Word of God, is a Conference-wide movement of persevering, believing, expectant prayer. Because it is prayer that opens our hearts to the surpassing worth of God (Eph. 1:17f), and makes us feel the height and depth of Christ's love (Eph. 3:18). It is prayer that makes us love lost people (1 Thess. 3:12) and have a passion for righteousness (Phil. 1:1). It is prayer that opens doors for the gospel (Col. 4:3) and brings in the recruits (Matt. 9:38), and makes them bold (Eph. 6:19). It is prayer that protects from the enemy (Rom. 15:31; Matt. 6:13) and makes the Word of God run and be glorified (2 Thess. 3:1).

And only when the people of God “cry to Him day and night” will God come forth with power and vindicate His cause in the world (Luke 18:7f.) and bring in the kingdom (Matt. 6:10)

In this great hope, the Baptist General Conference Commission on Prayer has begun its work. May the Lord awaken us to the terrible war, the triumphant Christ, the awesome power of prayer, and the strategic priority of unreached peoples as a corporate mission.

A hundred years ago, A.T. Peterson said:

Every new Pentecost has had its preparatory period of supplication … God has compelled His saints to seek Him at the throne of grace, so that every new advance might be so plainly due to His power that even the unbeliever might be constrained to confess: “Surely this is the finger of God!” (The New Acts of the Apostles, New York: 1894, pp. 325ff.)

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