SALINE COUNTY, Ark. – Many of us have heard or read the popular verses in 1 Thessalonians 5, which say, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV).
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances.
Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. Three actions that might be neglected during a pandemic; three actions that might be put on hold until we feel things return to “normal” again.
The Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) recently held their annual Prayer Gathering event where pastors and ministry staff from the state gather for one purpose: to pray. During this gathering, ministers across the state come together to cry out to God with humility and expectancy. This year, the Prayer Gathering felt to many like an encouraging wake-up call. Ministry isn’t to be frozen or neglected during this unusual time. Pastors and ministry staff who attend the Prayer Gathering hosted by the ABSC are encouraged to replicate this model within their churches and communities.
Not only does the ABSC host the annual Prayer Gathering in August and the Prayer Leaders Workshop in January, but they also have a developed Prayer Task Force. This team focuses on encouraging prayer for revival and spiritual awakening. The Prayer Task Force has defined three terms as listed below:
Prayer: is communion with God and the essential foundation for all the work of the church.
Revival: When, in response to the prompting of God, the people of God repent and seek the face and favor of God, yield to the will and ways of God, for the glory of God, and then enjoy the manifest presence of the person of God, this is revival.
Spiritual Awakening: is the supernatural intervention of God, awakening the unbeliever to his condition leading to salvation. A movement of spiritual awakening in a community, city, or nation is the extraordinary season of this awakening resulting in the rapid expansion of the gospel.
Pastor Bill Elliff, the Founding & National Engage Pastor of The Summit Church, is one of the ABSC’s Prayer Task Force members. Elliff has studied revivals for 50 years. In his research over prayer and revivals, he noted that all revivals started because of prayer. He also said, “There seems to be this cycle where we fall away from the Lord as a church and then God brings His discipline or judgment to try to correct us. When people get desperate enough, you see this phrase ‘and all the people cried out’ – I haven’t seen a spot in Scripture where God didn’t answer this humble cry of His people.”
In Saline County, over 20 churches gathered to participate in a multi-church prayer gathering on September 20, 2020 called “Salt & Light.” People from at least 10 denominations gathered to humbly cry out to God for revival in our country, amongst other requests. They are currently working on a plan for another prayer gathering as a follow-up in November. Saline County wasn’t the only area to gather for prayer on September 20th as Christians gathered in Jonesboro to pray as well. Multiple ministers hosted a prayer gathering in downtown Jonesboro to pray through 2 Chronicles 7:14 and for revival in our state, country and world.
However, Arkansas isn’t the only state that has Christians gathering for the sake of united prayer. Pastor Reid Terry of Lonoke Baptist Church recently attended the 2020 Prayer March in Washington D.C., which is put on by Franklin Graham. As mentioned on their website, “The Washington Prayer March 2020 event is a dedicated prayer march that is focused solely on asking God to heal our land. It is not a protest or political event…” Terry was able to attend this prayer march on September 26, 2020, along with a church member.
Terry stated, “It was extremely encouraging to be a part of that many people coming together in Washington D.C. to pray for our country and some of the issues we see taking place in our country.”
Unified as one body. Unified as people of prayer. Unified as people who are seeking God.
Terry also said, “One of the most meaningful parts of that prayer march was when Vice President Pence showed up and Franklin Graham asked all of those who were gathered to pray for our country and for our leaders. To do that, he asked everyone to pray out loud together, and then he would close us. To stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and to hear thousands of people pray at once for our country was extremely moving and encouraging.”
In a time when the world seems to be in disunity and chaos, we can be reminded – as believers – that our responsibility is to seek God and to spread the truth of the Gospel across the world. We are called to be people of prayer. We are called to be people who seek God. In any circumstance, may we walk humbly before our God, trusting that He is working.