PITTSBURGH – As Southern Baptist PrayerLink leaders gathered in Pittsburgh to pray for the next Great Awakening in America, a rising consensus among the participants was that American churches might not yet be ready for the harvest.
“A part of what we need to be praying for is, ‘Lord would you convict us, guide us, equip us to be ready for the harvest,’ because when the harvest comes, if we’re not ready, it’s going to be too late,” charged Claude King, discipleship and church health specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources.
“What will happen is, people will come to faith in Christ out of lifestyles of addiction to pornography or drugs or alcohol or broken marriages and immoral lifestyles. And then they come to Christ and say, “Show me how this being set free from sin works,” King told those gathered at Vintage Church’s city campus on Mount Washington, overlooking the Pittsburgh skyline.
The co-author of “Experiencing God” and “The Mind of Christ” expressed his concern that many may come to the conclusion quickly that the gospel didn’t work for them because Christians were inadequately prepared to equip them.
He urged his listeners to pray and prepare “because we need to be ready when that time comes,” he said.
King was one of more than 50 participants who assembled October 3-5 for the annual network gathering of Southern Baptist prayer leaders from across North America, seeking to foster a culture of Kingdom-focused prayer toward revival and spiritual awakening throughout the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond.
Currently, the network includes prayer leaders from local churches, associations, SBC entities, state conventions, ethnic fellowships, as well as Southern Baptist prayer leaders who have their own prayer ministry or are involved in prayer mobilization.
In an earlier message, King shared how God orchestrated the hearts of several SBC entity leaders to direct attention to prayer, out of which was birthed this SBC PrayerLink. Early organizers experienced revival, which “we desperately need now,” King said.
This year’s gathering was facilitated by Jerry Dixon, prayer coordinator for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey. A long-time pastor in Maryland and Pennsylvania, Dixon challenged those gathered to “link” carabiner clips together to indicate their commitment to praying every day for spiritual awakening.
“We could turn this world around with that much power!” Dixon exclaimed.
In a heartfelt moment, the first to link was Shirley Wagner, widow of Sam Wagner, a dynamic prayer warrior and soul-winner for the Lord.
Dixon and Wagner traveled all over the world to share Christ together. God answered prayers for revival in Cairo, Egypt, where he and Wagner fervently prayed.
Roger S. (Sing) Oldham, who led the opening session of the conference, pointed to persistent pleading in the parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18). He told the group that some needs are so intense and long-lasting that we need to “script” those prayers. There are times “we are too spiritually weary to find the words to pray,” he said.
Of the many parables Jesus gave, Oldham, who is vice president for convention relations with the SBC executive committee, said, “only two deal directly with prayer and they both have one theme – the need for steadfast persistence.”
In separate segments, Gordon Fort of the International Mission Board shared about God’s movement across the world, particularly in China, Africa and Iran, where the fastest growing churches exist. Several nations, he said, are equipping and sending missionaries to other parts of the world, which is unprecedented.
Noting that prayer is the key that turns the hand of God, he lamented the lack of prayer passion among Christians in America. “We’ve lost our confidence in God. That’s why people don’t pray, they just don’t believe it makes a difference,” he said.
Adam Sewell, Send Relief director for the newly established compassion center at Vintage Church, shared an update on church planting efforts in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas. He led prayer for the planters and for the city.
Jimmy Stewart, who has served in the areas of evangelism and discipleship at the Alaska Baptist Convention since 2001, shared about a gas explosion in July 2016 that left him with third-degree burns over 77 percent of his body.
Miraculously, God provided for his family’s needs and healed him beyond anyone’s expectation. Though he doesn’t remember the two months he was in ICU, he knows God had a group of people around the world lifting him up in prayer. His own prayer life and zeal for evangelism has increased.
“I never thought I’d have this kind of platform in my life,” Stewart said.
Other prayer and strategy sessions were led by Joye Smith with national Woman’s Missionary Union; Bob Lowman, associational mission strategist for the Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte, N.C.; Mark Mirza, prayer evangelist for Common Thread Ministries; David Ludwig, associate director of healthy churches at the Baptist Resource Network; and brothers John and David Franklin. John directs John Franklin Ministries and is minister of prayer and spiritual awakening at First Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn.; David is the associational mission strategist for Bartow Baptist Association in Cartersville, Ga.
Chris Schofield, who has led prayer ministries for more than 22 years, shared four things Christians must do to regain a “vital spiritual life.”
Pointing to James 4:1-4, he said, “we must surrender to the confrontation of God in His Word to the things that hinder the vital spiritual life.”
We oftentimes use prayer to make us “happy,” “comfortable” and “easy,” said Scofield, director for the office of prayer at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, but friendship with the world is enmity with God.
He said Christians should submit to the Spirit who dwells within them and “never forget that there is great hope that God can restore.” They also must submit, repent and return to the Lord in humility, and finally, set their faces and hearts to do what’s right in God’s eyes, he said. He expressed his hope that the lives of American Christians would not hinder revival.
Barry Whitworth, executive director for the Baptist Resource Network, urged the group to be careful not to stay in holy prayer huddles.
Pointing to Jeremiah 29, Whitworth said, “Our welfare, our peace is completely intertwined with the peace for welfare of the larger community that surrounds us. … Pray that God’s people here in Pennsylvania, but even in your neck of the woods, that we get out of our huddles and we take it to the streets. and make a difference in the community.”
He stressed, “We need to be bearers of peace.”
The 2020 PrayerLink Gathering/Forums will be held October 1-3 in Asheville, N.C. Learn more at sbcprayerlink.org.
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.