Matt Duran began serving as senior pastor at Indian Springs Baptist Church in Bryant, AR in February of 2021. With a desire to make the greatest impact and help grow the church, Duran says he began to try to discover the church’s greatest area of deficiency. It wasn’t long before God began to show him that he was asking the wrong question.
Instead of looking for the biggest deficiency of the church, Duran needed to focus on his own deficiency. “God told me that my biggest deficiency is dependency and that it shows in my prayer life,” Duran said. “I realized if I’m deficient in prayer, it stands to reason that the church I serve will be deficient as well.”
The next morning, Duran went to the office and shared with the staff that they were going to begin praying together on a regular basis. He says that many of the staff agreed that they were deficient in prayer and welcomed the opportunity to begin to focus on prayer as a group. Staff meetings became prayer meetings and staff members began to gather with others to pray at various times during the week.
There’s got to be more
While this was a great start, Duran knew that this wasn’t enough. He says he continued to hear God telling him there needed to be more. Although they no longer had Sunday evening services, Duran invited the church to meet one Sunday night for prayer. People were gathered all around the worship center. There was no program and no band, just prayer. Duran led them to group up and pray out loud together using the model prayer from Matthew 6. This went on for a full hour.
Duran says this prayer time began to take on a life of its own. The church got into a rhythm where they saw several sparks of prayer movement over the course of nine months as more and more individuals and groups began to pray. They continued to meet on Sunday nights every other month. Senior adults led the charge to meet twice a month on Saturdays to prayer walk the worship center. Small groups began to get together to pray before youth worship on Wednesday nights. But still Duran knew this wasn’t enough, “I thought, you know, this is great but it’s still just embers. How do we get a flame? How do we get a roaring fire?”
21 Days of Prayer and Fasting
Duran says he had never done the 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting emphasis before but after looking through the resources, he knew this was exactly what he and the church needed. There were some hurdles to overcome as the church was in the middle of the holiday season and all the various activities surrounding Christmas. But Duran prayed and laid the groundwork, trusting God to take care of the details. The church began promotion on December 26 and the response in Duran’s words, “has been incredible!”
Duran began preparing the church from the pulpit as they talked about prayer and fasting. He says that many people had no clue what fasting was all about. “Everybody thinks, you know, fasting is stop eating and that’s certainly a way, but we just presented it very carefully. Like maybe fasting for you is skipping lunch, maybe fasting for you is shutting off the news. For me it was shutting off social media,” he said.
He explained the importance of being filled with the Holy Spirit but reminded them that they couldn’t be filled until they were empty. Many in the church took it to heart and made the commitment to pray and fast for the 21 days. Duran says he’s hearing from people who have never fasted before who are not only skipping their lunch but are going into the lunchroom at work and having Gospel conversations. One person started skipping his daily lunch meetings and instead used the time to read his Bible and pray. Another man texted to say that he had never done anything like this before, but that he was going to keep going after the 21-day emphasis had ended.
Duran takes no credit for all that’s happened during this time. He says that his role was just to put it out there, trust the Lord and call the church to be involved. He’s grateful for the material and resources that were provided. He notes that everything was user friendly and easy to use. He’s been blown away by the response that he’s seen from the church. “This has honestly been a bigger blessing as a pastor watching what is happening than anything else I’ve seen,” Duran said.
Making prayer a priority
Duran says there are several plans to integrate prayer into the DNA of the church. The first thing they are going to do is begin teaching people how to pray. Duran received a call recently from one of the great encouragers in the church who had been a Christian for many years. The two met and the man shared that he believed the church really needed to teach people how to pray. “He was telling me that we needed to teach the church to pray because he needed to learn how to pray even though he’d been following Jesus for years,” Duran said. “And I realized that exactly what I needed as well.”
From that meeting they were able to map out a couple of simple tools on how to teach people to pray that will be used to train all ages from senior adult to students and children. “There’s this expression in the army. When you’re learning to do something, you crawl first, you take it real slow. When you just figure out the maneuvers, you walk. You’re a little bit faster, but you’re still figuring out and then you can run. So that’s what we want people to do. We want to create a crawl, walk, run track for people to pray,” Duran said.
Duran wants to help create a rhythm of prayer through a corporate prayer time on Sunday mornings, through ongoing prayer meetings and by setting up an intercessory prayer room. The plan is for people to pray during the worship service, during LIFE groups, during Wednesday night youth and children’s services. In addition to the prayer room, the Sunday night prayer gatherings are going to take place at least once a month. They will come together as a church to pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit and to pray for opportunities to reach the lost in the community. The student and children’s ministries will also have a similar emphasis on prayer that will involve an ongoing prayer ministry.
Even before they began the 21 days of prayer and fasting, the church had already seen the impact of a renewed emphasis on prayer. Two men in their 80’s who had been prayed over for years were saved and baptized last year. Duran attributes this to God working powerfully through the prayers of His people. “I’m learning that prayer is more powerful than any plan, any strategy because prayer is directly related to our dependence on God,” Duran said. “We don’t have, because we don’t ask. It cannot be clearer than that.”
The emphasis on 21 days of prayer may have concluded, but you can still sign up to receive the daily emails for a 21 day period at www.absc.org/prayer21.