By David Leavell
President, Tennessee Baptist Convention
I don’t know a Southern Baptist who wouldn’t say that prayer is important. I think we would also agree that we talk more about prayer than actually pray. Prayer requires an intentional “quieting down both physically and spiritually” — a time to adore the Lord’s character, confess sin, thank Him for His goodness, and present our requests to Him. It is so comforting to know that we serve the God of the universe. He cares for us. He is attentive to our needs. God is so good. He answers our prayers.
Many of us can remember being in a prayer “meeting” during Sunday School or on Wednesday night when the request time turned into a gossip session. Or, it went so long that it eclipsed any meaningful time to actually pray. We can get so caught up in talking about our needs to each other that we actually forget to talk to the One who can answer our requests! I recently heard one pastor say that when we do pray, “most Christians spend more time praying fellow Christians don’t die and go to heaven than we do praying the lost come to Jesus and avoid hell.”
Matthew 21:13 says, “He (Jesus) said to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.’ ” This was during a time when Jesus was upset at how far religious people had gotten away from the biblical ideal. They had turned the temple into a for-profit business. This reality drew the Lord’s ire.
When you study the life of Jesus, you can learn much about prayer. As I Peter 2 tells us, Jesus left us an example that we might follow in His steps. The disciples noticed this spiritual discipline in the life of Jesus. Luke 11:1 says “It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.’ ” What can we learn from Jesus?
(1) Jesus prayed early in the morning in Mark 1:35.
(2) Jesus took prayer retreats in Luke 5:16.
(3) Jesus prayed before making important decisions in Luke 6:12.
(4) Jesus prayed when He was tempted in Matthew 4:1-11.
(5) Jesus prayed while He suffered. Three of the sayings from the cross were prayers.
(6) Jesus prayed with thanksgiving in Luke 10:21.
(7) Jesus is praying now in heaven on our behalf in Hebrews 7:25.
I want to challenge you to pray evangelistically. I tell my church family that “prayer paves the way to our future with God.” It is absolutely critical that we bathe our actions both individually and as a church, in prayer. Praying for the lost souls of Tennesseans is our great privilege and honor! People far from God, lonely, and bound in their sin patterns, need us to intercede for them.
One way that we are being led by our state convention staff is the Pray4TN initiative. This is a movement across our state to pray for every household in Tennessee. We do this by agreeing to pray as individuals, churches, and associations for those without Christ. Did you know that 44.5 percent of Tennesseans do not claim a religion at all? This requires us to pray to the “Lord of the harvest” on behalf of those without Christ.
Simply said, we must increase our prayer efforts. We desperately need the power of the Holy Spirit to fill us and use us as His witnesses. In the 3:16 section of the TBMB website, there is a 60-day, John 3:16 prayer guide.
This can be adapted and used by any person, church, or association, to call us to concerted prayer. A guide helps direct and inform our prayers. Many times, we have not because we ask not. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
If the John 3:16 Challenge is ever going to gain traction among the rank and file of Tennessee Baptists, we must pray and obey. Pray for the souls of the millions of Tennesseans without Christ! Obey by sharing the John 3:16 Challenge.
The Challenge: Share John 3:16, once a week, with a lost person, with the intent of leading them to Christ. Anybody can do that! Jesus said, “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” If we are not fishing, we are not following! Let’s make it hard to go to hell from Tennessee!