By Diana Chandler
NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptists across Tennessee told Baptist Press they support Gov. Bill Lee’s plea for the state to fast and pray Thursday (Oct. 10).
Tennessee Baptist Mission Board President Randy Davis, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd, Tennessee pastor and former SBC President Steve Gaines and others told BP it’s beneficial for governmental officials to invite citizens to pray and fast.
“Christ followers need to join our governor’s call to set aside Oct. 10 as a day of fasting and prayer,” Davis told BP. “I call on Tennessee Baptists to lead in covering our beloved state in prayer.”
Davis said Lee is a Christian, has a heart for God and as governor has seen the challenges Tennessee faces.
“His call for a day of prayer is not surprising,” Davis said. “I’ve just completed visiting 20 towns and cities in our state over the last two months and have heard from over 500 Tennesseans about the challenges we face, from a rapidly growing number of grandparents raising grandchildren because of parents incarcerated, the chronic opioid epidemic to the apathy of professing Christians and a radically unbiblical culture.”
Lee will issue a proclamation in advance of the observance, his press secretary Laine Arnold told BP.
“Governor and First Lady (Maria) have been recipients of prayers from people in every corner of the state and felt it was appropriate to call for a day of prayer and fasting this fall as we consider the future of Tennessee,” Arnold said. “They plan to spend the day in prayer and fasting at their home. Tennesseans are invited to voluntarily participate on Oct. 10.”
Lee announced the day on social media in September.
“On that day Maria and I will take the day to offer prayers of healing, prayers for forgiveness, prayers of thanksgiving and prayers of hope for our state and for the 6.7 million who call Tennessee home,” Lee said in a video Sept. 18. “We invite all Tennesseans to join with us in their homes, in their communities, in their places of worship, to fast and to pray for God’s favor and blessing on the people of Tennessee.”
Floyd, the immediate past president of National Day of Prayer and author of “How to Pray,” told BP he gladly joins Lee in the statewide effort.
“One thing is crystal clear: politics will not heal us, and government will not fix us. We need a massive prayer movement that will lead us back to God and bring healing to our land,” Floyd said. “I gladly join Governor Bill Lee as we pray for healing, forgiveness, thanksgiving and hope. God is the only One who can bring unity, harmony and oneness in our state; therefore, we look only to Him in prayer and fasting, asking for this love to prevail.”
Gaines, who pastors Bellevue Baptist Church in west Tennessee, told BP he’ll announce the observance in services Sunday (Oct. 6) for optional participation.
“What he’s doing is following in a long train of politicians who realize that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it,” Gaines said, invoking Psalm 127:1. “Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchmen keep awake in vain.”
Pastor Jason Cruise was Lee’s chaplain for nearly eight years, employed as a fulltime chaplain at the Lee Company, the family business the governor led before his election. Now senior pastor of ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin since 2017, the middle Tennessee pastor described Lee as “a very dear friend” with an active prayer life.
“Governor Lee is not going to ask our people to do something he doesn’t do himself. I’ve known him to spend considerable time in prayer, daily,” Cruise told BP. “His prayer life is deep and real. So to see him place value on prayer and ask us to pray as Tennesseans is only further indication of our governor’s heart that our state be unified in crying out to God that our state’s issues and challenges (have) His favor.”
Micah Fries, pastor of Brainard Baptist Church in Chattanooga, said his church in eastern Tennessee appreciates encouragement to pray.
“As those who agree with Oswald Chambers who once said, ‘Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work,’ our church is thankful for any reminder to pray for God to move,” Fries told BP. “We are glad to join with the governor and others across the state of Tennessee on Oct. 10 to pray that God would move, that He would draw people to Himself and that he would give wisdom to those who are in authority over us.”
In comments to BP, Gaines encouraged prayer for the state and nations globally.
“I think that it’s a very good thing always to pray for your nation. That doesn’t mean that you think God’s an American,” Gaines said. “I would say you should pray for your nation no matter where you live.
“It’s not that you’re praying that our nation will be triumphant over somebody else, but you’re praying for our nation … that we will be right with the Lord,” Gaines said. “And then interceding just for the climate that’s in our culture which is so divisive and so filled with arguing and fussing. And people feel the tension.
“I think it’s admirable for any governmental official to call out to God’s people and say, please pray.”