By Randy C. Davis
TBMB President & Executive Director
“… That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words” (Colossians 2:2-4).
London was overrun with orphaned children in the 1830s. Children lived on the streets and those that found shelter often found themselves in squalid conditions subject to harsh treatment by adults who viewed the children as slave labor. It was an abusive, graceless, and dangerous environment.
George Mueller couldn’t bear it. With almost no money, the British minister and his wife opened their home to take in a few orphans, then more, then even more. Before long they were caring for 130 orphans. Unbelievably, Mueller never made an appeal for financial support and he never went into debt. He spent hours praying for God’s provision and trusting God to answer those prayers. For instance, Mueller was once praying with the children sitting at tables giving thanks for breakfast even though there was nothing to eat. As they finished praying, the baker knocked on the door with enough fresh bread to feed everyone. Unbelievably at the same time, the milkman’s cart had broken down in front of the orphanage and he donated fresh milk for everyone.
That makes a catchy little slogan that fits nicely on a t-shirt or maybe even a bumper sticker. It has somewhat become a cliché, so do we really mean it? The bigger question is, do we practice prayer with the expectation that God hears our prayers and responds to the petitions of His people?
I read a story like George Mueller’s and I stand amazed. I’m not sure why because my next thought is that the God who answered the prayers of Mueller nearly 200 years ago is the same God who hears our prayers today. Maybe the reason we don’t see big prayers answered today is because we don’t pray big prayers rooted in big faith that our God is big enough to answer those prayers.
But there’s hope. We can change all that in 2018 because we need big prayers that will have a big impact in the lives of Tennesseans.
As Tennessee Baptists, we affirmed the objective to see at least 50,000 people saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship by 2024. However, for years the number has incrementally bounced back and forth around 22,500 per year.
Unfortunately nearly 4 million Tennesseans have no relationship to Jesus. However, I believe there is a two-pronged strategy that will guarantee we’ll see a major jump in the number of people in our state coming to Christ. Ready for it? Here it is: Concentrated, fervent, unceasing prayer that God would save specific individuals who have been prayed for by name followed by them hearing a clear gospel presentation.
No, that’s not the latest church-growth plan, but it is simply the most effective way to impact spiritual lostness in Tennessee and anywhere else in the world. I believe it will lead to new church plants, revitalized churches and increased financial generosity. How can it not? Seeing people come to saving faith in Jesus and seeing them baptized energizes God’s people and fuels an even greater desire to see more eternities changed.
Interestingly, this simple (and time-tested) strategy doesn’t cost anything financially, although it will require an investment of time and faith. What I’ve observed throughout nearly 40 years of ministry is that churches that are most effective in evangelism and discipleship are also the most intentional in consistently praying for spiritually lost people — friends, family and neighbors – by name.
To help you maximize your prayer effort, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board has partnered with an organization called Bless Every Home to offer a free interactive opportunity you can access through the website Pray4TN.com. Once signed up, you’ll receive a prayer reminder along with the names of a few of your neighbors for whom you can be praying that day.
Our hope here at the TBMB is that every household in Tennessee will be prayed for by name by the end of the year, and that we’ll keep praying long beyond that. Will you join us in making that a reality? And as you pray and serve, look for those opportunities to initiate gospel conversations.
Yeah, you bet I believe prayer changes things, and I look forward to seeing what God is going to do in our state through praying Tennessee Baptists.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.