Do you notice church signs? You know, the types of marquees out front that often have pithy sayings. Sometimes they accidentally mean things someone had no intention of saying.
But often, they communicate profound meaning with minimal words.
That’s the case with the marquee at a small church in a county seat town near here. The sign reads: “Need direction? Let prayer guide you through 2023.”
Prayer seems to be an ever-present topic of conversation these days. Obviously, prayer is never far from discussions pertaining to the Christian life or ministry, but over the past six months, I hear the call to prayer mentioned often. These are serious conversations where people are genuinely seeking God.
For instance, we had sweet times of prayer throughout our 2022 TBC Summit held at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova.
It blessed my heart to see pastors and others pour to the altar last week at the State Evangelism Conference.
It has been encouraging to hear the numbers of people gathering in prayer regarding the arrival of Ford’s Blue Oval City project in West Tennessee. There will literally be thousands of spiritually lost, unchurched people from all over the country and world moving to that area. Many have already arrived. Area pastors, ministers and laymen are joining hearts and voices asking God to use them to grow His Kingdom.
In every situation, people are praying with the expectation that God will reveal His preferable future for the work to which they set their hands.
The desire for discovering God’s preferable future for the churches that comprise the Tennessee Baptist Convention is the goal for the Acts 2:17 initiative that launched at Summit. That verse reads: “In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’”
I believe the culmination of that verse is preceded by prayer. No great revival or awakening has ever been realized that wasn’t first rooted in prayer.
For instance, some consider the tremendous revival that took place between 1949 and 1952 in the Scottish islands known as the Hebrides as the last great revival in the western world.
When examined, researchers identified prayer as the genesis and at the epicenter of all that transpired. And not just any prayer. There was broken, desperate, passionate prayer they described as, “travailing prayer.”
The word “travail” sounds like its meaning: “To work especially of a painful or laborious nature.” Applied to prayer, that conjures for me images of Jesus sweating drops of blood while praying in the garden. That is full-on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual investment in crying out to God.
A pastor recently asked me what could be done to see revival and awakening come about in Tennessee Baptist churches. The best response I can offer is for him and everyone else to pursue travailing prayer individually and corporately right where they are. If we all did, I believe we would see God across our state in ways that would leave us undone and in awe.
I’m praying we are off to a strong start. More than 500 Tennessee Baptists have already participated in the Acts 2:17 listening sessions held across our state.
There are nine more to go through the end of February. I strongly encourage you to participate. Come immersed in prayer. We desperately want to hear what God is saying through you as you seek Him in travailing prayer.
If you’ve missed one of these sessions but believe God is laying on your heart an idea for the type of Kingdom work in which Tennessee Baptists need to be engaged, forward your thoughts to me (RDavis@TNBaptist.org) and I will direct those to the team compiling the research.
And keep praying! The conclusion of the initial phase of the Acts 2:17 Initiative may end Feb. 27, but prayer must continue. Prayer is not a program. We are servants working the Master’s vineyard seeking to obey the Master’s direction. The beautiful thing about our Master is that He welcomes us asking direction.
Let’s make pausing to pray a habit, allowing prayer to guide us to our Heavenly Father through 2023 and into His preferable future.
It is a joy to be with you on this journey.