Prayer must be the foundation of everything we endeavor to do as Southern Baptist. In the words of E.M. Bounds: “What churches need today is not more machinery or better, or more novel methods, but men whom Holy Spirit can use – men of prayer, men of mighty prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods but through men. He does not come on machinery but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer.
”James tells us, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” According to James, we must pray with red hot energy. It is not weak prayers from weak people that accomplish much, but energetic prayers of righteous men that carry potent force. To pray in this way is to call down fire from heaven. As a fellow Southern Baptist pastor, I want to remind us of the effectiveness of fervent praying.
Fervent prayer will do more to straighten the tangled mess of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) than the thousands of books on leadership and church-growth that fill the shelves of bookstores across our land.
Fervent prayer will do more to clear misunderstandings in the SBC than all the human counselors combined. Fervent prayer will do more to humble the hearts of Southern Baptists than all the public shaming of social media.
Fervent prayer will do more to promote personal piety within the SBC than all well-meaning methods of men.
Fervent prayer will do more to align the heart of the SBC with the will of God than all the lectures given by the most significant theological minds.
Fervent prayer will do more to strengthen the pulpits of the SBC than all our seminaries combined.
Fervent prayer will do more to propel the mission of God through the SBC than the wisest strategies imagined by our entities.
The real work of the SBC must begin in the prayer closet. Our effectiveness is dependent upon it. Confusion, tangled messes, misunderstandings, and posturing for position all hinder the work God has given us to do. These unfortunate manifestations only exist when the prayer closet is empty. Much of what we see happening today within the SBC is an indictment of our overall failure to pray fervently. Honestly, the SBC reflects the character of our prayers. Surely, we cannot deny that weak praying produces confusion, while intense praying produces clarity. Light praying produces compromise, while fervent praying produces conviction.
Nothing we strive to do can make up for our failure to pray. Prayerlessness produces nothing but superficial results. May the SBC heed the words of Mr. Bounds:
“No ministry can succeed without much praying, and this praying must be fundamental, ever-abiding, ever-increasing.”