By Shannon Baker
BCM/D National Correspondent
NASHVILLE—Just in time for the upcoming elections, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission and the North American Mission Board has partnered together to urge Southern Baptists to participate in a “40/40 Prayer Vigil” for spiritual revival and national renewal.
The 40/40 Prayer Vigil consists of 40 days of prayer from Sept. 26 to Nov. 4, 2012, culminating in 40 hours of around the clock intercession during the last three days of the Vigil. The Vigil focuses first on personal renewal, revival and repentance. It then covers an expanding circle of prayer concerns, from the family and church to the nation.
Stressing the importance of prayer, the Vigil calls Southern Baptists into a season of prayer to get “our own hearts together for this important election as well as just praying for the Church, that God would revive His people again,” explained Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research for the ERLC, in a conference call.
Joining him in the call was Richard Land, ERLC president, and Larry Wynn, vice president of evangelism and leadership development at NAMB.
“We are convinced, as a Commission, that our only hope for America to be the America we desire for her to be is for there to be a revival that ripens into an awakening and culminates in a reformation,” Land agreed. “None of these things are going to happen without God’s people getting on their faces before God.”
The “last great general revival” in the U.S., in 1858, started in a noonday businessmen’s prayer meeting of the men of First Baptist Church, Newark, N.J., Land said.
There had been “a calamitous economic collapse” and “great talk of succession and civil war.” They began to pray God would send revival, and a God-sent revival “leapt across the Hudson into New York City” and “swept like a prairie fire” along the northern U.S., Land said.
As a result, an estimated one million people were added to the church rolls of the northern states, which at the time had a population of 26 million people.
Shortly thereafter, Abraham Lincoln was elected as president of the U.S., from a new party that hadn’t even existed prior to 1854, held the Union together and eliminated slavery.
“With approximately one out of six voters who had a conversion experience and united with the church, with such a close election, that made the difference,” Land said.
Wynn added, “Our God is the same God today that moved in the revival [Land] described, the same God who moved in the New Testament when the church was birthed, and they literally turned the world upside down for Christ. We at the North American Mission Board believe it can happen again, and that’s why we are partnering with this.”
To assist in the prayer times, the ERLC offers a fully downloadable prayer guide, available in English and Spanish, at the 40/40 Prayer Vigil web site, www.4040prayer.com.
An individual, a small group, an entire church body, or an even larger group can use this prayer guide.
First, decide if you want to use this as a personal guide to 40 days of prayer or ask others to join you.
Second, decide if you want to pray for forty days, forty hours, or a combination of the two. The guide is designed to support any of these options.
• Pray once each day between September 26 and November 4, for forty days of prayer.
• Pray for forty hours, between 4:00 p.m. on November 2 and 8:00 a.m. on November 4.
• Pray for 40 days, between September 26 and the morning of November 2 and then pray for 40 hours between 4:00 p.m. on November 2 and 8:00 a.m. on November 4.
Third, if you decide to make this a group effort, create a sign-up list and ask others to join you in prayer.
Fourth, register your commitment to pray at the 40/40 Prayer Vigil Web site to let others know that you are joining the national movement to seek God for spiritual revival and national renewal.
Organizers say anyone who shares the burden for revival among God’s people and for the future of America is welcome to join in this intensive period of prayer. There is no cost to participate. Also, the guides can be used any time of the year, not just before election time.
Visit online at www.4040prayer.com to sign up, download the prayer guide, join a blog conversation about prayer and the need for revival and renewal, or stay notified of the latest developments in the Vigil.