By Art Toalston
NASHVILLE (BP) — January is a distinctive month of prayer across the Southern Baptist Convention.
It is a time when a readiness to pray can gain new traction in churches, large or small, urban or rural.
Listed as the “Call to Prayer” on the SBC Calendar, it gained momentum from the 2010 Great Commission Task Force report adopted by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., and was placed on the SBC calendar as an annual focus during the convention’s 2011 meeting in Phoenix.
This year’s theme is “In All Things Pray,” drawn from the familiar 2 Chronicles 7:14 passage, the journal SBC LIFE of the Executive Committee noted in its Winter 2015 issue.
The theme and key emphases for this year’s Call to Prayer were developed with input from the PrayerLink network of state convention and SBC entity prayer leaders. The website (http://inallthingspray.net]inallthingspray.net ) provides numerous prayer resources developed in concert with PrayerLink partners, including downloadable artwork for this year’s emphasis.
Key points of prayer for January 2016, with accompanying suggestions listed in SBC LIFE and posted on the website, are:
* My Family. Select a family member who is unchurched or without Christ and pray that they would come to faith in Christ.
* My Community. Select a friend, neighbor or colleague and pray that they would come to faith in Christ.
* My Church. Select a specific area of ministry in your church, such as a small group or age-graded ministry, and ask the Lord to use it to engage the lost with the Gospel.
* My Nation. Select an elected national leader or a Send North America city (see North American Mission Board [http://www.namb.net/cities] webpage) and pray for the salvation of the leader or the church planting efforts in that area.
* My World. Select an unreached people group (see International Mission Board (http://public.imb.org/globalresearch/Pages/MapUUPGs.aspx]imb/people groups webpage) and pray that the Gospel would be advanced among these people.
“My heart is thrilled that thousands upon thousands of Southern Baptists will begin 2016 in prayer,” said SBC President Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
“Never in my lifetime have we needed to call out to God more than today,” Floyd said in a written statement. “In my own church, we are entering into a major 21-day journey in prayer and fasting. Therefore, we stand with you to pray for ourselves, our churches, our nation and world. Our greatest need is the next Great Spiritual Awakening in the United States.”
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, commented, “From time to time, I have wondered if it is a sign of health or weakness to have to remind people to pray. However, after reading Scripture, I see constant reminders and calls to prayer, so I am convinced it is a healthy practice!”
One example cited by Page: “After encouraging believers to put on the full armor of God and explaining what that means, the apostle Paul encouraged us to ‘pray always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit’ (Ephesians 6:18).
“As we enter into this new year, I cannot think of a more appropriate thing to do than to pray more, and more passionately, than ever before,” Page said. “Our world is in need of prayer and we are in need of praying.”
For church-wide times of prayer, SBC LIFE listed a suggestion for each of the five Sundays in January:
* Jan. 3
Ask members of your congregation to write down the names of unchurched and lost family members on a notecard and bring them to the front of the worship center and place them before the Lord. As they bow in prayer, have a church member pray aloud for their salvation.
Alternatively, create a prayer list of first names and pray for them at a midweek prayer service for the lost.
* Jan. 10
Introduce the CrossRoads Prayer Evangelism ministry (see sample at http://inallthingspray.net). Encourage church members to list names of up to five friends and begin tracking their prayer, care and sharing with those friends.
Use the facing page on the CrossRoads form to solicit names mentioned in Sunday School or small group. Covenant to pray as a group for their salvation.
* Jan. 17
In the church bulletin or worship guide, print the names and dates of the church’s planned evangelistic emphases for the next six months — things like VBS, revival services or special music programs.
Lead the church to pray for these planned events by name during the pastoral prayer time on Sunday morning. Pray also for the continued health and unity of the church.
* Jan. 24
Read 1 Timothy 2:1ñ6 aloud during the morning worship service. Ask the congregation to intercede for the nation during this presidential election year. Mention the names of elected officials during the pastoral prayer.
Pray for the Lord to multiply your church’s reach by calling out of your congregation some who will serve as pastors and church planters.
* Jan. 31
During the pastoral prayer, pray for the International Mission Board during this time of organizational reset. Ask the Lord to give IMB trustees and leaders divine wisdom and guidance as they challenge Southern Baptists to be on mission with God.
Ask the Lord to give grace and mercy to missionaries who are transitioning from the field to new doors of ministry in the United States.
Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.