As the school year began in Georgia’s Floyd County, some 2,000 Southern Baptists prayer walked local schools in the region.
Fifty-five out of 59 churches in Floyd County Baptist Association participated in the massive prayer effort.
Associational Mission Strategist Tim Smith testified to the impact prayer has had on school systems in the county during a webinar hosted by the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders, Aug. 31.
Smith was the first of three guest speakers during the webinar, which addressed the theme “Building a Culture of Prayer in an Association.”
Floyd County Baptist Association has “made prayer a priority,” Smith said. And they’ve seen how God has used this ministry priority — especially in the county’s schools, he added.
Last year, some area schools faced an uptick in violence among students, Smith shared. After school leaders heard about the association’s prayer focus, they asked Smith to pull together a group of pastors to pray over the situation.
“So we went to the school and actually prayed in the spots where the violence was taking place,” Smith said. “We thank the Lord that the violence stopped.”
Bob Lowman, AMS for Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte, North Carolina, agreed that associations should take the opportunity to pray for schools in their regions.
“Every time you see a school zone, use it as a prayer zone,” Lowman said.
And don’t stop there, Lowman said, noting a variety of opportunities for prayer within the associational context.
He encouraged associational leaders to infuse their ministries with prayer, such as praying for and with pastors, sending prayer texts to ministers each Sunday, hosting prayer meetings on Facebook Live and via Zoom, and prayer-driving around the association.
Ultimately, Lowman said associational leaders can’t build a culture of prayer if they and their churches treat prayer like a “grocery list” of items they want God to deliver for them.
Rather, prayer involves “laying ourselves before Him and asking Him to make us different.”
Seeking God for personal revival is “at heart the kind of praying I believe we need to be doing and helping our churches do,” he added.
Though opportunities and strategies for prayer abound, Lowman also encouraged associational leaders to “start small,” to build a culture of prayer by developing “prayer-driven relationships” and to remember what he called the “Gideon factor.”
Just as in the Old Testament, when God used Gideon and his small army to bring victory, God can achieve much through a small team of prayer warriors.
“Find a way to encourage those prayer partners,” Lowman said. “It may not seem like a large crowd, but they can make a significant Kingdom difference.”
Also sharing during the webinar was John Franklin, AMS for Christian County Baptist Association in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
A former prayer specialist for Lifeway Christian Resources, Franklin is author of “And the Place Was Shaken: How to Lead a Powerful Prayer Meeting” (B&H 2005).
He shared how powerful prayer meetings fall in line with God’s purposes for prayer — namely, His desire to “reveal Himself to His people,” His desire to “move His people onto His agenda” and His desire “to build and minister to His people especially through His people.”
‘Set the focus on God’
Leaders in churches and associations have the responsibility to put God and His desires first as they format prayer meetings, Franklin added. By planning activities that encourage church members to worship and to interact with one another and with Scripture, they can help “set the focus on God.”
By calling people to pray in small groups or encouraging them to kneel, they encourage “spectators” at the prayer meeting to become “participants” in earnest prayer.
Whatever their plans, however, leaders must allow God to interrupt their plans as He pleases. Whatever happens, God must be placed in first position throughout the service, and God’s people should come to know Him better.
“The first thing you have to know as a prayer leader is that God is not going to be highly motivated to grant answers or to do anything else if, in the process, we don’t come to know Him any better,” Franklin noted. “So you want to guide your people in your prayer meeting … to encounter God.”
Day of Prayer for Associational Missions set for Oct. 22
Churches and individuals are encouraged to mark their calendars to pray on Oct. 22, when Southern Baptists are scheduled to observe a Day of Prayer for Associational Missions.
“I would encourage all Southern Baptists to be in prayer for associational missions and associational mission strategists, especially their own, on that day,” Ray Gentry, president/CEO of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders, told The Baptist Paper.
“The role of the AMS and the role of the association is of vital importance to the health of our churches and of our denomination,” he added.
In fact, Gentry suggests Southern Baptists spend a full week in prayer for their associations.
To help with this, the North American Mission Board provides free online resources — including a prayer guide, flyer, bulletin inserts and a PowerPoint template — so churches can observe eight days of prayer. To access these resources, visit namb.net/associations.
Gentry asked that Southern Baptists pray specifically for God to give their associational leaders wisdom to effectively equip and encourage churches.
Pray for Kingdom-focused unity, rather than competition, among churches within each association, he urged.
“Pray,” he added, “for revival and spiritual awakening.”