Concepts of Prayer
Waking Up for a New Missions Thrust
This month, Mission Frontiers examines the foundation of this new thrust in the mind and heart of one of the members of the National Day of Prayer committee, David Bryant. David ministers with Inter Varsity Missions. He wrote In The Gap and has led seminars in missions and recently in "Concerts of Prayer." He was involved in prayer for the U.S. Center for World Mission during the early days of its establishment.A Paralysis Of FaithSomebody's Napping
"Recently I was in Haiti and I took a walk through a market in a very poor section. It was a shanty town and shanty towns don't have sewers. The stench was unbearable. Food was being sold. The crowd was so dense I could hardly move. Some of the kids had red hair, and black kids usually don't have red hair unless they're starving .... Now I'd seen all that before. A tot of times. But this lime couldn't stand it. I went hone and took a nap.
"Sometimes I'd like to take a nap for the rest of my life. Not that I'm suicidal. But I'd like to shut the truth out, somehow. It's too costly. And that, of course, is the problem. The problem isn't evil people... The problem is that almost everyone is taking a nap."
In his December 1981 editorial for The Other Side, John F. Alexander gets right to the heart of what lies between us and a new missionary thrust napping Christians. Or, as I like to call it: the paralysis of faith. Whichever 'napping or paralysis we're talking about the inability of the church to get up and get on with it!
From those I have talked with, I have concluded that the response to missions can be marked Iwo ways. First, there's an openness towards missionseven innocence that is the most encouraging we've seen for a decade, at least. But secondly, there's also a paralysis of faith.
This paralysis is understandable for at least three reasons. The immensity of the task (billions to be reached) and the complexity of the task (thousands of culture groups to be penetrated) is enough to stun anyone. The third reason is just as immobilizing for then: the uncertainities of the task (so many risks to face, so many options to choose from in over 700 Protestant mission agencies).
Somebody's napping. There's paralysis in the camp. "But we're so biblical, so .., well evangelical. What makes us so immovable?" Here are a few observations.
- It's our nature. Further into his editorial, Alexander continues "... In short, the problem is selfishness, not lack of information. If we want to wake people up, we have to address the selfishness rather than the ignorance."
- I believe we also do lack the facts. Many desperately need a clearer vision of Christ's global cause if they're to do something about it.
- Paralysis comes as well from inadequate. even erroneous, discipling in our churches "comparl inentajizatlon" ("missions" Is one of 15 major but unrelated Issues in a Christian life). Or, "smorgasborditls" (we pick and choose what meets our needs from a vast menu of blessing, in which "missions" is only one possible entree).
- Our fragmentation and over indulgence have brought with them pschological fatigue. Wart simply super extended and bushed. Then, along comes the annual missions conference crying for our free evenings to challenge us to take on the whole rest of the world! No wonder we go back to sleep!
- A direct part of the fatigue is the invisibleness of corporate prayer, our one major recourse for vitality and spiritual vigor. As I travel, I discover congregations and student groups fermenting exciting ideas and projects, laying dynamic plans, expanding programs and facilities. But I don't see a united ministry of intercession.
- Clearly, we suffer from a poverty of models: We see so few who evidence unselfish obedience to a clearly integrated vision; who do so in a quiet, relentless movement of prayer; and who, as a result, bring the rest of us with them
My point in this is that a new missions thrust may fail to emerge, not because Gods people are unwilling, but because we are unable to perform it. Even with churches which show positive reactions to the more creative approaches in missions thinking have this growing feet that missions remains at arms length, not much more than a "hobby" (albeit, far more meaningful than some have known it to be for a long time). Many still seem unable to make the crucial leap from missions as a hobby to missions as a cause.
The great border we face in world evangelization is not an external one of culture or nationalism, but the internal paralysis of our faith.
Whet can set 25 free? What can raise us up?
The answer seems obvious: We need a new work from God renewal, revival and awakening.
A Pulsation Of Faith: Somebody's Waking Up
I believe we are on the verge of a new global awakening. I'm not alone This past summer I gathered at Oxford University with Christians from various countries, including historians and missionaries, for the Oxford Conference on Research in Revival. It was like a consultation of "sizemologists," come to map out how spiritual earthquakes occurred in the church in the past, where tremors of revival could be seen today, and to determine, if possible, whether we might expect another major "shaking" in this generation. Our conclusion was unanimous: "Yes, we may!"
What is awakening? The Spirit quickens the church with new pulsations of vision and faith. Awakening comes as God gives us new eyes to see the gospel all over again, or to see dimensions of that gospel that have become fuzzy for us. Often this means waking up not only to what Christ has done for and in us, but beyond that, to what He wants to do through us. Awakening is God re¬introducing us to Jesus. We come to see Him in new ways. That leads us to trust hi. in new ways, that leads us to love and obey Him in new ways, that leads us to move with Him in new ways to fulfill His global cause. We're alerted to the full implications of Christ's lordship, God engages us with the fundamental questions: Is He Lord?. . ' of heaven and earth? of history? in this generation' of His church? through His church? Aroused with renewed vision that says 'Yes, He is!" Christians begin to live anew the bold confession that says: "He is also Lord of my life and through my life, without limits, even to the ends of the earth." All of that is awakening' And it has to lead, ultimately, to new missions thrusts.
But why should we expect such a global awakening in our generation? I can give you three good reasons:
- It is the divine pattern in Scripture. God revives a new generation to carry His purposes forward in the earth. Usually He does it in three phases: a movement of prayer, the revitalization of present ministries end, finally, the expansion of God's saving work where it has not come before.
- There are signs of aromatic preparations for such a revival: the strength of the evangelical movement worldwide; world level consultations to lay strategies for total world outreach the rise of Third World missionaries; the upswing of interest in world missions among collegians.
- We face a desperate necessity for awakening: The world rests on the brink of moral bankruptcy, nuclear holocaust and international famine, and there are still 2.5 billion people currently beyond the reach of the gospel. There is no church among them to witness to them within their culture and or language.
What we are feeling for, imagining, longing for, really praying for, is a worldwide awakening in the power of the Holy Spirit. This alone would be enough to meet our needs, to use our resources, and to Incorporate our little personal stores of faith in a movement greater then anything the world has ever seen." So wrote Sam Shoemaker over a decade ago. So it stands today.
But where is the pulsation of faith to come from?
The Pioneers Of Faith: Somebody's Out In Front
Let me introduce a key answer by asking for another historical flashback: How did God's redemptive mission become the longest sustained human endeavor of all time? How did the church come to be 83 million times larger than when It began? How Is it that the Gospel has directly or indirectly altered for good the life of most nations of earth? One undeniable trend can be seen throughout: consistently, there have been pioneers of faith banded together in movements of prayer. Sometimes these movements have been called 'Concerts of Prayer."
Earlier I mentioned a threefold development in Cod's pattern of awakening: prayer movements, revitalization, expansion. In every case, the starting point was what I call "pioneering" faith. Such pioneers were God's gift to the body of Christ. We must have them again. We need to pray for them to emerge and be willing to become one ourselves if we're to see a new missions thrust.
Pioneers of faith aren't necessarily more "spiritual" than other Christians, but they are more full of faith than many. Facing the Immensity, complexity and uncertainly of the teak, they don't boast all the answers, but they do boast in knowing God.To use another tern, we need pacesetters of God's promises, promises of all He wants to do through His people. It's not that pacesetters entertain a mighty resolve to believe, as much as they sense God's given mandate to lead out in faith, so that others can sea their model end follow. Prayer is their hallmark. They are a humble cadre of seekers who, with their hearts, spearhead renewed me mention for missions by a faith that grows through united prayer.
Basically, pioneers of faith are models. There are Biblical examples of this (like the Levites with Israel and Isaiah as a "watchmen"). Surely today God wants to give us such models. We need them if we're to see billions reached for Christ more, I believe the evangelical church in North America Is longing for such models. I think we may be rounding a corner, searching less for spiritual celebrities to mirror experience and looking more for models to mirror excellence in faith that compels one to pursue purposes bigger than themselves.
Take for example the phenomenal attention gained by the U.S. Center for World Mission. The whole operation in Pasadena slugs along primarily on the backs of young adults, barely making it from one financial crisis to the next. So, how do you explain its growing Impact on churches and mission agencies alike, here and around the world? There's more to it than just the creative genius of Its director. From what I sense in many quarters, the Center's great appeal lies In the models of pioneering faith it has rallied to itself (Winter being one of them), whose zeal for the glory of Cod renews the faith of many (Including myself) in what God can and will do through His people for Christ's 'gloat cause. In this atmosphere of fleshed out faith, we can tolerate the demanding task to which the Center calls us.
I could give scores of other examples. The fact is: pioneers are needed, wanted, and emerging. Now the question is: How are they to mobilize for maximum impact in their pioneering ministry for the Body of Christ?
Pioneers In Concert: Somebody's Praying
Any new missions thrust must begin and grow through aggressive intercession. Like a battalion. pioneers of faith must first band together to set the pace primarily through intercession. Such a movement of prayer will retain key characteristics. First, it will be marked by a visible union, J. Edwin Orr comments, "Student missionary uprisings, like college revivals, when traced to their sources, are shown to have started invariably in a group of students associated for prayer." We might call these Concerts of Prayers. Secondly a movement of prayer will also be marked by o threefold pace. Each pace builds on the other. The pioneer of faith will be patient as he learns how to minister in increasingly aggressive depth of intercession:
- Solidarity Here we tell God, based on the great sweeps of His purposes in Scripture "I want what You want." We align our will and desires with His.
- Advocacy Here we tell God, based on the great longings of the church and world "They need what You have promised."
- Pursuit Here we tell God, based on the utter unacceptsbleness of things as they stand in the expansion of his worldwide purposes: "This must become all you intend it to be."
Finally Concerts of Prayer will be marked by a two fold agenda based on the two great biblical sweeps of God's heart: The revival of God's people and the advancement of His kingdom throughout the nations. For Him, and for us. extraordinary prayer is not determined so much by how long one prays or how often, but rather that we do pray, that we do so "in concert," and that we pray for those things which God has clearly shown us He is ready and wanting to do, revival and advancement, In any prayer movement, dynamic tension must always be maintained between church renewal and world evangelization. Each thrives on the other and drives us to the other, if kept in proper balance. Renewal prevents "burn out" in the task of missions. And missions challenges "cop out" on the fruits of renewal. If we maintain this tension, the ministry of intercession will be our most effective step in pioneering faith for Christ's global cause.
I often find two kinds of prayer groups going on in churches and campuses, usually unaware of each other. Some are praying for revival. Other are praying for missions. If we could get both groups together and integrate their individual agendas. we would have a most explosive mix!
I call these two great agendas fullness and fulfillment. We need to seek the fullness of Christ in His global church for the fulfillment of His global cause. We should seek this for both local and international needs.
Speaking to a joint retreat of the IFMA EFMA In 1979, George Peters, professor emeritus at Dallas Theological Seminary, declared: "We have become so wrapped up in technology and methodology that we have forgotten that missions is number one, the releasing of divine dynamics... rescldng the unreached will, first of all, mean for us, not only to lay hold of it in faith, but to develop thousands and thousands of prayer cells in America and elsewhere that will commit themselves wholeheartedly to prayer until the victory will be won."
I believe this can happen two ways:
- We must integrate the twofold agendas into all existing natural groupings Bible study groups. Sunday School, worship services, prayer meetings.
- We can also establish special times in our calendars where pioneers can gather for extended "extraordinary" prayer for Concerts of Prayer.What if such concerts as an environment for faith and a foundation for obedience to the global cause were to be multiplied world wide, or even just within your own denomination, your city, your mission society? What might be the implications for a new missions thrust? (See Diagram)
Spawning A Movement Of Prayer: Recommendations
I would like to now make the following recommendations to help move us, and the church at large, closer toward an awakening for a new missions thrust:
- Be sure we grasp the whole Gospel. We must awaken again to the grace of God, what Christ has done for us, what He's is doing in us, and all He wants to do through us.
- Be willing to repent. "We must create holy dissatisfaction within a church and society that callously tolerates widespread injustice and quietly forgets two billion people who have never heard of Christ," writes Ron Sider. Awakening will come as we repent of preoccupations, self¬serving interests and unbelief. We must face up to our nagging emptiness from lack of follow¬through on Christ's clear command to lose our lives for His sake and the Gospel's. There's a vitality of walk with Christ that could make Him known through His church among all peoples in this generation., and we know it
- Be free to rejoice. Springing from repentance, truly dissatisfied Christians will eagerly take hold of God's promises for His mission to the world. We must open up to a sense of expectancy end holy anticipation that God could very well plant churches for every people¬group by the year 2000. May we rejoice in hope.
- Become pioneers ourselves. Naturally, we'll summon them as they gravitate toward our own model of pacesetting. But there also come times when we must identify for someone else that God is equipping them to serve the body in this unique way. Pioneers should be summoned first of all from within our own ranks of missionary personnel. May I recommend that we summon them into a "relational partnership" with missionaries in prayer. Many students are ready right now to join a team in a common mandate to model renewal of faith for a new missions thrust.
- Launch concerts of prayer. This is the environment in which "relational partnership" between pioneers develops best. There must be more than private prayer in a closet, or moments of prayer during occasional encounters. Eventually, we must see a movement of prayer united, sustained, intentional, targeted on revival and world evangelization. We must get the pioneers praying together on a regular basis, and praying about the right things.
At this point, I'd like to focus specifically on what campus movements, churches and mission agencies might do together. This is my most concrete recommendation. Proposal: Let's draw together our praying, pacesetting constituents on a once amonth basis, within selected geographical regions, to unite in prayer for "fullness" and "fulfillment."
I am looking for committed bands in city after city, made up of students, lay people, pastors. and missionaries, who will be willing to commit one night every month for, in Jonathan Edwards words, "explicit agreement and visible union (concerts) in extraordinary prayer for the revival of the religion (fullness) and the advancement of Christ's kingdom on earth (fulfillment)."
Anybody out there want to start something?
(The following is Dave and Robyne Bryant's prayer letter dated March 27,1983. In it we see how God has been shaping events to accomplish great things through the development of "Concerts of Prayer.")
Dear Ministry Team,
There was Richard Halverson, chaplain of the U.S. Senate, holding a golf ball sized replica of the globe in the pain of his large hand, leading the 15 of us in three verses of He's got the whole world in His hands." We had just completed two hours of prayer together for the following day's event, The Presidential Prayer Breakfast on February 4. We were full of a great sense of all God was preparing to do at the breakfast and in the weeks and months that lay ahead.
Where were we? David joined other members of the National Prayer Committee meetings regarding events for the National Day of Prayer May 5 It was during that week in D.C. that President Reagan signed two significant Proclamations, one declaring the "Year of the Bible" (the first time any national leader has made such a proclamation) and the second, "National Day of Prayer", which was signed three months in advance, not three days as usual, allowing 90 days preparation and nationwide prayer mobilization. (See below.) The next day at the Prayer Breakfast the Spirit of God came on the gathering throng in a way that, we believe, was a foretaste (of what God is preparing to do in an unprecedented way throughout the land.. and ultimately among the nations.
Many today believe that the Church world-wide is on the verge of another great spiritual awakening. God gives awakening. It begins first in His Church, But it spreads to the unbelieving world until finally whole segments of earth's unreached peoples are penetrated with the Gospel in the hands of a revived Church. Biblically and historically there is a divine pattern in Cod given awakening. Cod brings believers together to intercede for revival and the advancement of Christ's Kingdom among the nations, including their own. These prayer movements known over the past 250 years as concerts of prayer are not only the prelude to awakening but also the foundation for its impact! It deeply transforms the Church's real for Christ's global cause. It issues a new in gathering of the converted. It dramatically permeates society atlarge with godliness, and it causes many committed Christians to be thrust forth ,n spreading the Gospel among those currently beyond its reach.
Therefore, in our own nation, the greatest challenge before us is to mobilize ourselves locally and nationally into a movement of prayer under God for spiritual awakening and world evangelization. Further, the greatest single contribution any of us could ever make for the advancement of Christ's Kingdom in our own nation and throughout the earth, is to be banded together in prayer, united around such a magnificent agenda as concerts of prayer.
Well, in point of fact, this is precisely what many are watching emerge at this very hour, a mighty movement of prayer. It is a gift of God, just as faith is His to give. It is our desire to be a part of it. That is why we are involved in a concert of prayer here in Madison. We sense for the immediate future that Cod is calling David to help Christians define and explore the Biblical, historical and contemporary patterns of pray er movements for spiritual awakening and world evangelization, But, along with that, he feels strongly he must also help open up for us practical hints and insights for mobilizing, organizing and sustaining concerts of prayer within key communities. Communities where such concerts can bring together on a regular basis praying people from campus fellowships, local churches and mission sending organizations.
Taking Shape in Specific Ways
What has this meant for our ministry schedule the past three months? For one thing, you'll remember the CHICAGO CONSULTATION ON A MOVEMENT OF PRAYER which we asked you to pray for in January; well, it happened, and it was a miracle the way it happened! On January 31, 45 Christian leaders gathered at the O'Hare Airport to explore a cooperative effort in mobilizing Christians into concerts of prayer. Sponsored by IVCF Missions Department, the consultation was unique in a number of ways. First of all, it was one of the first times that leaders from all tR major spheres churches. missions, campuses have gathered to discuss cooperative prayer mobilization for awakening and world evangelization. Formulated and guided by David himself, the six hour meeting allowed for valuable sharing from leaders representing a large segment of North American Protestant missionaries, at the national interdenominational campus movements and prayer mission thrusts in over 40 denom inations. [Ed. note: both the USCWM and the Frontier Fellowship were represented there.]
As one who came, Richard Lovelace, professor of church history, observed for all of us that it was an historic gathering of many of the primary sources for revival. At the conclusion, the leaders gave enthusiastic endorsement of the proposal before us and called on David to give leadership in mobilizing concerts of prayer in some of the major population centers of our country. We thought in terms of 15 cities over the next twoyears. But God was not finished The initiativand desire of the Chicago Consultation were carried to meetings later that same week in D.C. by members of the National Prayer Committee who were at O'Hare including David. Those meetings, following the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, were designed specifically to study prayer mobilization in the context of the National Day of Prayer on May 5 Throughout our deliberations there, it became increasingly obvious to all of us that through the National Day of Prayer we had the potential Iaunchin9 pad for a movement of prayer nationwide in over 250 cities, by the end of this spring. Suddenly our dream had jumped from 15 cities in two years, to 250 cities in four months! We wish you could have been in on that meeting, and the other planning meetings that David has attended since. You would then know how sovereignty God Is pulling all of this together far beyond human ingenuity and resource. Among other things that will happen is prayer coordinators from over 200 cities, plus 50 denominational leaders, will be invited to D.C. to share in the May events, During that special day these prayer leaders will actually participate in a concert of prayer in the morning and later in the evening at Constitution Hail. But, they will also receive training on how to mobilize and conduct a concert of prayer which David will lead. They will also receive a training tool from the National Prayer Committee called Concerts of Prayer, with ten, one hour teaching tapes and a leader's guide with a student outline, to take back to train prayer leaders in their cities to carry on the momentum of united prayer spawned by local prayer on May 5. David is over seeing the preparation of those materials right now.
There is not enough space to go into this in more detail. But, if you would like a six page report prayer on May 5. (David is overseeing the preparation of those materials right now.]
There's no space to go into this in more detail. But, if you would like a 6 page report on the Chicago and Washington meetings, write us [IVM, 233 Langdon, Madison, WI 537031 and we'll gladly send it to you free. We think you'll be tremendously blessed reading about how God has been answering at prayers over the past few months in this very unique turn of events!
None of this is in a Vacuum
Already, just through our efforts alone (and there are many across our land working on this vital effort of prayer mobilization) we've seen concerts of prayer emerging, riding on the backs of trained prayer leaders in various cities, In Madison our two year old concert has now given birth to a second concert involving primarily Christian leaders from town, gown and the world around, Following David's seminars in Chicago Greensboro Dallas, East 5 Jackson (Miss.), Pittsburgh and 'Cleveland we've seen various forms of Prayer Concerts established, often involving students from different campuses but always linking them with church leaders and missionaries. His seminars have been co sponsored by a variety of campus fellowships, mission agencies, denominational groups, and other organizations in the locale where it is held. In every case, David is training people in prayer for both awakening and world evangelization. In every case, he is seeing many come out of the seminars more committed than ever to becoming World Christians and to personal involvement in reaching the unreached.Take Cleveland for example the second weekend of March there were over 700 people in attendance from 50 60 churches and 70 25 campuses, all within a 100 it. radius. Over 35 committed themselves to give long term leadership to a prayer movement in northeast Ohio by serving on a northeast Ohio coordinating committee, Since the seminar literally dozens of prayer concerts have begun to take form. Christian radio in Cleveland is committed to helping in daily follow up of prayer groups via their own daily programming. This is lost the beginning!
Also. David challenged over 500 students at the Student Conference on World Evangelization in Pasadena (Ed. note: This was at the USCWM) in February to return to campuses to mobilize concerts of prayer. Already we've received reports of that very thing having happened.
What does all of this mean?
It tells you very little about us actually, and "tons" about who Cod is and all that He is He is calling His church back to Christ back to wholehearted devotion to Christ that expresses itself first of all in four things: holy anticipation (about all Cod wants to do through His Son among the nations through His Church) holy desperation (as the Church admits its desperate need for a new outpouring of the Spirit that saturates us with the love and power of Christ); holy cooperation (as the Church deepens its fellowship with Christ and one another by our love for one another they will know Cod has sent His Son. Cooperation in prayer is the first step toward this cooperation across denominational institutional, social and other barriers as we become "concerted" in prayer for the great concerns on the heart of Cod); and ambition (our willingness to pray fervently and faithfully for the concerns most on God's heart: (1) an awakening of His people to a new vision of, faith in, love for and obedience to His son (2) to the end that we might move forward together in the fulfillment of His global cause).
But, this letter/report also tells you some about us about God's calling to us to labor together in any way possible to make a significant contribution to what God is already doing in "growing" a movement of united prayer. What is He calling on us to do?
- Train leadership for Concerts of Prayer.
- Strengthen existing models of such Concerts.
- Team up with others who are working in the same direction.
- Facilitate cooperation between Christian organizations and fellowships in concerts of prayer.
- Develop training materials.
- In it all, help Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship fulfill its primary objective in missions: to mobilize 5.000 new missionaries overseas by 1986 and 15,000 trained graduates to enter effectively into leadership within the missions programs of local churches. Prayer mobilization will secure mission mobilization Without it nothing else really will nothing else.
David has been asked to join the Intercessory Advisory Croup of the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization. Our first assignment: to help develop an International Prayer Assembly in Korea in June of 1984 when prayer leaders from many nations will gather to see the prayer-life of the Korean Church, to be trained in mobilizing movements of prayer, to spend hours interceding for spiritual awakening and world evangelization, and to return to their various countries to form "national prayer committees" to faster concerted prayer within the Body of Christ worldwide. Frankly, it's awesome. But it's all of Cod,