By Shawn Hendricks
With the upcoming presidential election merely weeks away, many North Carolina Baptists – and fellow evangelicals across the country – seem to be focusing more attention on politics. But many Christians are also falling on their knees, organizing prayer efforts, seeking a spiritual awakening and hope for future generations.
While the United States appears more divided than ever on politics, religion and moral issues, many on all sides contend the stakes this fall couldn’t be higher.
“I do believe that this election in many ways will set the tone for religious freedom truly for the rest of my lifetime,” said Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
In preparation for ministry opportunities throughout Charlotte during the week of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), First Baptist Church joined forces in prayer for 40 days with other congregations across the Metrolina Baptist Association.
“One of the things we have tried to do … probably more important than anything else we’ve done in terms of planning and scheduling has been to prepare through prayer.”
On Sept. 2 about 9,000 people – representing more than 100 churches – gathered at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Charlotte for a non-partisan, city-wide worship event called Charlotte714. Those in attendance prayed, worshipped and were challenged by a variety of speakers about the nation’s need for revival and spiritual awakening. Many who participated also signed a Declaration of National Spiritual Emergency.
The troubles of the nation go far beyond politics, said Byron Paulus, executive director of Life Action Ministries, who spoke at Charlotte714.
Life Action Ministries helped promote Charlotte714 and is leading a call to prayer known as OneCry. To learn more go to onecry.org.
“Our only hope is revival,” contended Paulus. “There is no hope apart from revival, and there is no hope like revival.”
“We know we are not in a political emergency. That is not the issue,” Paulus said. “We know we are not in an economic emergency. That is not the issue. We are not in an educational emergency. Our emergency isn’t even in morality. The answer is not in the White House. It is in the church house.”
N.C. Baptist leaders are promoting spiritual awakening through a “Pray for 30 Days” challenge. During the month of October, leading up to the state’s annual meeting Nov. 12-13 in Greensboro, convention leaders will be encouraging churches to pray for 30 days for spiritual awakening.
Congregations that have not already received a prayer toolkit, can request additional copies of the Awaken Prayer Guide or the Awaken Prayer Bookmark by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or go to ncannualmeeting.org. People also can receive prayer prompts through text messaging by texting the word “Awaken” to 313131.
In addition, Southern Baptists across the country will have an opportunity to participate in the 40/40 Prayer Vigil, promoted by the North American Mission Board and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). From Sept. 26 to Nov. 4, they encourage churches and evangelicals across the country to commit to pray 40 days up to the election and during the 40 hours around election day. The 40/40 prayer guide will lead those who participate in praying for personal spiritual revival, their church, the nation and its leaders.
“This election year, 2012, more Americans than usual feel that the country is at a crossroads,” contended Richard Land, ERLC’s president, in a column published by Baptist Press. Prayer is crucial, Land said. “I can imagine no better way to be prepared to exercise our God-given freedom to vote for the person God would have serve as our congressman, senator, governor or president.”
To learn more about how you and your church can become involved go to 4040prayer.com.
(A column by Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, contributed to this story.)