By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
Louisiana Baptist churches around the state are starting the year off by humbling themselves before God through a variety of prayer efforts.
Among those efforts were churches gathering for the Northwest Louisiana Baptist Association’s third annual “Call to Prayer” Jan. 28 6 p.m. at Cypress Baptist Church, Benton.
Hundreds of members from the association’s 117 churches came together to pray for law enforcement, the persecuted church, government officials, missionaries serving around the world, pastors and other church leaders. Pastors and other church staff led various times of prayer.
Hosted by Cypress Baptist Church, Benton, the Jan. 28 gathering brought together Christians of various ages and ethnicities to pray for law enforcement, the persecuted church, missionaries serving around the world, pastors and other church leaders.
Just like the previous gatherings at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, and Summer Grove Baptist Church, Shreveport, this event was marked by prayer from the worship center stage, in small groups around the room and by individuals who pleaded with God for revival in their community, state and nation.
One church in the association that is having a special focus on prayer is First Baptist Church, Bossier City. Through its FB30Days effort, the congregation is challenged to begin each day with a designated scripture and focus of prayer, said Pastor Brad Jurkovich.
“We are doing the FB30Days because there is great power in the collective body of believers reading God’s Word together, absorbing the same biblical truth and seeking God in prayer for the same things every day,” Jurkovich said. “30 days is a strategic season because it creates a real habit and discipline in a person’s life.”
Sean Gregory, pastor of recovery and single adults over the age of 35 with First, Bossier, said prayer movements like FB30Days have unlocked mighty movements of God among the church members. He cited how prayer was pivotal in prompting one member, Amy Schmidt, to help organize delivery of scarfs, socks and hats to encourage refugees from Myanmar, Burma and Nepal during a mission trip to the Ft. Worth area.
Gregory is excited about how God may move in the hearts of others throughout the FB30Days.
“To have such a large group starting this year with a concerted effort on prayer and Bible reading is just exciting to be a part of,” Gregory said. “We have some really great prayer warriors in our midst who have walked with the Lord faithfully for many years and there is great power in that. But another part of the FB30Days effort that inspires me is to see many who never thought they could succeed at doing a prayer and Bible reading plan, find they actually can do it and they get very excited about the new door God has opened in their lives and then it becomes a daily habit.
“That faith brings the actions that unlock a vibrant, dynamic walk with the Lord,” he continued. “At that moment you are a first-hand witness to the power of God.”
Celebration Church, with campuses in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Northshore areas, is participating in a special prayer effort “40 Days of Transformation.” Dennis Watson, lead pastor of Celebration Church, has written a series of devotions that are sent to the congregation daily by email and video, and are also posted on the church’s social media pages. Members and other subscribers are encouraged during this time to pray, fast for 10 designated days, keep a prayer journal and attend a Life Group at one of the church’s nine campuses.
“For over 20 years Celebration Church has begun each year with an extended time of prayer and fasting,” Pastor Dennis Watson said. “We attribute the spiritual and numerical growth that we’ve experienced over the years to God responding to our strong focus at the beginning of each year of pursuing His direction, power and provision through prayer and fasting.”
CALVARY BAPTIST CHURCH
Before beginning a year-long emphasis on evangelism, members of Calvary Baptist Church, Alexandria, are holding “40 Days of Prayer.” For every hour during a 40-day period from Jan. 5-Feb. 14, members are praying in a room at the church office for specific needs.
LifeGroups in the preschool, children, youth and adult divisions also are keeping a “40 Days of Prayer” journal written by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and participating in a study on prayer in their individual classes.
Pastor David Brooks believes his city, state, country and world are in desperate need of a great spiritual awakening and it must begin with prayer as a starting point.
“Our prayer is that it begins in every heart and home that calls Calvary their church,” Brooks said. “We are praying the non-believers around us become believers and that all believers would move towards full devotion to Christ.
“Throughout history prayer is behind every great movement of God,” he continued. “Our church family is asking that 5011 Jackson Street in Alexandria, Louisiana, become the epicenter of an unprecedented manifestation of God’s presence and power.”
A week into the prayer effort, Brooks recalled how one member was bold enough to invite two friends who do not attend Calvary Baptist to join her in a 4 a.m. prayer time. The result was her friends catching onto the church’s passion for prayer.
“On their way out of the prayer room, they asked me if they could keep their prayer guides given to them there, and of course I said sure,” Brooks recalled. “Later, I talked to the woman is a member and she said her friends expressed gratitude for her caring so much about them and loving them enough to ask them to join her for this incredible time of prayer.”
THE BAYOU CHURCH
Every Saturday at 9 a.m. in January and then again in July, the Bayou Church in Lafayette held prayer services attended by as many as 100 people on its campus. When the church began the prayer services two years ago, they became a “game-changer” for the entire congregation, according to Sean Walker, executive pastor at the Bayou Church.
Before holding the prayer services in 2016, Walker said they were a casually-praying church.
After having the prayer services, Walker said the church was forever changed with a passion for starting new ministries to reach out to others in Lafayette.
“It’s a powerful, spirit-filled, get on our knees and pray mindset,” he said of the prayer services. “We didn’t plan to do it every year when we started in 2016 but it was so powerful that we did it again. “It has united our congregation around the concept of seeking God’s purpose and plans for our church,” he continued. “We have seen God answer prayers that were impossible ones.”
In addition to the prayer services, the congregation is participating in the “40 Days of Prayer” study in small groups. Messages on Sunday mornings also are based off the study. They began the study Jan. 21.
“Starting off the new year in this way is positioning ourselves in dependence and need on God,” Walker said. “It’s nothing new. But it’s taking God at his word at 2 Chronicles 7:14.
“Prayer is the thing for us right now,” he continued. “It’s the greatest tool that God has given to us to make a difference.”