A wave of prayer offered by Southern Baptists for their home state of Louisiana will break on the Capitol steps Sunday evening, just hours before the state’s bicentennial is officially celebrated.
Louisiana has a half-million Southern Baptists in more than 1,600 churches in 64 parishes and many of the churches have been holding programs of 21 days of prayer and fasting as part of “Awaken,” a statewide emphasis that began two months ago.
In addition to the 21-day programs at churches, prayer meetings have been held at courthouses and other public buildings in parishes since early March as part of what organizers have called a “Wave of Prayer.”
Initiated by the Rev. David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, the theme is meant to spark what Baptist pastors pray will begin a third Great Awakening of spiritual revival in America.
Hundreds of Baptists from dozens of area churches are expected to attend the final Capitol steps prayer meeting at 5 p.m. Sunday. The meeting will feature prayers offered by Hankins and a host of other pastors.
“We want to use the opportunity of bicentennial celebration and gratefulness thanking God to call Louisiana Southern Baptists — and any other Christian — to think about what God wants to do in us going forward into the future,” Hankins said in a speech detailing the theme.
Hankins based his theme on a passage in the New Testament book of Ephesians chapter 5, verse 14, where the Apostle Paul paraphrases a verse from the book of Isaiah: “Wake up o sleeper. Rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.”
“The message to ‘awaken’ is really to the church,” Hankins said. “Our culture is not going to change from its sinful ways, and people are not going to suddenly change and live transformed lives. Spiritual awakening begins with the household of God.”
The Rev. Tommy Middleton, executive director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, a family of 108 SBC churches, affiliated missions and organizations, said many area Baptist churches have canceled Sunday evening services for it and he expects several hundred people to attend.
Many of the Baton Rouge area’s smaller Baptist churches, with membership below 200, have participated in the program, Middleton said, and several pastors told him they have been refreshed by it.
“When the pastor is awakened — when he is spiritually recharged — he affects the congregation,” Middleton said. “I’m seeing a fresh interest in (local churches) wanting to serve God.”
Wayne Sheppard, director of Partnership Missions with the Louisiana Baptists, said he’s attended about a dozen parish courthouse prayer meetings.
“Turnout has been good,” Sheppard said. In a few cases, gatherings have drawn more than 100 participants, but most of them, usually held during a work day, have seen between 20 and 50 attend.
At each meeting Hankins gave a brief sermon, then all prayed for parish governmental leadership; police and fire departments; and pastors as well as for a statewide spiritual awakening, Sheppard said.
“Ever since the 21 days of prayer and fasting began, there has been a chorus of anticipation that God is up to something and we are just really anticipating what is he going to do,” Sheppard said. “Of course, we’re praying for a break-out of spiritual revival and awakening.”
The Rev. Paul Pearson, pastor of the 200-member Fellowship Baptist Church in Central, said his congregation’s 21-day prayer and fasting program re-energized him; his wife, Joyce; and the congregation.
“It allowed us to really get focused in on our spiritual lives, and it showed the church we really need revival here in Louisiana and how much it is going to take,” Pearson said. “God is always ready to send revival, but he is waiting on us to get ready and we have to let him know we are serious about it before he will take action.”
Pearson said the church has seen new converts baptized and congregation members have been organizing themselves into outreach “Grow” teams to canvass the area by going door to door each week.
“The people of this church are on fire,” Pearson said. “It is exciting to see them reaching out to their neighbors; that is how we are going to change society.”
On the Internet: http://awakenlouisiana.org
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