by David Bryant
People are praying in unprecedented numbers for revival and world evangelization.
THIS IS WHAT THE LORD ALMIGHTY SAYS: ‘MANY PEOPLES AND THE INHABITANTS OF MANY CITIES WILL YET COME, AND THE INABITANTS OF ONE CITY WILL GO TO ANOTHER AND SAY, “LET US GO AT ONCE TO ENTREAT THE LORD AND SEEK THE LORD ALMIGHTY. I MYSELF AM GOING.” AND MANY PEOPLES AND POWERFUL NATIONS WILL COME TO JERUSALEM TO SEEK THE LORD ALMIGHTY AND TO ENTREAT HIM'” (ZECH. 8:20-22).
Following on the heels of a 330,000-strong “March for Manila in late June of 1994, a first-of-its-kind Prayer Congress brought together nearly 2,000 every part of the nation. Our objective? To equip leaders to mobilize community-wide and city-wide united prayer movement for national and world revival. The Congress played out in principle what Zechariah wrote about millennia ago: people in one city going to other cities to encourage one another to seek the face of God for the sake of world evangelization.
Standing before the delegates to speak, I asked myself the question: Is this happening in order to start something or because something has already begun? It was not long before the answer was clear. By the final evening, when we hosted a two-and-a-half hour concert of prayer that was broadcast live throughout the islands by FEBC-truly a national concert of prayer-I could testify confidently that the movement has already begun. God is calling forth united prayer within this national church so strategically positioned to make an impact on all of Asia-prayer for the larger work of God, a broad spiritual awakening to Christ and His kingdom purposes.
The Philippines is not the only place in Asia where prayer efforts are increasing. In preparation for this year’s takeover of Hong Kong by the Chinese communist government, Christians there are uniting in prayer for revival as never before. Their vision is for a city so thoroughly revived that it will become a major base of operations for spreading the gospel throughout the whole Chinese world.
But the question remains: Is God truly doing something? Or are these just small pockets of united prayer?
INCENSE RISING WORLDWIDE
What is happening in the Philippines and Hong Kong is happening in many parts of the body of Christ right now As pictured in Rev. 5:8, the united prayers of the saints are filling Gods throne room like clouds of incense. And God will not turn these prayers away He will send His answers with international repercussions (Rev. 8:1-3). Here are some of the signs of united prayers being offered.
Out of the 1989 International Congress for World Evangelization, a “global prayer strategy” was launched to mobilize millions of Christians worldwide into a commitment to spend the first five minutes of our day (as the sun is rising) to intercede for world revival using John 17 as our prayer agenda. In May of 1995, at the Global Consultation of World Evangelization in Seoul, South Korea, this thrust in prayer became the foundation for an even greater mobilization of concerted intercession focused specifically on the completion of the Great Commission in this generation. This foundation is being built through the nearly 30 million intercessors who are involved in the AD2000 and Beyond movement.
Prayer marches continue to grow both in numbers and participating cities. Last year’s March for Jesus saw an estimated 10 million people march in over 2,000 cities in 170 nations worldwide. As na Christians conduct these “traveling prayer meetings,” they sing and pray through the streets at the center of their cities, finally converging for a concluding concert of prayer to ask God to “awaken their cities to Christ.” As a result, new levels of prayer have been initiated within individual congregations also.
On May 1, 1996, a 3,000-strong concert of prayer rally held in suburban Washington, D.C., was broadcast live over 1,000 radio stations; by cable TV networks, which could reach over 130 million homes; over the Armed Services television and radio networks; by satellite-to-satellite dishes at hundreds of churches. It was also translated into Spanish and broadcast by satellite from Alaska to Brazil. Many said this was the largest prayer meeting in the history of the United States (with estimates of about four million Christians united in prayer for those three hours). This year’s broadcast on the National Day of Prayer, will air from The Church on the Way in Los Angeles. An even larger audience is anticipated. Parts of the telecast will again come from Washington, D.C., where similar prayer meetings will be taking place, making this truly a coast-to-coast event.
For the third straight year, Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ have sponsored three days of prayer and fasting for our nation. In 1994 the event saw 600 come together in Orlando. Last years event in St. Louis expanded to 4,000, but thousands more joined together by satellite at locations across the United States. These annual conferences see an amazing cross-section of nationally respected leaders guide the nearly 20 hours of intercession for revival in the United States and worldwide.
In Argentina, an evangelistic plan has set as its goal the establishing of 2,000 “prayer houses,” or family groups, who will systematically cover their neighborhoods house by house with intercession. In addition, frequent prayer vigils uniting all the intercessors of a city for all-night intercession will take place. The pastors also are meeting twice a month for prayer retreats and vigils.
A significant groundswell of prayer among North American high school students is being registered in a number of ways. National conferences are taking place, involving thousands of high school students who come together for three days of nothing but prayer for revival on their campuses and throughout the nation. In recent years, “See You at the Pole” has drawn millions of teens to gather around high school flagpoles to pray for revival to come to their campuses. Many of these September gatherings have resulted in thousands of ongoing prayer groups throughout the year.
In October of 1995, over 30 million intercessors were enrolled to pray and fast for the 100 maj or unreached cities of our world. As well, thousands of intercessors in 100 teams were deployed to prayerwalk through these cities in on-site prayer meetings. It is anticipated that “Praying through the Window III,” culminating this October, will see even more intercessors involved in praying for the lost who live in these least-reached parts of the globe.
In South Africa, interdenominational and multiracial prayer bands have been active for a number of years. Many believe they are the fountainhead of the social and spiritual transformations that are now taking place in that country.
One of the primary tenets of the “National Call to United Prayer,” which came out of a meeting of leaders in January of 1993, noted the “incompleteness” of the revival prayer movement unless all races were involved in it together. As a result, the growing prayer movement stresses racial reconciliation. In November of 1994, tens of thousands gathered in the Los Angeles Coliseum for a night of prayer that focused specifically on building racial reconciliation throughout the city In many cities, these multiracial prayer meetings are becoming commonplace.
Recently, Youth with a Mission helped to mobilize Christians from 70 missions, churches, and related groups into 30 days of prayer for Muslim evangelism.
On October 4th of this year, in Washington, D.C., “Stand in the Gap,” a solemn assembly sponsored by Promise Keepers, will bring together close to a million men to pray for the nation.\
A WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON
This is clearly a worldwide movement. Recent statistics back up this interpretation. Missiologist David Barrett estimates that 170 million Christians are committed to pray every day for revival and evangelization, with 20 million claiming that this is their primary calling in the body of Christ. Ten million prayer groups make revival prayer one of their primary agendas, while hundreds of prayer networks are committed to mobilizing such prayer within denominations, within cities, and within whole nations.
Eleven years ago the vitality of the global prayer movement was unveiled at the International Prayer Assembly for World Evangelization, co-sponsored by the Lausanne Committee and the Korean Evangelical Fellowship. In attendance were 3,000 prayer mobilizers from 70 nations. During that time, I had the privilege of addressing the gathering on the text of Zechariah 8. I urged us to believe that God was ready to do again in principle in our generation exactly what He said He would do through the prophet. The theme for the IPA became “Seeking God’s Face for a Movement of Prayer for the World.”
In the intervening years, we have observed significant identifiable developments in the prayer movement internationally, including the increase of prayer mobilizers bent on drawing the church together into united prayer within whole cities. We have seen the emergence of community-wide pastors’ prayer gatherings for revival, matched by new thrusts in revival prayer within the ranks of denominations and Christian organizations on both a regional and national level.
This movement is finding expression in whole new ways within local churches as well. Several years ago, the Christian Reformed Church published The Praying Church Sourcebook (see review on page 23), based on extensive research on congregational prayer growth within many church traditions. They uncovered a variety of increased prayer activities in churches including: more prayer in worship services, schools of prayer, family prayer altars, telephone prayer ministries, prayer emphasis weeks, prayer chains, prayer triplets, prayer vigils, church prayer support groups, evangelism prayer groups, prayer groups for world missions, pastors’ prayer support groups, concerts of prayer, personal and church-wide prayer retreats, prayer ministry teams, prayer healing services, 24-hour prayer rooms, businessmen’s prayer gatherings, women’s prayer fellowships, seniors’ prayer groups, children’s prayer gatherings, solemn assemblies-to name just a few.
To these could be added other current prayer expressions, often involving multiple churches working together. Some of these include: prayer concerts (city-wide mass-prayer rallies focused on revival in participating churches, on the cities, as well as on world evangelization); prayer-walks (interceding for neighborhoods as Christians walk the streets in teams); prayer marches (interceding for whole cities as churches march together through the center city with songs and prayers); and prayer journeys (where teams of intercessors actually go out among the nations to pray in the midst of specific unreached people groups).
All of these stories suggest that we are standing in the vortex of what may be the most significant prayer movement in the history of the church. Church historian Dr. J. Edwin Orr noted, as a summary statement of his 60 years of study on revival (earning him three Ph.D.s): “Whenever God is ready to do something new with His people, He always sets them to praying.” Even so, today’s crescendo of united prayer has brought us to the threshold of a national and global outpouring of the Holy Spirit, for a worldwide spiritual awakening to Christ. God has done it before; surely He is able, willing. and ready to do it again.