Prayer Targets: Doug Small; Solemn Assembly; National Prayer
April 29, 2020
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18
Dear Praying Friends,
Doug Small (see bio) is a Bible teacher, prayer leader, ordained Bishop, International Director of Prayer Ministries with the Church of God, and President of Project Pray. These edited excerpts are from his April 2020 white paper "Establishing City Elders - Gathering at the City Gates":
During the international lock-down, I have considered what God might be saying. I was drawn back to my work with International Renewal Ministries (Pastor's Prayer Summits) and DAWN ministries (Discipling A Whole Nation). DAWN attempted to do in cities what they had previously done, effectively, in nations. In the Philippines, for example, in 1975, there were approximately 5000 protestant churches in a population of 35 million. The nation was severely under-churched. DAWN calculated that the population by 2000 would be 50 million. Based on their best estimate, they needed to plant 45,000 churches in 25 years. The idea was insane. The task was daunting. With the data in hand, they called for a congress on the missional need of the nation. Denominations, church planting movements, key leaders and para-church organizations, came together. They developed collaborative plans. They refused to compete. They shared their successes and failures. They shared resources. They loaned staff. All training by any group was open to all groups. No key partner could fail -- it was one for all, and all for one. The world watched the experiment. As the year 2000 came, they quantified the result. They had surpassed their goal of 45,000 new churches in the nation and tasted a slice of national spiritual awakening.
This is what happens when we come together! But, is it the result of collaboration and good planning? Or, is it evidence of God's supernatural intervention when, in humility, we join in prayer, declaring our dependence on God, before an otherwise impossible task? We must come together. And pastors must lead the way! It is time for a council of spiritual elders in our cities.
Office and authority matter. To pray is one thing, but to pray out of and with authority, indeed, with the representative authority of office is another. Authority in scripture is carefully meted out. It is connected to the issue of godly character. It is exercised for a divine purpose. When elders/pastors of a city come together, under God's authority, they exercise a greater level of authority, one that exceeds that of a single congregation. They operate with the authority of a council of elders. Psalm 133 declares unity and harmony of leaders to be "good and pleasant." It invites an anointing, a priestly anointing that fits us for the work of ministry, "...like fine oil on the head... running down Aaron's beard over the collar of his robes." It is like the "dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion." It invites a refreshing over an entire region. "For there," in that place, over that city, throughout that region, "the LORD has bestowed (commanded, ESV) the blessing of life forevermore." Who? What? -- can stop God's decree or command? Nothing. No one. Not a man. Not a king. All hell cannot stand against a sovereign decree of God.
Unity does not happen accidentally. The disorder of our age stands against it. (Psalm 2). In this passage, a triumphant Christ is prophetically contrasted with the earthly authority of kings. Why then, do we cower before kingly authority, before an unjust government, before unbiblical law? Unity is revolutionary. It is love in action, essential. It is evidence of our own transformation. It is for this unity that Jesus prayed in the last hours of his life (John 17). Such unity invites God's anointing (Psalm 133).
The first century church was not intimidated. We should be reminded of the note of Paul, "This thing was not done in a corner!" (Acts 26:26). In the face of oppression and a government that is increasingly hostile to faith, we must not be frightened and browbeaten. This is a battle for our communities, for the lost who live in them. It is a battle on behalf of and in the name of Jesus. For a moral environment in which we can raise our children. For the right of free speech, especially, religious speech.
Here is another concern. We don't see the issues above as the property or concern of the church. We have narrowed church and faith to private heart issues, to calls to be born again and make heaven our home. Where is the great concern for justice? For community righteousness? For mercy? Where is the perennial concern shown in the New Testament as well as the old for the poor, for widows and orphans? A godly elder is not intimated or afraid to take a stand up for righteousness. He stands against those who "afflict the righteous... take a bribe and push aside the needy in the gate" (Amos 5). Such elders work as a prophetic voice in the city against under-the-table deals, against regulations and laws that fail to take into consideration the poor, that push back against godliness.
When Paul left Titus in Crete, he did so "to appoint elders in every city." This was not civil leadership for a city, but spiritual leadership in and for a city. Again, in the New Testament, elders were associated not merely with a congregation, but with a city (Titus 1:5). [In the Old Testament] when Moses started the mission of freeing Israel, one of his first steps was to "gather the elders" (Ex. 3:16). He was the intercessory agent, working between Pharaoh, the civil authority with a hard heart, and the elders of Israel, with faithless hearts. He simply gives a report, noting that something is happening that is bigger than him. God is moving, acting, and he is in the middle, a mere spokesman, an observer of God's actions, and a hearer of His words, "I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt." (Exodus 3:16).
When the city of Jerusalem was about to be destroyed (1 Chronicles 21:16), David, with the elders of the city, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces, and pleaded for the sake of the city. And the city was spared. This is the role of spiritual leaders -- to stand between God and judgment, God and peril, as intercessors.
Joel 1:14 offers a prescription for revival, "Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred solemn] assembly; Gather the elders." Notice the priority, the prerequisite gathering of elders. In Nehemiah 4:9, with resistance brewing, the watchers were engaged, a metaphor for intercession. "But we prayed to our God, and because of them, we set up a guard against them day and night." And such prayer made a difference -- the wall was built, the gates replaced, the city saved, a renewal birthed.
The Heart of Solemn Assembly -- This past weekend, Pastor Dan Biser of West Virginia hosted a virtual "solemn assembly," circumventing the coronavirus pandemic by gathering believers together online to stand in the gap for the church and America via repentance and prayer patterned after 2 Chronicles 7:14, Joel 2:12-18, etc. Over the centuries of Bible history, the people of Israel hardened their hearts against God again and again. Having forsaken his Laws, they lost their spiritual eyesight, and recklessly plunged into gross sin and idolatry. Remarkably patient, God ultimately sent his promised judgments to awaken and correct his people via plagues, droughts, and spectacular calamities of various kinds. Even amid them, he raised up faithful and courageous prophets and kings -- godly, religious civil leaders to confront the people with their sins, and call them to genuine repentance, wholehearted obedience, prayer, and relationship with God and holy living. He used the vehicle of solemn assembly for a thorough airing out of sin and reaffirmation of their relationship with God -- a turning point for that nation. The virtual solemn (or sacred) assembly Pastor Biser organized dealt with scriptures that far too many preachers avoid -- the judgments of God, eternal judgment, heaven and hell, repentance, and the neglect of the Great Commission. I sensed that it was an inauguration of a season of solemn assemblies small and large that will prepare God's people for a National and International Solemn Assembly planned for the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on September 26, 2020, just weeks before a critical national election. God's people must go into this election with clean hands and a pure heart.
Important Prayer Week for National Prayer -- The coronavirus has brought much pain, loss, suffering, and death to America and the entire world. But there has been a silver lining amid the horror of this pandemic: Prayer is on the increase, even among non-believers, according to a Pew study earlier this month. Prayer movements via phone are mustering more and more participants, and they keep coming back for more. Many Americans are attending virtual church services where there is more prayer than usual even though they have not darkened the door of the church in years.
Two organized days of prayer and repentance are planned. One is the National Day of Prayer, which was enacted by Congress and proclaimed by every president since Harry Truman and is observed on the first Thursday of May (May 7). This year's theme is "Pray for God's Glory Across the Earth." Due to "social-distancing" requirements and other restrictions, many of the 40-50,000 NDP events organized nationwide will be held via the internet.
Praying on the Mountain -- Ninety-five-year-old retired pastor Fred Lunsford, a decorated WWII vet who fought at Normandy, the battle of the Bulge, and the allied liberation of France, is taking on another challenge. Revered for his ministry, community service, and philanthropy among Baptist pastors and the prayer movement in his region of the country and beyond, he is known for his life of prayer. A few years after his wife died, he began to feel that it was his time, too. He asked the Lord to take him, but after a long silence the Lord said he had something more for him. Fred, close to many of the area pastors, invited 100 pastors to join him for a day of prayer in a prayer garden atop the mountain he owns. Two hundred signed up. When the coronavirus hit, and social distancing was implemented, Fred sought the Lord again, and felt he needed to invite believers everywhere to join him from their homes for a day of prayer and fasting. He hoped for 10,000 believers to respond. As of yesterday, just short of 106,000 believers had signed up. Visit the website Praying on the Mountain set up by Mud Creek Baptist Church. Pastor George Mathis is producing a video documentary about Fred and his prayer ministry which he will post for streaming on the same website in a couple weeks. WKRK radio in Murphy, N.C. will record a half hour of the prayer time with Fred and the handful of pastors who can be together under the current regs. Then they will rush the footage to the studio at WKRK Radio (available on TuneIn Radio as WKRK) and on the station's Facebook site at 1:05 PM on Tuesday to serve as a touchpoint for prayer. There is not an adequate internet signal on the mountain strong enough to livestream.
- May God empower the prayers, confessions, and repentance offered at these events, and use them as sparks toward revival in our churches and Awakening in our nation and beyond.
Finally, please pray over these important matters:
1) Churches and state authorities, including governors and the courts, are struggling over how much freedom churches have under the U.S. Constitution to conduct church services and prayer meetings during these extraordinary times and whether churches are "essential" like many businesses (e.g., medical facilities, grocers, home improvement businesses, etc.). FRC believes churches should cooperate with the authorities but should resist if they experience unreasonable demands or discrimination (e.g., particularly when other non-church groups are not held to the same standard). Meanwhile, now that state governors are setting their own guidelines, some states are opening up sooner. Texas will lift its stay-at-home order beginning tomorrow. Some churches choose to stay sequestered even though they have the freedom to meet, yet with guidelines. (Read FRC's Restrictions on Religious Freedom During the Coronavirus Crisis)
2) Several states have declared abortion to be an essential service, while others have not. It is reported that clinic waiting rooms in such states are packed with women from states that consider the abortion trade non-essential. Lawsuits are underway and courts have come d own on both sides. Since when did taking innocent life become an essential service anywhere? (See Essential?)
3) Various states continue to advocate for Born-Alive Infant protection laws. Kentuckians say Governor Beshear's veto of such a bill passed by the state legislature "unimaginable," but it happened (see FRC's pro-life states maps).
4) The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) of which FRC President Tony Perkins serves as Chairman, published its annual report on the State of Religious Freedom around the globe and how the countries are ranked. Read Tony's thoughts on Umpiring Religious Freedom around the World.
There is much more information to help you pray at: Ways to Connect with FRC.
As always, thank you for praying!