In Nashville all of 24 hours while his wife Donna was home in Memphis, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines had already spoken with her four times, he said, because he loves her and simply loves to hear her voice.
The conversations with his wife served as an analogy to encourage Southern Baptists to talk with God and tell others about our Savior, the theme of his sermon on the first evening of the SBC Executive Committee meeting in Nashville Feb. 20-21.
"If you love somebody you talk with them; you don't just talk to them, you listen to them, with them," he said. "And if you love someone, you talk about them. What I just said is really at the heart of what we ought to be about in the Southern Baptist Convention—prayer and evangelism.
"It's a love issue, it's not just a discipline issue," said Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis. "I don't have to discipline myself to love my wife. I love my wife, and because I love my wife, I talk with her and I talk about her."
Gaines used the example of the early church in Acts 4 to present prayer as key to the work of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ for evangelism, unity, power, miracles and a host of blessings essential to Kingdom building. He addressed the Executive Committee, its officers and staff, various entity leaders and a host of denominational servants in attendance.
"What good is a prayerless preacher? What good is a prayerless church? What good is a prayerless missionary? What good is a prayerless denominational worker?" Gaines asked. "What good is a prayerless seminary? What good is a prayerless theologian or a prayerless professor? What good is a prayerless conservative, because if you love somebody, you talk with them. If you don't talk with them, you really don't love them."
In a message bathed in Scripture, spoken lyrics and such songs as "Teach Me to Pray" and "Down On My Knees," Gaines presented the benefits of prayer found in the text.
Power to overcome persecution
Prayer allows God's people to overcome persecution through faith and grace, Gaines said, using the example in Acts 3 of Peter and John, who on their way to the temple to pray healed a lame beggar and preached the resurrection of Jesus to those amazed at the miracle. Imprisoned and questioned by the city's rulers about his sermon, Peter persevered, answering with yet another sermon.
Prayer brings unity
Gaines encouraged the SBC to pray in one accord and to exhibit one mind, heart and soul, as did Peter and John in Acts 4:23.
"Unity will not come via social media. Twitter can't produce unity, prayer can," Gaines said. "Unity won't occur with divisive discourse; prayer can bring unity."
He encouraged humility and affirmation of central beliefs even if disagreement exists on subsidiary points. "We must lay down our personal agendas, and one thing that will help us to do that is to cry out to God together in prayer."
Prayer brings dependence on Scripture
Gaines encouraged the SBC to depend on the Word of God, referencing Acts 4:23-30, which included passages from Nehemiah 9, Psalm 2 and Psalm 146; and Jesus' prayer on the cross, which quoted Psalm 22:1 and Psalm 31:5.
"They understood that the Word of God will lead to the will of God," Gaines said, "and when we pray the will of God, 1 John says, God hears us and we know that we have what we requested."
Prayer brings confidence in God
Confidence in God is not condescending and conceited, Gaines said, but is Spirit-filled.
"They knew that they were being held by the sovereign hands of almighty God," Gaines said of Peter and John. "They knew it. It gave them a boldness."
Prayer offers strategic petitions
Prayer must not only be specific, Gaines said, but must also be strategic. The strategic request for boldness in Acts 4:29 was granted in Act. 4:31, he observed.
Prayer ushers in miracles
"When they prayed, God performed a miracle," Gaines said. "Now He doesn't always do this, but I think He liked that prayer meeting."
Miracles are not confined to a specific historical age, but are confined to a specific God, Gaines said. "There's never been a day of miracles; there's always a God of miracles."
Prayer leads to evangelism
After praying, Peter and John spoke the Word with great power and testified to the resurrection of Jesus.
"When you pray, when you talk with someone, after a while, you're going to talk about them," he said. "When you talk to God in prayer, you'll share the Gospel."
Other benefits of prayer
Prayer also allows Christians and congregations to experience bountiful grace, become exceptionally generous and produce gifted leaders, Gaines said.
"God gave us His son. Jesus gave us His life. The Holy Ghost gave us His power and He gave us spiritual gifts," Gaines said. "You're never more like God than when you're giving."
God has everything the church needs, Gaines said, and it is accessible through prayer.
"Do you want the SBC to look like the Book of Acts, or will we settle for less? Dare we operate in God's power instead of our power?" Gaines asked. "Do you want to see the world turned upside down? Are you tired of seeing what man can do?"
If you are ready to see what God can do, Gaines encouraged Southern Baptists, turn your eyes on Jesus.