Providential timing: Arizona Southern Baptists join in Year of Prayer in 2020

Nov 30, 2020

By Noah Jaeger

When Arizona Southern Baptists announced in late 2019 the plan to devote 2020 to a year of prayer, no one had an inkling of the challenges the new year would bring. A pandemic, shuttered church buildings, high unemployment, political divisions and more drove us to our knees.

The idea for the year of prayer started when AZSBC President Ashley Evans followed God’s leading in a desire to see significant gospel change in Arizona churches.

“We believe God wants to use the pastors and churches of our convention to see more believers sharing the gospel, more people engaged in missions, more disciples making disciples and more churches planting churches than ever before,” said Evans, pastor of 22nd Street Baptist Church in Tucson. “We want to see a move of God across our state, and that can only come through prayer.”

Arizona Southern Baptist leaders then agreed to the 2020 year of prayer theme, unaware of how needed prayer would be for the upcoming events of 2020.

“President Evans felt the Lord leading us to designate 2020 as a year of prayer before we ever knew anything about COVID-19 or any of the other events of this past year. It has proven to be prophetic and providential!” said David Johnson, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention executive director.

The 4 P’s Prayer Guide was created to help churches as they began to adopt the convention’s vision of prayer. The guide served as a resource to remind churches to pray for pastors, people, God’s providence and the perishing.

“When we developed the 4 P’s Prayer Guide, we had no idea what chaos and tumult 2020 would bring to our churches, nation and world,” said Phil Calvert, senior pastor of Trinity Southern Baptist Church in Casa Grande and a contributor to the 4 P’s Prayer Guide. “But, through it all, God has been moving mightily, and the people of God have responded beautifully and spiritually. No doubt this is in large part due to the daily and personal prayer life of God’s people.”

On the morning of the AZSBC annual meeting Nov. 13, 2020, messengers participate in a guided prayer gathering.

As 2020 continued, churches experienced discouragement and disunity from the effects of COVID-19, quarantine and political divisions. Amid this chaos, Jackie Allen, lead pastor of Cross Church in Surprise, proposed a virtual prayer event to unify Arizona Southern Baptist churches.

On July 14, at 7:14 p.m., more than 570 Arizona Southern Baptists united for the Pray 7:14 Statewide Prayer Meeting. The night was themed after 2 Chronicles 7:14.

“God used this online night of prayer to encourage and lift up hundreds of people from all over Arizona,” Evans said.

As the historic event 9-11 approached, Arizona Southern Baptists were reminded of the painful memory. In commitment to the 2020 year of prayer, Arizona Southern Baptists responded by holding a 9-11 prayer event.

September 11, at 9:11 a.m., Arizona Southern Baptists joined on Zoom for the 911 Call to Prayer Statewide Prayer Meeting. Various church leaders and members led prayers through the 4 P’s Prayer Guide. Once again, churches around the state unified through prayer.

“Prayer is where the power of God is,” said Chris Stull, senior pastor of Wellspring Church in Goodyear and leader in the 9-11 prayer event. “Nothing moves the Father except through prayer.”

Starting on Jan. 1 and concluding on Oct. 21, 2020, Arizona Southern Baptists prayed by name for pastors and churches in the state. Through Arizona Southern Baptists’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, they were prompted to pray for two pastors each weekday and one on Sunday.

Throughout the year, in addition to unity, churches reported seeing increases in decisions to follow Christ, community outreach efforts and financial support from the Arizona Southern Baptists’ 2020 year of prayer emphasis.

Though Arizona Southern Baptists continue to face adversity during 2020, churches have experienced God’s power, grace and unity through the efforts of the AZSBC to redefine 2020 from a year of chaos to a year of redemption.

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