By Tobin Perry
NEW YORK CITY – A total of 1.6 million people call the New York City borough of Manhattan home. It’s undoubtedly one of the most densely populated—and most influential—areas in the world. Just 25 years ago less than 1 percent of Manhattan’s midtown population considered themselves evangelicals. In the late 1980s that led the borough’s pastors to their knees in prayer.
“They didn’t just pray, ‘Lord, bless our city,’” said Steve Canter, the Send North America: New York City missionary. “They literally walked the streets, rallying together, thinking and praying in their neighborhoods. They rallied their churches to pray.”
According to a 2009 study nearly 4 percent of borough residents now consider themselves evangelical. The number of evangelical churches has also almost doubled since September 11, 2001, according to Canter. Canter believes the consistent prayer of those pastors is the only variable to which you can trace that growth back.
That’s a key reason prayer has become a critical component of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send North America: New York City strategy.
“We want to see that kind of focused prayer on every neighborhood of New York City,” Canter said. To help mobilize that focused prayer for New York City’s approximately 380 neighborhoods, Canter and other New York City Southern Baptists have developed the 4•5•1 Initiative, in an effort to mobilize Christians to pray four days a week for five minutes about one neighborhood. So far 200 people have made the commitment.
New York City isn’t alone among NAMB’s 32 Send North America cities in prioritizing prayer. Each Send North America city has included prayer as part of its strategy. In addition, the North American Mission Board’s TenTwo prayer strategy enlists Southern Baptists to pray daily at either 10:02 a.m. or 10:02 p.m. for God to call more church planters to the mission fields of North America, particularly the continent’s cities. The TenTwo strategy is based on Jesus’ words in Luke 10:2, where Jesus commands his followers to pray for God to call more workers to the harvest.
“Unless the Spirit of God moves through the prayers of the saints, we will not experience the supernatural power of God bringing life to lost people” said Gary Frost, NAMB’s Midwest Region vice president who also directs prayer strategies. “We must pray fervently ‘for’ our cities and ‘in’ our cities if we expect to dispel the darkness.”
Through Send North America: Denver, Colorado Baptists are urging Southern Baptists to become prayer partners, called “15ers,” for the Mile High City. The term 15er comes from mountain climbing, a popular Colorado activity. Dave Howeth, NAMB’s city missionary for Denver, says the state has 57 mountains in the state, called “14ers” that are more than 14,000 feet high. The state has no 15er mountain (one that is more than 15,000 feet high). Howeth and other Colorado Baptist leaders hope to grow an email list of 15,000 people who are committed to praying for church planting efforts in metro Denver and the Front Range.
“You don’t plant churches until you plant the gospel,” Howeth said. “You don’t plant the gospel, of course, unless you have people who are praying. We need to have a prayer saturation before we can have a gospel saturation or any kind of movement.”
The Tennessee Baptist Convention is mobilizing volunteers from its churches to pray on site in metro Denver for God to call church planters to specific places in the area. Built to coincide with the North American Mission Board’s Pray TenTwo initiative, the effort will take place the weekend of Oct. 2 to Oct. 4.
Matt Marrs, NAMB’s Send North America: Kansas City missionary, says local leaders in metro Kansas City are working together to establish a day of prayer for the city on Oct. 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Raytown, Mo.Kansas City-area Southern Baptist leaders are focusing their efforts on mobilizing local churches who will commit to pray for the city one day per month.
Local church leaders attending the day of prayer will pray for four specific areas of Send North America: Kansas City: partnering churches, church planters, church replanters and unreached people groups.
“We’re doing really impossible things,” Marrs said. “We talk about reaching Somalis, Pakistanis or Gulf Arabs. You’re not going to just get someone right out of seminary and bring up a mission team from the South, put them together and go reach a very difficult people group with the gospel. That’s only going to happen when the Spirit of God opens the hearts of indigenous people.”
For more information about NAMB’s TenTwo prayer strategy, visit namb.net/Why-TenTwo.
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.