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The Prayers of Donald McGavran




Donald McGavran was, with his wife Mary, a missionary to India for 30 years.
He was also a scholar, author and teacher who pioneered in the development of church growth theory when he returned to the United States in 1956. He spent the last decades of his long life developing and winning acceptance for church growth as a theory and an academic discipline. But for him it was never an isolated field of scholarly study, but rather a means of equipping the Christian church to spread the Good News of the salvation available through Jesus Christ.

In 1979, Dr. McGavran (shown right leading a seminar at Winona Lake, Indiana in 1965) taught a course on advanced church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California to a group of experienced missionaries and church leaders. The class cover both theories and the actual situation of the church in many countries and regions of the world. The BGC Archives has on audio tape all the sessions of this class. Each class was begun with a prayer which were powerful expressions of McGavran's love of Christ and his strong evangelistic calling, as well as eloquence and knowledge of the Bible and church history. So that people can continue to benefit from his vision, transcripts of selected prayers from the class are listed below.

When this symbol: is next to a transcript, it is also possible to listen to an audio clip of McGavran as he prays the prayer.

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Collection 178, T32 - January 3, 1979 (81 seconds)

[Tape begins in the midst of the prayer]...growth of Your church our first act is to give thanks to Your for the church, the body our Christ, Your household, a sure refuge in the midst of storms, a mighty instrument Lord in Your hand for the reformation of men and societies. We thank You for what each one of us owes to the church. None of us would be here, would be saved, would have hope of heaven or power on earth but for the church. We thank You for the tremendous extension of the church throughout the earth and for the army of missionaries for the gospel, who generation after generation have gone out to proclaim the Good News and disciple the nations. Most of all, good Lord, we thank You for Jesus Christ, the head of the church, our savior and our Lord. Grant, we beseech You, to each of us Your special blessing as we study how to extend the church, how to multiply congregations, how to increase units of the redeemed, units of peace and justice in all peoples, all tribes, all casts. all classes of society that praise and thanksgiving to Your glory may resound from every city and hamlet throughout the earth. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T33 - January 5, 1979

Let us open this class with prayer...with prayer. Almighty and everlasting God, You have called a people for Yourself from the ends of the earth and a portion of that people is here assembled. Grant the increase of Your rule and Your passion among us and pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us that Your name may be proclaimed to all who sit in darkness and the shadow of death and such as are elected to salvation may be gathered into the church under the care of the great shepherd of the sheep, even Jesus Christ, our lord. Multiple, good Lord, congregations of the redeemed in every land, among every people and grant to them all an undying concern for the propagation of the Gospel and the multiplication of sound churches of the redeemed. Bless our study together. Kindle our imaginations and heighten our courage and increase our dedication that Your saving health may be known among all peoples. These things we pray in Christ's name. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T34 - January 8, 1979 [98 seconds]

[Audio of the first half of the prayer badly distorted on the original recording] Let us pray. Gracious God, You are all pervading love enfolds us. Your salvation, made known of old through Your prophets and made operational in the life and death of our savior, flows fast and wide throughout the earth. You send forth a constant stream of missionaries of the Gospel, that those who live in darkness may know the light of the world, even our Lord Jesus Christ. We stand amazed, Lord, at the extent and diversity of the missionary laborers of Your household. We stand even more amazed and humbled and affrighted at the enormous numbers of those who have not yet heard that there is a savior and that by belief in Him sinful men may become righteous and [words unclear] blind men may receive eternal life. [Brief section missing] through the expansion of Christianity, and the advance of the Gospel, and plan for the birth of multitudes of new congregations of the redeemed. Among all the thousands of pieces of the human mosaic, touch our eyes that we may see the truth, and touch our hearts that we may burn with compassion, and steel our wills, good Lord, that we may do those things that we know we ought to do. This we ask in Christ's blessed name. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T35 - January 10, 1979 (70 seconds)

Eternal God, father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whose command all families of men came forth and were sent to all portions of the earth, we worship and adore You. We remember that Your son, our savior, died for the salvation of all men, everywhere, and for all tribes and castes of men. And we are gathered here, good Lord, to study how the churches can carry out the Great Commission to the ends of the earth. And at the beginning of this period we again offer to You our minds and our intellects. Take them, we beseech You, and use them for the advance of the gospel. Teach us how we may understand the complex task and may analyze correctly the enormous body of data concerning Christian mission in all lands. To the end, that Your will may be done and Your saving health may be known in every tribe and tongue and people and nation. This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T36 - January 12, 1979 (74 seconds)

Assembled, let's pause for prayer. Almighty God, our kind and loving heavenly father, we bow in reverence and are before You. We are creatures of such limited power, such short tenure, such frailty. We know so little and You, O Lord our God are omniscient. You are the truth without any admixture of error. You are light and in You is no darkness at all. You dwell, O God, in light unapproachable. No man at any time has seen You and yet of Your great goodness, You have granted to us fallen, limited mortals ability at least in part, Lord, to know truth and to seek truth. And You have bestowed on us the ability to think reasonably. Grant then that our joint search for truth this morning concerning this spread of the gospel and nature of missiology spread may have Your blessing. Lead us to know You holy will and then, good Lord, courage to do it. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T37 - January 15, 1979 (64 seconds)

Now let us pause a moment as we look to God in prayer. Almighty God, ruler of the nations You've declared "I am God and there is no other." You created the world and all races and tribes and classes of mankind. And then, good Lord, You sent Your son Jesus Christ, our Lord, to reveal Your will for mankind and to become the one sufficient sacrifice for sin. You call all men to repentance and to salvation through faith in His mighty name. Only by confessing Him as savior and lord may men be saved. And only by acknowledging Him as king of their lives may they enter Your kingdom. Bring speedily, O God, that day when sin and death will be overcome, when the new heavens and the new earth will be inaugurated and Your will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T38 - January 17, 1979 (82 seconds)

Let's look to God in prayer. Almighty and everlasting God, You say to Your people, "I will make You a light to the gentiles so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth." Good Lord, You sent Your son, even Jesus Christ our Lord, that by His sacrifice the sins of all who believe in Him might be forgiven and expunged from Your record. And today You send Your missionaries from every race and nation, speaking many languages, belonging to many branches of the church, to proclaim the way of salvation and to incorporate believers into the church, the body of Christ, there to adore You, obey You, and carry out Your holy will as obedient subjects of the King. Grant us this morning Your wisdom as we seek to understand what the discipling of the nations means and what it means that Your salvation may reach to the ends of the earth and how best we, Your obedient servants, may carry out the commands of our King. In Christ's blessed name we pray. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T39 - January 19, 1979 (65 seconds)

Let's pause for prayer. Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we give You thanks for the great army of apostles and missionaries and pioneers of the Gospel whom You have thrust out century after century to men and societies who have never heard of Your Son, the savior, the light of the world and the one sufficient sacrifice for sin; for the wisdom and dedication of Your ambassadors; for the new life they have brought to multitudes; for the new civilizations they have established; and for the martyrs and heroes among them; and for the new churches raised up; and the dark pall of ignorance rolled back. For all these good things we thank You and praise You. Grant us, good Lord, wisdom to understand our duty and courage to do it, counting no labor too great. In Christ's blessed name we ask. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T40 - January 22, 1979 (79 seconds)

So let's look to God in prayer. Almighty and everlasting God You've given the Bible to be a revelation of Your holy will concerning Yourself and men, sin and salvation, heaven and hell, justice and mercy, and all things necessary to lead a godly life. Of Your great mercy, good Lord, You've also displaced for all men to see and for the church to emulate Your passion that the gospel proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Bring speedily, O God, the time when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Your son, our savior Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Bring speedily the time when bands of the redeemed everywhere will so love You and so understand Your infallible revelation that they may be strong to forgive their enemies and do justice and love kindness and make the social units where they have influence better and sweeter places in which to live. These things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T41 - January 24, 1979 (81 seconds)

Let's look to God in prayer. Our Savior and our King, Lord God Almighty, You dwell in light unapproachable. No man has at any time seen You. Your ways, O Lord, are not our ways and Your thoughts are not our thoughts and yet, good Lord, it has pleased You to reveal Yourself in the word written and in the word made flesh in Your son, our savior, Jesus Christ so that all those who believe might know...might know You, Lord, as father and love You and obey You and tell others about the way of salvation which You have graciously opened to all men through belief in Jesus Christ. We give You thanks for the tremendous spread of the gospel, for our comrades at work through the ages and today around the world, for the churching of the nations, for the evangelization of the world, for the rolling back of the great pall of ignorance and the blindness of idolatry and superstition. Speed the gospel we beseech You. Show us new and better ways of encouraging men and women to become new creatures in Christ Jesus our Lord to Your honor and glory. In His blessed name we pray. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T42 - January 26, 1979 (70 seconds)

Let us pray. Almighty and Everlasting God we thank You and bless Your name for the promises given in the Bible that the peoples of earth will hear Your voice and follow in Your way. We rejoice, good Lord, in the prophecy of Your servant Zechariah, "Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion, for behold I am coming and will dwell in Your midst. Many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become my people. Then I will dwell in Your midst and You will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me, not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says the Lord of hosts." We pray You, O Lord our God, to bring speedily this day when the light will shine out of darkness and Your law will be inscribed on the hearts of men and women of every tribe and tongue. We pray this in Jesus' blessed name. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T43 - January 29, 1979 (71 seconds)

Our gracious and loving God, of Your great goodness, You have opened a costly and precious way of salvation to us and to all men. And here in America You have called a mighty church into being. In every state and every county, every town, and every city You have gathered together a redeemed people. For this we thank You and praise Your holy name. And yet, our Father, so many of our fellow citizens, our friends and our relatives, are as yet walking in their own strength and are either open unbelievers or, Lord, very nominal and careless Christians. Awaken Your church in North America, good Lord. Arouse her concern for the millions of masterless, saviorless men and women and show her how she can become more effective in her evangelism. Grant her grace that she may find and enfold Your lost sons and daughters, that Your banquet hall may be filled. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

Collection 178, T44 - January 31, 1979 (98 seconds)

Let's look to God in prayer. Creator God, our kind and loving heavenly Father, You brought order out of chaos, light out of darkness, and love out of hate. You created man in Your own image and multiplied men upon the earth. You dispersed the families of mankind throughout all of the continents and countries and gave them different languages and customs. You declared, "Turn to me and be saved all the ends of the earth; for I am God and there is no other. To me every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear allegiance." As we consider the evangelization of the Philippine Islands today, Lord, and the establishment of true and living churches there, in every barrio and every ward of every town and every city, we confess that the task is far greater than our power. So we turn to You, the only true God, and lean our weakness against Your strength. We remember Your promise that You will give the Lord Jesus to be a light to the nations "...so that My salvation shall reach to the ends of the earth," and are heartened and encouraged. Accept our morning worship, Lord, and bless our study of Christian mission that Your will may in true be done on earth as it is in heaven. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, we pray in Your blessed name. Amen

Collection 178, T45 - February 2, 1979 (69 seconds)

[Sound quality of this clip is very poor] Let us pray. Our Father God, as we meet this morning to study the growth of Your church we see before us both in this city and around the world enormous numbers of Your children who are far from home. We see masterless and saviorless men and women, boys and girls of every region and every tongue, living in their own strength, alienated from You, the constant prey, Lord, to to self and sin. Pour out on Your church we beseech You, O Lord, a great spirit of compassion that she may surge out in effective mission, proclaiming and living the Gospel in such a persuasive and winsome way that the rivers of the water of life may flow through the thirsty land and multitudes perishing in a great famine of the word of God may drink the water and eat the bread of heaven and live. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T47 - February 9, 1979 (153 seonds)

Let us pray. Our Savior God, we gather this morning in the year of grace 1979 - nineteen hundred and fifty years, dear Lord, since You in human form walked this common earth, nineteen hundred and fifty years. And yet there are incomprehensible multitudes who have not heard Your blessed name and even more who have yet to believe on the Lord Jesus. In this class, Lord, we have considered various topics that bear closely on the spread of the glorious Gospel and the extension of the liberating church and the multiplication of souls of the redeemed. We look out on so many congregations and denominations which have plateaued and are stagnant in so many lands. Breathe on them, Lord, and on us, that a mighty surge of power may flow through Your household and that communication of the Good News become the normal activity of Your people everywhere. Keep our studies, good Lord, focused most closely on carrying out the Great Commission. This is the task to which You have called us, that rivers of the water of life might flow freely throughout the parched and thirsty land. Deliver us from all easy irresponsibility, all mouthing of platitudes regardless of the actual extent of the spread of the churches. May we every hunger and thirst after effectiveness in our missionary activity. May we constantly reach out to become better servants of You, who came to seek and save the lost, more closely identified with You, who gave Your life a ransom for many, more ready to give our accounts, Lord, to You, when it pleases You to call us home. Grant that this course of study may result in a faster and further spread of the household of faith and the multiplication of sound Christian churches in every land on earth, that Your will may be done on earth, as it is in heaven. This we pray through the merit of our Lord. Amen.

Collection 178, T48 - February 9, 1979 (75 seconds)

Let's look to God in prayer. Our Father God, You've commanded us to pray at all times and assured us that we receive not because we ask not, and of Your great goodness have answered our prayers beyond anything we could ask or think. You have poured out grace upon grace upon Your household, abundant life here and eternal life beyond. We give You thanks, good Lord, that You are so instantly available to all those who call upon You believing. Before we speak, You know what we are going to say. You invade our hearts. You heal our sicknesses. Your forgive our sins. You give us peace and joy and strength. You bless our labors. Your speak through us to others and beyond our poor efforts, good Lord, You work miracles all around us. For all these rich outpourings of Your love and mercy we thank You and praise Your holy name. Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.

Collection 178, Tape T49 - February 12, 1979 (103 seconds)

Let us look to God in prayer. Almighty God, we gather here this morning as members of Your church, all of us, Lord. You Lord Jesus declared, "I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against her." For her, You poured out Your precious blood. For her leaders You prayed, "I do not ask for these alone, but for those also who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, even as Thou , Father, art in me and I in Thee, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that Thou didst send me." And, good God, through the ages so many of Thy servants have prayed and worked for the unity of the church. And yet, O Lord, we see the church terribly divided and shut up in many linguistic and economic and geographic and convictional compartments. We confess that we have at times aided in establishing or maintaining such divisions. So we cry to You, our Savior, to heal the divisions of the church and make her truly one in unwavering devotion to You and send her out to redeem and bless and disciple all families and tribes and classes and conditions of men everywhere. This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collection 178, T50 - February 14, 1979 (67 seconds)

Let us look to God in prayer. O Lord our God, our kind and loving Father, we pause in amazement and wonder at the marvelous plan by which You have created this intricate world within us and the expanding universe around us and the mind of man which discovers and catalogues and remembers and reasons. You have called us to be good stewards of Your grace, good managers of Your enterprises, responsible leaders of Your church. Lord as we this morning consider administering for church growth, administering that the Good News may flow freely and rapidly to the ends of the earth, to all tribes and castes and conditions of man, grant us the spirit of knowledge and the wisdom of good administrators. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Your son. Amen

Collection 178, T51 - February 16, 1979 (107 seconds)

Let us pray together. We gather before You, O Lord our God, as men whom You have called, called to be Your ministers and missionaries and administrators. Into our hands ,good Lord, You have delivered considerable ability and resources. You have appointed us as stewards. And You have given us responsibilities and from us You will require an accounting. And we are told that it is required of a steward that he be found faithful. We discharge our duties, O Lord, in a very complex world where many priorities war within us and without us. We live in such a welter of demands. So many people are shouting that we should follow what they think is important, and our own hearts, Lord, are pulled this way and that. And so we cry to You our compassionate God, send out Your light and Your truth. Let them lead us. In this class and in every class help us discern what is Your clear command and where we are left to do what we think best. Help us weigh most carefully between two appealing courses of action. Show Your clear light of Your revelation on our pathway. And above all, O God, give us the courage to walk the paths which You show to us. In Christ's name. Amen.

Collection 178, T52 - February 21, 1979 (133 seconds)

Let's come to order and look to God in prayer. Almighty and everlasting God this morning we bow before You for in prayer for the great cities of earth - London and Hong Kong and Tokyo and Berlin and Delhi and Rome and Kinshasa and Havana and Moscow and Lima and Sao Paulo and Chicago and Mexico City and hundreds of others. Good Lord, in such great measure, these are dark and evil places where crime and prostitution and injustice flourish, where demonic powers stalk the streets and Your sons and daughters become dehumanized. And yet, Lord, in such great measure these are also good places full of education and invention and manufacture and books and great hospitals and universities and seminaries and churches and tremendous interchange of ideas and inspiration. Empower Your churches, O God, to see the cities as the decisive battlefields of our day and to discern the real enemies and to fight manfully on, heeding neither weariness nor wounds, 'til You have built in these cities the New Jerusalem. And empower us, Your servants, to regard these morning classes not as academic exercises heading toward paper degrees, but as Your assemblies, Your assemblies, good Lord, in which we open ourselves to Your presence and tune our ears to Your commands and identify ourselves with our brothers and sisters perishing in the contemporary famine of Your word. This we ask in Jesus' blessed name. Amen.

Collection 178, T53 - February 23, 1979 (100 seconds)

Creator of the universe, to You everything is known. You are the Lord. You know the end from the beginning, You give peace which passes understanding. You are our safe shelter, our rock in a weary land, our sure deliverer. We rest our weakness against Your mighty strength. And yet, good Lord, the times in which You have sent us here to live are troublous. The family is breaking up. Western civilization appears to be in irreversible decline. Immoralities of many kinds thrive. Unbelief increases. Many declare that we live in a post-Christian era. And the population explosion, good Lord, burdens the earth, and produces unbelievable tensions. And the armament race continues... [Tape static] ...this hour. Church membership in many nations declines. Out of this distress we cry to You, almighty God. [To] whom else can we turn? There is no other course but Your forgiveness and Your intervention. Hear our prayers. Grant us vision. Show us the path back to Jerusalem. Rebuild the waste places and multiply the cells of those who believe in Your son our savior Jesus Christ. In His blessed name we pray. Amen.

Collection 178, T54 - February 26, 1979 (95 seconds)

Let us pray. Most merciful God because of Your divine compassion and Your tender mercies continuously repeated, we dare to gather in Your presence and address our prayers to You, our Father. We remember how You, Lord Jesus, in the days of Your flesh, went about doing good, casting out evil spirits, and healing all manner of diseases. The lame, the blind, the leprous by Your touch and Your gracious word were healed and restored. The dead were raised. Great physician, You set before mankind a new standard of tenderness and concern for persons. You came to give men and women abundant life and wholeness and abounding health. As today, Lord, we consider the ministry of healing and the growth of the church in the modern world and carry out the apostolic injunction to pray for the sick and anoint them with oil and heal them in Your powerful name, grant us, good Lord, wisdom and good judgement and discernment. Above all, Lord, grant us faith and obedience that we may be good stewards of Your healing power. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

Collection 178, T55 - January 28, 1979 (63 seconds)

Let's look to God in prayer as we begin our study together. Our Father God, we rejoice in the delights of learning, of discovery, and the excitement of exploring new continents of thought. You are maker and creator. You almighty God, You pure and unlimited thought, have of Your great goodness given us these powers: eyes to see and ears to hear, minds to reason, imaginations to anticipate, and memories to recall. We thank You, O God our Lord. We adore You and worship You. You made us in Your image. O Holy Spirit, guide us into all truth. We ask this is Jesus' name. Amen.

Collection 178, T56 - March 5, 1979 (68 seconds)

Let us look to God in prayer. Gracious and merciful God, our heavenly Father, You sent Your son into the world to open a great door of salvation to all nations, tribes, languages, classes and conditions of men. We gather here this morning as a special task force called by You from all over the world. You sent us here, good Lord, to read and study and discuss and discover how Your missionaries and Your churches may better and do more effectively the task You have given them. We gather to share our knowledge, to learn from each other. We assume that we can carry out our mission better than we have been carrying it out. In our deliberations, good Lord, we beseech Your guidance, Your light. We would hear Your voice and be sensitive to Your will. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

Collection 178, T57 - March 7, 1979 (91 seconds)

We'll look to God in prayer. O Lord our God, in Your mind arose the marvelous complexity of this world in which we live: the one hundred and two basic elements of which the material world is composed, the orbits and measurements of the billions of stars, the position and orbits of the planets, the speeds and masses of nuclear particles and of light. Who but You, creator God, have measure the mind of man? Mathematics is but a reflection of Your ordinary thinking. All measurement arises in the exact proportioning of all things by You, Eternal Mind. As this morning, good Lord, we seek to measure the degree to which various parts of the social mosaic have become Christian, we pray Your blessing on our poor and elementary attempts-- so time bound, so frail, so filled with transcency and error. Give us a vision of the truth and a great determination to discover and state it, that in its light we may prove ourselves to be faithful servants of Yours and good stewards of Your abounding mercies. These petitions are offered to You in the name of Jesus Christ, Your son, our Savior. Amen.

Collection 178, T58 - March 9, 1979 (57 seconds)

Let us pray. On this last day of this course, Lord, we give You thanks that You have called us to Your service in a day in which the Gospel is being proclaimed in a new way, with more vigor, with new hope and new effectiveness. Grant us, good Lord, wisdom and courage sufficient for these days. And grant that we serve honestly and intelligently. Deliver us from complaining. Make us sensitive to the leadings of Your Holy Spirit that we may play our part well in the revival and extension of Your church and the tremendous improvement of life which it is Your purpose to bring about. In Christ's blessed name we pray. Amen.


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