As Americans prepare to reflect on the physical and emotional scars left behind by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Awakening America Alliance and Cry Out America are leading a national effort to pray for God to usher in a spiritual awakening in the United States.
In addition to asking churches to pray during Sunday morning services on Sept. 11, the date of the 10th anniversary of the attacks, there are also prayer gatherings scheduled to take place in thousands of different counties across the United States later that same day.
Billy Wilson, executive director of the International Center for Spiritual Renewal and the chair of the Awakening America Alliance (AAA), describes 9/11 as "one of the greatest wake-up call days of our generation." Cry Out America was formed with the hope that God would lead the country into an even greater spiritual awakening.
"There was a collapse of things we felt were certain," Wilson said of the attacks. "The towers in New York City we thought would never fall, we thought the Pentagon would never be breached and penetrated, and so there was a collapse of things we thought certain. And for the last ten years we've seen across America things we thought were stable and certain have collapsed. We've seen the collapse of finance, the collapse of the stock market, of different sectors of the business world. Even morally in America, in many ways, we've seen collapse."
But all is not lost. AAA, a coalition of various Christian denominations and ministries, has organized Cry Out America for the last four years under the belief that prayer can result in lives being changed nationwide by and for Christ.
So far, prayer gatherings are scheduled to take place in over 3,400 counties and 1,300 churches across the United States and its territories. There is at least one county from each of the 50 states participating, in addition to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The organization expects this Sunday's event to have more participants than ever before.
"When there's an awakening people become more aware both of their need for God and that the answer is in God and in Christ," Wilson said.
He said that the goal, right now, is to "prepare the soil" and ask for God's help in advance of evangelizing the nation's non-believers.
In order to help participants know exactly what they should be praying for, a prayer guide, which outlines ten indicators of spiritual awakening in both the church and the culture, has been created.
The guide, called "Praying for a Spiritual Awakening," was created by a gathering of church leaders in Northhampton, Mass., who met to determine what a 21st century awakening would look like. Wilson noted the special significance of Northhampton as a place where Jonathan Edwards, a Puritan preacher who played a major role in the First Great Awakening of the mid-1700s, once served as a pastor.
Some of the indicators the conference came up with include an increase in conversions, a decrease in divorces, and restored morality among government, church and business leaders.
More information about the guide and how to participate in Cry Out America is available at AwakeningAmerica.us.
Despite their efforts, Wilson said that there is one thing that could hinder the possibility of another Great Awakening: pride.
"Our pride in America and in the American church will probably be the one thing that would keep us from seeing God work in our nation like He wants to," Wilson noted.
"Pride keeps us divided. Pride keeps us away from our 'prayer closet.' Pride keeps us away from God's greatest riches and intimacy with Jesus that brings fruitfulness. So I think the one thing we're calling for is that we humble ourselves first, and if we do that I believe that God's going to shower us with great, great grace and a new awakening."