A Light+Life Podcast

Learn about the National Prayer Summit 2022

Hosted by Brett Heintzman

Jeff Finley

Jeff Finley

Light + Life Executive Editor

Jeff Finley is this magazine’s executive editor. He joined the Light+Life team in 2011 after a dozen years of reporting and editing for Sun-Times Media. He is a member of John Wesley Free Methodist Church where his wife, Jen, serves as the lead pastor.

by Jeff Finley

In past years, the National Prayer Summit has drawn hundreds of Free Methodists from across the United States to a host church for prayer and teaching. As the new year begins, the National Prayer Summit is returning, and participation in 2022 won’t require a car trip or an airline ticket. 

The National Prayer Summit Online 2022 will be held on three Sunday evenings — January 9, 16 and 23 — via the Free Methodist Church USA’s Facebook page. Each night of the summit will begin at 7 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Central/5 p.m. Mountain/4 p.m. Pacific time. 

Several members of the National Prayer Ministry’s leadership team recently joined Brett Heintzman, the denominational communications director and a co-director of the prayer ministry, for a new episode of “The Light + Life Podcast” discussing the upcoming summit and its theme, “Spiritual Hunger and Thirst.”

What is meant by this theme? 

“I would say it’s having a strong desire for God and for His Word and to be continually focused on pleasing God and doing what is right not out of a religious activity but just because there’s such a connection and such a love for God that it’s an overflow,” Pastor Laura Warth said. “Our life is an overflow of that living and abiding relationship with God, so it really stems from the inside and then it flows over to our outward life.”

Pastor Estelle Martin compared physical and spiritual hunger and thirst. “When we are thirsty and hungry, we will do whatever we can to quench that thirst, and our relationship with the Lord always leaves us wanting more,” Martin said. “We thirst and hunger for more of Him, more of His Spirit, more of the way He would want to do things in our lives.” 

Martin cited Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” She reflected, “We are filled time and time again by His divine presence, His divine love, His divine being.”

Phillip Madison said he has learned spiritual hunger leads him sometimes to focus on specific things he is seeking from God. “I’m realizing through my life that hunger has to come from inside me. I don’t think it’s something that God kind of just drops in me,” he said. “When you’re in relationship with somebody that you love, it doesn’t come out of them making you have a hunger and a thirst to continue that deep relationship with them. It comes out of your heart, your spirit.” 

Annie Madison said a problem for U.S. Christians is “we live in such a rich country that when we say we’re hungry, we don’t mean we’re hungry like they may mean in impoverished parts of the world. We just mean there’s a little bit of discomfort.” She said that sometimes when she reads Psalm 42:1 (“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God”), she can “feel that yearning in my heart. It’s reading the Word that alerts me to how dry or distant or how in need I am of His presence.”

Desperately Turning to God

Heintzman said he looks to God in desperation as he witnesses divisiveness among Christians on social media, and he asked the other team members about other things that have caused them or others to turn to God with deep hunger and thirst and say, “Lord, we’re desperate for you to do something.” 

Warth replied, “Several years ago, after serving God for such a long time, I began to experience feelings of anxiety that were leading me to depression, and especially in this season, I believe there’s a lot of genuine Christians that are experiencing anxiety or depression and sorrow.” She said her anxiety led her to pray, “Lord, I just don’t know what to do, but I know that you do, and I’m asking for help.” She recalled that after her prayer, “God came, and He literally woke me up spiritually, and really that’s when a level of hunger and thirst for God grew like never before, and I began to just seek God.”

Annie Madison said that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, people “did run to the churches and try to find God. Unfortunately, the church apparently was not prepared for the influx of people, and those hurting people went back to business as usual.” She said similar desperation has been experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s sad that we often wait for a time of crisis to turn to God.

Martin said that she witnesses desperation as she sees the makeshift tent communities of homeless people while driving through the Los Angeles areas, and “it brings me to really cry out to God, ‘Help, Lord! These people need Your help. They need Your Spirit, and how are we going to get them connected to Your love and Your peace and Your joy in the midst of all that they’re going through?’”

Phillip Madison reflected that people have become blindsided by fear, which may cause them to do things they normally wouldn’t. He noted that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18), but “what happens with fear is we tend to isolate ourselves, which is the worst thing we can do as Christians.”

Reasons to Join the Summit

What are some reasons people should participate in the National Prayer Summit? 

“There’s power when we pray together,” Warth said. “Something happens in our spirit when we all began to pray and unite, especially as a church, as a denomination.”

Phillip Madison described the summit as “an opportunity for people from different churches to get together. That’s what I love about it, and I do think it’s an opportunity to really come with expectation that God is going to move. … Is it the most optimal because we’re not in the same room? No, but it’s still an opportunity to see a face, pray for one another, talk to one another.” 

Martin said although “prayer is the embodiment of our life” and “is something we don’t just do once a year,” the National Prayer Summit introduces many Free Methodists to the National Prayer Ministry. She expressed the hope that additional people will “have the hunger and thirst to join us and pray with us.”

Annie Madison said the new year is “always a good time to make a new commitment, to walk with Jesus nourishing our souls, building up our spirits.” She added that like families gather for holidays and birthday celebrations, “this is our opportunity as the body of Christ, as the Free Methodist family, to gather together in corporate prayer to begin the year. We’ve done a lot of activities as the year has closed. Let’s join together with a new activity and open up the new season.” 

Summit Schedule

The Jan. 9 session will focus on “Hunger and Thirst for Kingdom Expansion” with special guests Larry and Deb Walkemeyer, the denomination’s strategic catalysts for Christ-compelled multiplication and members of the FMCUSA Executive Leadership Team, and Bishop Keith Cowart. The evening’s key scripture will be Isaiah 55:1–2.

The Jan. 16 session will focus on “Hunger and Thirst for Healthy Biblical Interdependency” with special guests Gerry and Jan Coates and Bishop Linda Adams. Gerry Coates is the denomination’s strategic catalyst for global collaboration and a member of the FMCUSA Executive Leadership Team. Jan Coates is the communications content coordinator for Free Methodist World Missions. The evening’s key scripture will be Psalm 73:25.

The Jan. 23 session will focus on “Hunger and Thirst for Justice” with special guests Fraser and Jo Anne Venter and Bishop Matt Whitehead. Fraser Venter is the denomination’s strategic catalyst for love-driven justice and a member of the FMCUSA Executive Leadership Team. Jo Anne Venter is the director of business development for a national company. The evening’s key scripture will be Matthew 5:6. 

For more information, visit the National Prayer Ministry’s website or Facebook page. +

Jeff Finley

Jeff Finley

Light + Life Executive Editor

Jeff Finley is this magazine’s executive editor. He joined the Light+Life team in 2011 after a dozen years of reporting and editing for Sun-Times Media. He is a member of John Wesley Free Methodist Church where his wife, Jen, serves as the lead pastor.