History of the Wycliffe World Day of Prayer
Wycliffe’s World Day of Prayer is a global celebration of:
Thanksgiving— as we remember who God is and how He has done the seemingly impossible…again and again.
Joy— as we recognize how God continues to open doors and hearts to accomplish His mission.
Dependence— as we acknowledge that all that we have and are is because of God.
God is sovereign and almighty, yet He has invited us to participate with Him in his mission. Prayer is an essential facet of that participation and keeps us rooted in our relationship with Him.
There is a long tradition of Wycliffe staff, colleagues and local churches praying together on behalf of Bible translation. Every day, around the world, people are praying for the Bible translation movements, for the impact of God’s Word on individuals and communities, and for language communities who don’t yet have His Word. But one day a year, November 11, we make a special effort to come together in prayer, united in hearts and minds in all our diverse contexts and locations.
Why November 11?
On November 11, 1933, Wycliffe founders, Cameron Townsend and L.L. Legters, crossed the border from the U.S. into Mexico because God answered prayer. It was a major step forward for Bible translation and also the beginning of what eventually became Wycliffe (now more than 100 Wycliffe Global Alliance organizations) and close partner organization, SIL.
- Townsend’s vision for Bible translation had continued to grow as he lived with and learned from the Kaqchikel people of Guatemala. They completed a translation of the New Testament in 1931.
- While working on a Kaqchikel literacy plan, Townsend met Dr. Moisés Sáenz, an educator from Mexico. Townsend shared his philosophy of education with Dr. Sáenz. He shared his vision of language communities transformed by God through His Word in their language. He shared his desire to see people learning to read in their own language, teaching each other and valuing their language and heritage, confident to “stand on their own feet”. Sáenz was impressed by Townsend’s vision and wrote a letter inviting him to start work in Mexico.
- In 1933, while recuperating from tuberculosis, Townsend received a visit from his enthusiastic colleague, L.L. Legters. Legters had recently travelled to Mexico and noted, “There are at least fifty Indian tribes without the Bible, and some are large.”
- The participants of the August 1933 Keswick Bible Conference in New Jersey prayed for the Indians in Mexico because new foreign missionaries were not allowed in and those working there were severely restricted. After praying, the group thought Legters and Townsend should go to Mexico to get permission for Bible translation work among the Indians.
- So Townsend and Legters went to Mexico. At the border, the guards refused them entrance. Townsend and Legters prayed. Then Townsend remembered the letter from Sáenz and gave it to the guards. Recognizing the author of the letter, a renowned and respected educator in Mexico, they called Mexico City for orders.
- Legters and Townsend prayed, sang and prayed again while waiting for an answer. Finally it came. Yes, they could enter Mexico.
November 11—Wycliffe’s World Day of Prayer—a good day to remember how God has acknowledged the prayers of His people and a good day to celebrate Him together as we continue in prayer.
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