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We on the mission field have an awareness that we are on the verge of some major breakthroughs for the kingdom in many of the countries in which we are working. We hear statements such as: “Soon the whole country of Nepal will have a Christian witness in every village!” “India shall be saved!” “No matter what, one of these days Bhutan will be saved!”
Those statements are not made casually. There is a depth to them because God has impressed these things on our hearts. Because of that, we feel the time given to us now should be filled with prayer and serious commitment in seeking God for what He wants to do.
I will never forget some of the answers to prayer that God has given us. One such incident happened in the early days of our radio listeners’ crusade in India. More than 25,000 people had gathered in the meeting place to hear the message that evening. As we were driving toward the meeting place, we saw dark clouds over the town. It was obvious that it could rain at any moment. I thought the meeting was going to have to be called off. But the brother traveling with me in the car said, “Well, Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed and it didn’t rain.”
When we got to the meeting ground, we could hear the roar of rain in the distance. Then it began to drizzle slightly. I was on the stage as the meeting was just about to start and felt that I should tell the people that Jesus would answer prayer tonight and hold off the rain.
You know, sometimes we pray with unbelief. I prayed that way that evening. I wasn’t so sure that the rain really would be held off. But praise God there was prayer going up from other concerned people who did believe.
Would you believe, it was like somebody was holding an umbrella over that ground! In just that meeting place, there was not one drop of rain. Rain was pouring down all around us, but our meeting was dry.
Suppose no one had prayed. It would have been so natural for me to say, “You know, there’s no hope. This meeting is rained out. It’s not going to work. Let’s go home.” Suppose no one had believed. I can tell you what would have happened. The whole place would have been flooded. There is no doubt about it. But God gave us the grace to pray and to believe a little bit for the answer. And He did it.
Another illustration of the power of prayer happened some years ago. In our Indian headquarters, the leadership felt the need to really seek the Lord for His guidance. As the Lord burdened our hearts, we called for four days of fasting and prayer. During that time of ministry to the Lord, the Lord spoke to us through one of our brothers. Because of this man’s godliness and intimate walk with the Lord, we took the words very seriously. The instruction was that there would be a major investigation from the government with the intention to hinder the ministry. The admonition from the Lord was, “Seek My face. They will come as lions and leave as lambs.”
We were all doing well. We had never had any major problems with government authorities before. If it were not for this particular brother’s groundedness in the Lord, I would have thought that his imagination was running wild. But we took it seriously and began to pray and ask the Lord to go before us.
As we took the time to seek Him in this, He began to burden our hearts with specific things to pray. We knew the Lord was calling us to stand in the gap with prayer for the ministry more than ever before. Ezekiel 22:30 became a key verse for us: “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”
If you read the rest of that chapter, you will find that the people did not take seriously the call to pray. It was in God’s power to save that nation, but because no one prayed, they were destroyed.
So we prayed. Some weeks went by, and suddenly we got a letter from the government, saying, “Seven of us are coming. We’ll be there in five days. We are coming to study and investigate your organization.” At the bottom of the letter was a man’s signature. When we read the name, we were all scared. This man was a very well-known, righteous Brahmin and a high government official. We knew they had the ability to hinder us in the ministry. But because of the word from the Lord and the prayer that came from that, we were prepared.
Sure enough, at the time designated, this official came with his people and stayed several days at our office. They went through all our books and records. They studied the way we worked. They asked question after question. It was clear that they were trying to find out if we had broken any laws, misused funds or were doing anything to hurt the government in any way.
I’ll never forget the day these men left. I had a brief talk with the head official as he left our office building. He turned to me and said, “I came with the intention of sealing your doors and closing down your organization. Looking at the expanse of the ministry, I could not convince myself things could be right. But I can tell you, I’ve never been to one institution that is so upright. I can’t find a single thing that is even questionable.”
We continued talking, and he began to tell me his life story. During the Pakistan-India division in 1947, he ended up in Pakistan but soon escaped to India. He worked as a coolie in the railway station, got himself into the university and then became one of the highest government officials.
As our conversation came to an end, he said, “Would you pray for me? I’m not well. My back is hurting all the time.” This devout Hindu knelt and asked me to lay my hand on him and pray for him! Then he said, “If I can ever do anything to help you and your people, please contact me.”
Through this whole process, we remembered the word the Lord had spoken to us earlier: “Seek My face. They will come as lions and leave as lambs.” The first two or three days, the investigators were not friendly and very suspicious. But just as the Lord had spoken, they left smiling and as wonderful friends.
This was one of those experiences that the Lord allowed us to go through to teach us that if we walk with Him, He will guide us. His work is not a business. It is not something in which we plan, scheme and work out the details. He is teaching us to be childlike so that He can instruct us and lead us as we seek His face. That is just one of the many, many experiences that have shown us the importance of being led by Him and the power of prayer.
No Magic Formula
People often ask about our organization. They want to know how we do things. They want to know how we run a particular part of the ministry or how we handle a certain kind of problem. They are seeking to figure out the reason for our success and growth. But there is no magic formula. All I can do is encourage them with how the organization began with prayer and continues with prayer.
Sometimes these people call us back and say, “Yes, prayer, but what else?” All I can tell them is, “We didn’t know what we were doing most of the time and we still don’t. We go along as the Lord guides and leads us. We make mistakes, we change things and we go on seeking His face. I do not know any magic formula.”
In all the 25 years of this ministry, every major breakthrough we have seen in the work has come through prayer. Through prayer, we let God be God, yielding ourselves as earthen vessels and becoming channels for His work. I am deeply convinced that the shortest route to getting things done is by prayer.
On the other hand, my nature is opposed to this. I want to make changes and get things accomplished. I like to think and say, “If we don’t do this or that, it isn’t going to happen.” But then I remember that every failure we have had and every setback we have experienced was always because we calculated and did something out of careful planning, but not careful prayer.
Why did the Lord caution the Ephesian Church in Revelation 2 that He might remove their lampstand from its place? Why, in spite of their sound doctrine and hard work for Him, was Christ grieved? What was it that the Lord saw that caused Him to say that they had left their first love?
The answer is found in how the Ephesians became self-sufficient in their own eyes. Their reputation, money, resources, expertise and carefully planned strategies caused them to rely on themselves. They began to think that they no longer needed to come to Him, to fellowship with Him or to depend on Him.
Our praying speaks of our ever-present need for the Lord and shows how much we truly depend on Him. Only through prayer will we accomplish His purposes.
In The Reality of Prayer, E.M. Bounds says, “Non-praying is lawlessness, discord, anarchy. Prayer, in the moral government of God, is as strong and far-reaching as the law of gravitation in the material world, and it is as necessary as gravitation to hold things in their proper sphere and in life.”1 There is no magic formula; there is only the absolute necessity of prayer.
The most efficient and effective way—the only way—to see the things around us change and His purposes come about is to depend on Him in prayer.