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If we pastors and all people of faith are to successfully confront
the challenges of the Third Millennium, we do not need a better
understanding of modern ecclesiastical methodologies and techniques
nearly as much as we need a new commitment to the practice and power of
believing prayer. The modern church is, in the main, a prayerless
church. And James 4:2 warns us that “we have not because we ask not.”

I begin this message with two verses of Scripture: 1) Acts 2:42
(KJV): “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and
fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” 2) I Corinthians
16:9 (The Living Bible): “For there is a wide open door for me to teach
and preach here. So much is happening, but there are many enemies.”

Four Principles Of Prayer

In my 44 years as pastor of the same local church and speaker on the
Old-Time Gospel Hour, and 29 years as chancellor of Liberty University,
I have experienced and internalized four significant principles
regarding prayer:

    1. Prayer can do anything God can do … and since God can
      do anything, prayer is omnipotent

    2. All our failures are prayer failures

    3. Nothing of eternal importance is ever accomplished apart from
      prayer

    4. What a man is … he is alone on his knees before God and no more

Prayerless Pastors

A recent study by a well-known church growth expert showed that 57
percent of American pastors pray fewer than 20 minutes a day. Australian
pastors spend 23 minutes a day praying. In New Zealand, the average is
30 minutes. In Japan, pastors spend 44 minutes a day, and in Korea the
average is 90 minutes.

In God’s Providence

Shortly after I was converted to Christ January 20, 1952, in
Lynchburg, Va., I met R.B. Whittemore, a retired and widowed St. Louis
businessman who had purchased a large farm near Lynchburg and moved
there with his adult daughter to live out the rest of his life. He was
attending Lynchburg’s Park Avenue Baptist Church on the night I made my
profession of faith there.

How I Learned To Pray

In heaven now, R.B. was a deeply spiritual man with a heart burning
for God. He was one of the greatest men of prayer I have known in my 48
years in the faith. For whatever blessed reason, R.B. became my
self-appointed mentor. He would invite me often to come to his beautiful
estate and spend the day with him. He taught me how to pray.

He introduced me to the writings of the spiritual giant, Andrew
Murray, and all of his wonderful books. We would read them and study
them together. He introduced me to the writings of Watchman Nee, E.M.
Bounds, Norman Grubb, Holy Ann Preston, Adoniram Judson, A.B. Simpson,
George Muller, Bakht Singh, David Livingstone, Charles Spurgeon, and
Oswald Chambers.

In the next four years, preceding my founding of Thomas Road Baptist
Church in 1956, and while completing my studies at Baptist Bible College
(BBC) in Springfield, Mo., I devoured the books of all these giants. I
began reading the devotional, “My Utmost for His Highest,” daily — and
do so to this day. I also began reading the biographies of all the
spiritual giants of yesteryear as quickly as I could find them in
bookstores.

The Common Denominator Is Prayer

To my great eternal benefit, I learned as a very young man that the
common denominator in all the lives of those whom God uses mightily was
they were all men and women of prevailing prayer.

In September 1952, eight months after my spiritual conversion, having
already memorized scores of chapters in the Word of God, saturated with
the prayer-soaked mentorship of R.B. Whittemore, fired up
evangelistically under the pastoring of Paul Donnelson and Jack
Dinsbeer, and having just turned 19 one month earlier, I arrived at BBC.

My Public Ministry Begins

Per my pastoral instruction from Paul Donnelson, I joined High
Street Baptist Church, Dr. Bill Dowell, pastor. It was in this church
that I began teaching a class of 11-year-old junior boys. Thus my
official public ministry of the Word began.

That was 48 years ago. My experience in Christ’s school of prayer
actually took on a new dimension because of this tiny class. After some
frustration and thoughts of resignation over the lack of numerical and
spiritual growth of this class, God drove me to my knees. I began
praying about this new ministry from 1 p.m. till 5 p.m. each day, after
classes. These 20 hours of weekly prayer, plus weekends of aggressive
visitation and soul-winning, caused my class of one 11-year-old boy to
grow to an average attendance of 56 by the end of the school year.

Most of these boys, plus their brothers, sisters and parents gave
their hearts to Christ that year. Revival broke out at High Street
Church. And I learned the power of prayer in doing effective ministry.

Putting Out The Fleece

I spent the weekends of my senior year at BBC serving as pastor to
professional young people at Kansas City Baptist Temple (KCBT), 180
miles from Springfield. Three weeks before graduation, I still did not
know whether God wanted me to be a youth pastor, missionary or a senior
pastor in America. At that point, KCBT Pastor Wendell Zimmerman asked me
to preach the Sunday morning message in his absence the next Sunday. I
had never preached a Sunday sermon before. I was a Sunday School
teacher.

I decided to put out a fleece. I fasted and prayed all week in
preparation for my first sermon. I had to know what God’s call for me
was. I asked God for a sign. After my sermon in which the Holy Spirit
gave me wonderful freedom, 19 adults received Christ. One was a charter
member of this great church. This lady had heard some of America’s most
powerful preachers. Yet, God reserved her to come to Christ under this
novice’s message. This was my sign. I resigned this ministry the next
week, graduated from BBC and came to Lynchburg where I founded Thomas
Road Church with 35 charter members.

Prayer Has Been My Life

This has been the spiritual process through which God has led me
into all of my outreach ministries — the Old-Time Gospel Hour, Liberty
University, Elim Home for Alcohol and Drug-Addicted Men, Liberty
Godparent Ministry for Unwed Mothers, Moral Majority, and my “Mars Hill”
Ministry to the media. Thousands of hours of prayer and fasting have
opened every door and effected the provision of all my needs
– spiritual, physical, financial and emotional.

After all these nearly five decades, I am more convinced than ever
that the greatest need of the church as we enter this new millennium is
prevailing prayer. James 4:2: “Ye have not because ye ask not.”

I conclude with the moving story of how God prepared Evangelist D.L.
Moody (the Billy Graham of the 19th Century) for his world-shaking
ministry.

Torrey About Moody

Dr. R.A. Torrey (Moody’s protégé), telling a story about his friend
D.L. Moody, once wrote: “Have you ever heard how Dwight L. Moody became
a worldwide evangelist? After the great fire in Chicago, Mr. Moody
stayed in Chicago long enough to get money together to feed the poor and
to provide a new building for his own work, and then he went to England
for a rest. He did not intend to preach at all, but to hear some of the
great preachers on the other side of the water — Charles Spurgeon,
George Muller, and others.

“He was invited to preach one Sunday in a Congregational church in
the north of London, of which a Mr. Lessey was the pastor. He accepted
the invitation. Sunday morning as he preached he had great difficulty.
As he told the story to me many years afterward, he said, I had no
power, no liberty; it seemed like pulling a heavy train up a steep
grade, and as I preached I said to myself, What a fool I was to consent
to preach. I came here to hear others, and here I am preaching.

“As I drew to the close of my sermon I had a sense of relief that I
was so near through, and then the thought came to me, Well, I’ve got to
do it again tonight. I tried to get Mr. Lessey to release me from
preaching that night, but he would not consent. I went to the evening
service with a heavy heart. But I had not been preaching long when it
seemed as if the powers of an unseen world had fallen upon that
audience. As I drew to the close of my sermon I got courage to draw the
net. I asked all that would then and there accept Christ to rise, and
about five hundred people arose to their feet. I thought there must be
some mistake; so I asked them to sit down, and then I said, ‘There will
be an after-meeting in the vestry, and if any of you will really accept
Christ meet the pastor and me in the vestry.’

“There was a door at each side of the pulpit into the vestry and
people began to stream through these doors into the vestry, and I turned
to Mr. Lessey and said, ‘Mr. Lessey, who are these people?’ He replied,
‘I do not know.’

“‘Are they your people?’ I asked. ‘Some of them are,’ he replied.
‘Are they Christians?’ I asked. ‘Not as far as I know,’ he answered.

“We went into the vestry and I repeated the invitation in a stronger
form, and they all rose again. I still thought that there must be some
mistake and asked them to be seated, and repeated the invitation in a
still stronger form, and again they all arose.

“I still thought there must be some mistake and I said to the people,
‘I am going to Ireland tomorrow, but your pastor will be here tomorrow
night. If you really mean what you have said here tonight meet him
here.’ After I reached Ireland, I received a telegram from Mr. Lessey
saying, ‘Mr. Moody, there were more people out on Monday night than on
Sunday night. A revival has broken out in our church and you must come
back and help me.’

“Mr. Moody hurried back from Dublin to London and held a series of
meetings in Mr. Lessey’s church that added hundreds of people to the
churches of North London, and that was what led to the invitation that
took him over to England later for the great work that stirred the whole
world.

“After Mr. Moody had told me that story I said, ‘Mr. Moody, someone
must have been praying.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘did I not tell you that? That
is the point of the whole story. There were two sisters in that church,
one of whom was bedridden; the other one heard me that Sunday morning.
She went home and said to her sister, ‘Who do you suppose preached for
us this morning?’ The sister replied, ‘I do not know.’

“Then she said, ‘Guess,’ and the sister guessed all the men that Mr.
Lessey was in the habit of exchanging pulpits with, but her sister said
‘No.’

“Then her sister asked, ‘Who did preach for us this morning?’ And
she replied, ‘Mr. Moody of Chicago.’ No sooner had she said it than her
sister turned pale as death and said, ‘What! Mr. Moody of Chicago! I
have read of him in an American newspaper and I have been praying God to
send him to London, and to send him to our church. If I had known he was
to preach this morning I would have eaten no breakfast, I would have
spent the whole morning in fasting and prayer. Now, sister, go out, lock
the door, do not let any one come to see me, do not let them send me any
dinner; I am going to spend the whole afternoon and evening in fasting
and prayer.’

“And pray she did, and God heard and answered. Thus, the historic
evangelistic ministry of Dwight L. Moody was given birth.”

You Can Capture Your City For Christ

Pastors and people of faith of this third millennium, you too can
capture your cities and nations for Christ. Revival can break out in
your ministry. Multitudes can be swept into God’s kingdom. Walls can
be broken down. Prisoners can be set free. Your future ministries can
be exponentially expanded. The best, by far, can yet be future in your
ministries. “Ye have not because ye ask not.”

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