Power Through Prayer
[People] always ought to pray and not lose
My father came back from World War II with his heart far from the Lord and with a serious drinking problem. I was four years old at the time. My first memory of my dad, in fact, is of him drinking in a bar while I watched the bubbles go around and around on the jukebox.
My next memory is of my mother praying for Dad. In fact, every night when Dad was out drinking, Mom would stay up and pray for him to come home and for him to give his heart to the Lord. I often joined her in praying during the night.
One night, when I was thirteen, Dad staggered into the house drunk. As I had done before on such occasions, I said to him, “Dad, it’s time to give your heart to Jesus.” He had always resisted my appeals before, but for some reason, this night was different. He fell on his knees beside the couch, and my family gathered around Dad and prayed with him as he began a new life of following Jesus. After all the prayers and constant witness, my father committed his life to Jesus and was a changed man the rest of his life, becoming a beautiful follower of Jesus.
What are we supposed to do about the lost people in the world? After all, there are so many of them. Even Jesus said, “The harvest truly is plentiful.” We are to pray. “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).
That statement by Jesus tells us what to pray for, and it isn’t for God to save somebody. We already know that “the Lord is … not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). So we don’t have to plead with Him to save someone; that is already the desire of His heart. Instead, we are to pray for laborers—for God to inspire His people to obey His command and share Jesus with the lost. And we ourselves are to be a part of the answer to that prayer.
The Greek word for “pray” in Matthew 9:38 means “to beg.” So, in other words, we are to beg and plead with the Lord to send forth laborers. That’s persistent, passionate prayer that Jesus is calling for.
Nearly all the time, when I sign my name to a letter or e-mail message, I add the verse reference Luke 18:1. That verse says, “[People] always ought to pray and not lose heart.” We need reminders to pray constantly, without growing weary. Our sharing about Jesus, as well as every other aspect of our life, should be saturated in prayer.
The apostle Paul made the same point in different words, saying we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). What does that mean? How can we be in prayer every moment, since after all we’ve got other things to do in life? Let me give you an illustration. Have you ever been on a long car trip with somebody close to you, maybe a friend or your spouse? I bet you have. And I bet there were times on that trip when one of you pointed out a beautiful scene. “Look at that mountain!” You talked about the magnificent mountain for a bit, and then the conversation lapsed. A little while later, you talked about something else.
In a situation like that, when the other person says, “Look at that mountain!” you don’t say, “Yeah, it’s beautiful. Well, goodbye,” do you? No, on a lengthy trip you might stop talking from time to time, but the conversation picks up again with ease. It’s really just one long conversation you’re having, with breaks.
It’s the same way with constant prayer. Praying without ceasing is never saying goodbye to God. It is never saying amen. It is speaking to Him whenever we have something to say, big or little. And it is being open for Him to speak to us at any time, day or night. We are constantly aware of the unchanging presence of Jesus.
When we’re praying this way, we never faint. Instead, we’re strengthened. We go from blessing to blessing, from strength to strength. Jesus wants us to live in His power and share about Him in His power and in His presence.
Praying for Favor
When it comes to sharing about Jesus, what should we pray for? One thing is favor. When we notice someone who appears downcast in a store and we want to offer to pray with this person, we should first ask God to give us favor with this person so that our offer will be well received. When we go door to door sharing Jesus alongside a team from our church, we should pray that whoever opens the door will look upon us favorably.
We don’t pray for favor so that we will be liked. No. It’s not about us; it’s about Jesus. Maybe we’re sweaty and tongue-tied, and we don’t present a very appealing image of ourselves. Regardless, we want to find favor so that the other person has an interest in the Savior we are introducing him or her to.
We find favor with people when we have first found favor with God. Why? Because people can tell when we have a vital connection with God and that is always appealing. Having favor with God doesn’t mean we are perfect, but it does mean that God has forgiven us through His Son and that He is pleased with our attempts at being faithful to follow Him. God answers the prayers of those who have found favor with Him, because they pray according to His will.
The Bible tells us of several people who found favor with God, including Samuel the priest and judge (1Samuel 2:26). Samuel had one of the closest walks with God recorded in Scripture, and God answered his prayers. The Bible tells us, “The LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground” (3:19). How would you like to have a prayer life like that?
God gave Joseph favor even in prison (Genesis 39:21), and Joseph then rose to be the second in command of Egypt. In this way, Joseph became the one God used to save the children of Israel from starving. But favor with God is not for men only. A young woman named Mary from Nazareth heard from an angel, “You have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). She was given the great honor of bearing the Son of God. But the greatest example of favor is Jesus. We are told that, as a child, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).
God opened the way for Jesus to serve Him, and the Father heard and answered Jesus’ every prayer. We need to pray for God to have favor upon us and to give us favor with others so that they will respond to our sharing of Jesus.
Praying for the Enemy to Be Frustrated
Many times, I have been around followers of Jesus who, in a spiritual warfare situation, will call out, “I rebuke you, Satan!” This makes me cringe. It’s not that I have any problem with someone taking the fight to our enemy. Rather, it’s because the Scriptures tell us that we are not supposed to rebuke the enemy ourselves but instead are supposed to say, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 9).
That’s what I say as I carry the cross around the world. Not necessarily out loud, but in my spirit, I say, “The Lord rebuke you, devil. This is God’s territory.” There is no part of the earth’s surface where God cannot take control and force out the influence of our spiritual enemy, and that’s what I am calling for Him to do. I couldn’t do it on my own.
The biblical word for “rebuke” means “to forbid.” So when we say to the enemy, “The Lord rebuke you,” we are really saying, “The Lord forbid you from having your way.” We are calling on God to block the schemes of the enemy. There is power in asking God to rebuke the works of the devil.
As I have carried the cross in certain places in the world, it has aroused hatred in many. I’ve had people come at me with nails and a hammer, intending to nail me to the cross. I’ve had guns stuck to my head. I’ve heard every kind of threat issued against me. But I’m still here. How? Not by taking action myself but by saying to the Lord, “You take care of it.”
Given that we are not supposed to rebuke our spiritual enemy, what are we supposed to do? We are to bind and loose. Jesus promised, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). When I’m walking, therefore, I pray, “Lord, bind every work of Satan. Loose Your Holy Spirit.”
When you are sharing Jesus with someone who seems bound and is not free to respond, pray, “Lord, I ask that this blindness will be gone. Loose your Holy Spirit in his life. Bind the evil spirits and loose Your Holy Spirit.”
I’m praying for God’s work to be done in
their lives and for Him to frustrate the
work of the enemy.
Often, when I meet people on the road, I’ll shake their hand and grin at them. What they don’t know is that I’m also praying at the same time. I’m praying for God’s work to be done in their lives and for Him to frustrate the work of the enemy.
Most people don’t know much about my prayer life, but I’m praying every day, every moment on the roads. And as I take each step, I’m saying the name of Jesus: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus …” And as I drive, I say His name to the telephone poles and to the white lines: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” Many days, I say His name thousands of times. Why? Because He is loosing His Spirit; He is opening the way. That’s what we are to do as we go out into the world to share Jesus. Pray, pray, pray.
Fasting with Prayer
One day, when Jesus’ disciples failed to cast out a demon, they asked the Lord what had gone wrong. He told them, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). In other words, there are times when prayer alone is not enough; we also need to fast in order to bring to bear extra spiritual power. To shake the hold of the enemy on unbelievers, many times we need to fast and pray.
Fasting—or voluntarily going without eating food for a period of time—is a theme that runs throughout the Scriptures. Moses fasted when he received the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28). Jesus fasted after His baptism (Matthew 4:2). The leaders of the church fasted before sending out their first missionaries (Acts 13:2-3).
And this is just the start of the examples of great men and women of the Bible who fasted at important junctures of their lives.
Jesus said to His followers, “When you fast …”(Matthew 6:16-17), implying that they would fast. And in fact, down through the ages, followers of Jesus have fasted. Historical records show that just about every great follower of Jesus in history fasted at crucial times in his or her life.
When I was ministering in Hollywood in 1969, certain community leaders kicked me out of our building on Sunset Strip. They said we were out of taste with the community. (Of course, the Whiskey-a-Go-Go was next door, and the topless nightclub Sneaky Pete’s was directly below us—these were apparently fine for the community’s taste.) When I was evicted, I moved the cross down from our meeting space, chained myself to it, and fasted with only water for twenty-eight days until the people on Sunset Strip got me another building.
During this time of fasting, revival broke out. Many people were saved. That area had previously had one of the highest crime rates around, but before long, the crime rate had dropped to almost nothing. That street was totally changed.
When we want to see a breakthrough with a stubborn person who won’t receive Christ, we should pray and fast. There’s no guarantee that our fasting will result in a decision for Christ, but I have seen it happen again and again. I can’t explain how it works, but somehow our fasting makes a difference in the spirit world.
You can fast for just one meal or for a week or longer. You can drink water only or you can drink juice during your fast. And at some point in your fast, should you feel that you need to stop it before reaching your original goal, don’t feel like a failure. Do whatever God leads you to do.
It’s not the when or how of your fasting that I am concerned about. Instead, I am concerned that the followers of Jesus in greater numbers take up this tool to bring extra power to their sharing of Jesus. Praying and fasting, together, are a powerful combination that can knock down spiritual strongholds that had appeared invulnerable.
Prayer and Ordinary People
Should sharing Jesus be reduced to mere technique, then no matter how great that technique was, it would be powerless and largely ineffective. Rather, sharing Jesus ought to be a spiritual activity. It should be one that is led by the Spirit (as we have already seen) and one that is bathed in prayer and backed up with fasting. Someone who is awkward in sharing Jesus, but who has prayed and labored with the Lord over the salvation of others, is going to be used by God far more effectively than is someone who is merely following a plan. You see, it is men and women like us—ordinary people—who God uses to bring others in His kingdom.
He does it by pouring Himself into a heart that’s willing to have Him there. Prayer and fasting give us power beyond ourselves. They give us divine power.
Let’s put our lives, our prayers, and our hearts into the service of God. Let’s pray for Him to release favor in our witness, to bring the power of the Holy Spirit into our lives, and to turn people from the blindness of Satan to the light of Christ. As we give ourselves, He will move through us.
Questions to Consider
• What evidence do you have that when you share
Jesus it is a spiritual activity and not just a technique?
• What aspects of your sharing do you feel that
you should be praying about right now?
• Do you sense that the Lord is calling you to fast?
If so, with what purpose in mind?