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Pray boldly

January 2, 2019 by Eric Stillman 1 comments

“On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.  And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: "'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'" (Mark 11:15-17)

If I could only listen to one sermon for the rest of my life it would be a message Jim Cymbala gave at a praise gathering called “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (you can watch it on YouTube here . Cymbala references the episode where Jesus clears the money changers out of the temple in order to drive home the point that God’s house is meant to be a house of prayer above all other things – not primarily a house of preaching or a house of music, but a house of prayer. Having worshiped at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, where Cymbala pastors, a couple of times, I can definitely say that no church embodies that verse and that desire of God’s heart the way his church does.

The most moving part of Cymbala’s sermon is when he recounts his experience with his wayward daughter Chrissy (the account below is taken from his book “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire”):

“Our oldest daughter, Chrissy, had been a model child growing up. But around the age of sixteen she started to stray…. Chrissy not only drew away from us, but also away from God. In time, she even left our home. There were many nights when we had no idea where she was. As the situation grew more serious, I tried everything. I begged, I pleaded, I scolded, I argued…. nothing worked. … Then one November, I was alone in Florida when I received a call from a minister whom I had persuaded Chrissy to talk to. ‘Jim,’ he said, ‘I love you and your wife but the truth of the matter is, Chrissy’s going to have to do what Chrissy’s going to do. You really don’t have much choice, now that she’s eighteen. She’s determined. You’re going have to accept whatever she decides. I hung up the phone. Something very deep within me began to cry out. ‘Never! I will never accept Chrissy being way from you, Lord!” I knew that if she continued on the present path, there would be nothing but destruction awaiting her. …. There came a divine showdown. God strongly impressed on me to stop crying, screaming or talking to anyone else about Chrissy. I was to converse with no but God. …. I was just to believe and obey…  I began to pray with an intensity and growing faith as never before. Whatever the bad news I would receive about Chrissy, I kept interceding…. Carol and I endured the Christmas season with real sadness… February came. One cold Tuesday night during the prayer meeting, I talked from Acts 4 about the church boldly calling on God in the face of persecution. We entered into a time of prayer… and an usher handed me a note. A young woman whom I felt to be spiritually sensitive had written, ‘Pastor Cymbala, I feel impressed that we should stop the meeting and all pray for your daughter. I hesitated. Was it right to change the flow of the service… yet something in the note seemed to ring true. In a few minutes I picked up the microphone and told the congregation what had just happened. ‘The truth of the matter,’ I said, ‘is that my daughter is very far from God these days. She thinks up is down, and down is up; dark is light and light is dark. But I know God can break through to her, and so I am going to ask Pastor Boekstaff to lead us in praying for Chrissy. Let’s all join hands across the sanctuary. ….To describe what happened in the next few minutes, I can only employ a metaphor: the church became a labor room. The sounds of women giving birth is not pleasant, but the results are wonderful… There arose a groaning … a sense of determination, as if to say, ‘Satan, you will not have this girl. Take your hands off her - she is coming back. I was overwhelmed. The force of that vast throng calling on God almost literally knocked me over. When I got home that evening… I told my wife, ‘It’s over!’ ‘What over,’ she wondered. ‘It’s over with Chrissy.’ …. Thirty-two hours later on Thursday morning, as I was shaving, Carol suddenly burst through the door, her eyes wide. ‘Go downstairs!” she blurted. ‘Chrissy’s here.’ ‘Chrissy’s here.’ ‘Yes! Go down!’ ‘But Carol – I –‘ Just go down,’ she urged. ‘Its you that she want to see.’ … I headed down the stairs my heart pounding. … I saw my daughter on the kitchen floor, rocking on her hands and knees sobbing…. She grabbed my pants leg and began to pour her anguish. ‘Daddy – Daddy – I’ve sinned against God. I’ve sinned against myself. I’ve sinned against you and Mommy. Please forgive me.’… She suddenly drew back. ‘Daddy,’ she said with a start, ‘who was praying for me? Who was praying for me?’ …. ‘What do you mean Chrissy?’ ‘On Tuesday night, Daddy who was praying for me?’ … ‘In the middle of he night, God woke and showed me I was headed for the abyss. There was no bottom to it – it scared me to death. I was so frightened. I realized how hard I had been, how wrong, how rebellious. But at the same time, it was like God wrapped his arms around me and held me tight. He kept me from sliding any further as he said, ‘I love you!’ ‘Daddy, tell me the truth – who was praying for me Tuesday night.’ I looked into her bloodshot eyes, and once again I recognized the daughter we had raised.”

As a church, we are devoting January to seeking the Lord with greater devotion for His work in and through our church. As you read Cymbala’s story, what – or who – comes to your mind? Where do you need to press in to God with greater intensity? Would you be willing to share that request with the church so that we can share your burden with us? Believe today that God loves you and is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.

1 Comments

Please pray for our Son, Michael Roberts. He has had a few bad years and is finding it hard to rebuild his life. Every time he gets 2 steps forward he is pushed 10 steps back. His faith and emotional well being have suffered greatly. Thank you for your prayers. I know that praying alone is not enough sometimes.
Ella Shaffer on Jan 4, 2019 at 6:22pm

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