Recently, I had the privilege of addressing the International Christian Fellowship in Almaty, Kazakhstan, concerning Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Luke 11. One thing that I love about ministry is the uncovering what has always been right before my eyes…for as I prepared for this sermon, I sensed that God wanted me to share not only the value of being bold in prayer, but the long-term result. I shared three examples in my life in which something prayed for has continued to have results.
First of all, I prayed for finances to have my guitar repaired in 1978. God provided, and that guitar has since been used around the world to lead God’s people in worship! One simple prayer had long-term results.
Secondly, my wife and I prayed for finances to visit North Africa, in 1985, with the purpose of praying for that area. Results of those prayers led us to start praying for Central Asia in that same year. We moved to Central Asia in 1996, and are still serving there, now. One simple desire to remember an area in prayer has led us to live there for years.
The third example was the prayer of my parents for my safe birth. About 48 years ago, when my mother became pregnant with me, she prayed like all mothers do, for her unborn baby. But she prayed with greater intensity, because her second child had been born with brain damage due to trauma at birth. Like Hannah in the Bible, my parents committed my life to the Lord, and now, I am serving Him. A fervent prayer half a century ago continues to be fulfilled.
Jesus taught us to pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:11).”
I have prayed that prayer all of my life.
What does it mean, “Your kingdom come?” Yes, His kingdom IS physically coming, although I don’t know the “day nor the hour.” In addition to the physical advent of our Heavenly Father’s realm, there is the reception of His rule in our lives. This involves the voluntary surrender of our wills and our bodies to Him.
Prayer is where this begins. We pray, “Your kingdom come,” and we open our hearts to His Majestic presence.
In 1985, as we began to pray for Central Asia, another verse became important for me:
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
So, we prayed! First of all, we were praying in North Africa, and eventually, we heard the stories of many becoming believers in Jesus!
I dream when I pray. Together, my wife and I and others, we would dream as we prayed for Central Asia. Not like the disciples in Gethsemane (who fell asleep when they prayed, although that has happened to me as well), but we dream in a way that reminds me of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church that a “spirit of … revelation” would be given and we would know God better (Ephesians 1:17). We dreamed while we prayed!
Did we dream big? Yes, but we also dreamed broad and deep. Central Asia was Communist at the time, and shrouded from much of the world…but not from God’s Spirit.
I remember praying that God would send “workers” who were students from nations that were not a threat to the Soviet Union. I have since met one of these who is now a teaching elder in a local Central Asian church. This man arrived moved to Central Asia as a foreign student, in the fall of 1985.
I prayed for those who being born, that they would later, be born again, and we’ve worked with many who were born in 1985 (including our son-in-law, who is from there and was born the same month that we began to pray for his land).
And I have prayed daring prayers. Boldly I prayed, “Lord, send people into the places that we could never enter!” I have prayed this many times. God opened the land for us to enter, and we did in 1996, but still, within the land, there are places we cannot go.
But we hear of the gospel going into areas I would never be allowed to visit (and I cannot even write about some of these, publicly).
And I heard a story that tore my heart out of my chest.
A young woman named Maryam (not her real name) was suffering from something. She was unhappy, and she felt she had no future.
One day, while she was a teenager, she watched a Christian program on TV. As the preacher spoke, her heart listened. He invited his audience to pray, and she did. This Muslim girl believed in Jesus.
But her depression worsened, and her family saw an opportunity for their own advancement. They had her committed to the long-term section of a psychiatric hospital in their city. Therefore, her property became theirs, and she stepped into a new world. Greed seemed to have the final word.
I have visited places like this in Central Asia, but I am restricted in what I can do with the residents. I realize that, even though I am a representative of the Father’s Kingdom, I cannot freely talk and preach.
But Maryam can. Some time after her entry into the psychiatric hospital, God touched her. “A little late, huh, God,” I found myself thinking, when I first heard this. But for some reason, Maryam is not allowed to leave the hospital. Although she has completely recovered from her depression, her family has blocked her from leaving, so she continues to live there.
When I first heard of Maryam’s story, I was in tears. But the one who told me of this said, “God is using her in ways we would have never dreamed!”
But I dream when I pray.
Those who know her state that Maryam is happy. There is no sign of depression, as her Heavenly Father’s kingdom has powerfully come into her life. And God has spoken through her to many on the inside. She has gone to the places I could never enter. The Lord of the Harvest has sent her…His Kingdom has come through her to the darkest of places.
I invite you to dream with me, in prayer, for Central Asia!
“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson