There is a story once told by Leonard Ravenhill where two men knocked on this woman’s door wanting a place to stay. All she had available was a dark damp cellar. For a period of two weeks the men stayed in that cellar battling the forces of darkness. The woman had mentioned that she had heard them groaning and peeped in at them and saw them down on their faces. This lady was concerned for these men and contacted Mr. Finney who had arrived in her town to preach and asked him to come and see about these men. ‘No, it isn’t necessary,’ Finney replied. ‘They just have a spirit of travail in prayer.'”
When Finney came to preach the entire town was moved over by God. It is said that the bars shut their doors and the jails as well. There was no crime therefore anyone to lock up. God had indeed made his presence known in the town Finney preached at.
I am positive one of the reasons why is because of the spirit of prayer that had befallen on that city prior to Finney’s arriving. Finney was known for sending men before him to pray down the power of God into the meeting he was about to hold. Sadly we forget prayer and the power in it when we set out to do something.
Before I left home New Orleans I had been praying for something different. I had been on other outreaches before and attended church services where the spirit of God seemed to move, but I wanted something more. I had heard this story of Finney prior to my trip and began to ask God for a moving as like that when Finney showed up to preach.
During a time of prayer, it was as if God whispered quietly in my ear,” What are you willing to give?”
Immediately I knew what I was being asked. If I wanted God to move as in times before, what would I give to have it? Was it that important to me to see an entire city changed? Especially people I have never met.
I pondered this question and prayed and continued to pray about it on the drive to New Orleans. There really was no question about it; I wanted to see people moved in the spirit. I wanted to see a city changed.
After we had arrived at our place of stay, there were faithful believers from all across the nation that had joined us to go out into the streets of New Orleans to share the Gospel. Before everyone loaded up and went out to the streets, we had a prayer and worship time.
In that time, I poured my heart out to God. I continued to hear over and over the questioned asked of me over three hundred miles before back home.
During the service, one of the speakers began to speak about the power of prayer and what are we wiling to give to see this city and this nation changed.
Needless to say, I knew God had indeed spoken to me earlier. I really began to dig my knees down and pray for the people, for God to move as years before.
My first night on the street was more that I had bargained for. As I mentioned, I had been on other outreaches. I thought I had seen something. Every other experience was nothing compared to what Mardi Gras had to offer.
I had never seen so much wickedness. The smell of marijuana wreaked in the air. There were people walking around barely able to stand because they have drunken so much alcohol. Pile after pile of vomit were scattered among miles of debris from party goers. Men dressed as women were prancing around happily holding other men’s hands. There seemed to be no end to the wickedness that was before me.
As I moved about the people, I paid attention to their eyes. They all looked for pleasure, happiness and screamed for freedom, but content to live as a slave to sin.
The last night we were there, we were trying to rejoin group members and leave, when we were caught up in some commotion surrounding a cross that some were holding up in the middle of the street. The cross seemed to arouse the anger in the crowd. They were throwing beads as well as food and other items at it and those holding it. At that point, a friend that I was with told me and others to form a circle around the cross to protect it.
As I stood there, I just watched. I let it all sink in. Behind me were some guys holding the cross. In front of me, were countless people conveying back and forth, mocking and yelling obscenities and throwing things. A club was across the crowd and I could see from where I stood inside and people were dancing to the music as s woman, someone daughter, danced before them.
My eyes began to swell up. My heart was breaking. I wanted to get out of New Orleans and away from the madness so badly.
During the entire trip, I knew earlier that it would not be any words that we may preach. Or any amount of tracts that we may distribute that would save these people.
That it would be simply by the mercy and grace of my God. I prayed more than I have ever prayed in that weekend than I have ever before. At times, God told me to be quiet. It was those times that I heard from him the most. I could hear him repeating to me, “What are you willing to give?” I was compelled to pray even harder.
In the book of 2 Samuel Chapter 12, it reads that for three days, David pleaded with God to spare his child’s life. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. The life of his son was that important to him that he would cease everything to see his son live.
In the beginning of this letter, I told you how the two men would spend two weeks in a spirit of prayer that many of us have never heard of, to see God supernaturally move a city. That men would come to repentance and put there trust in Christ. For people they did not even know.
What am I willing to give to see people come to Christ? I have many friends and family that if they were to die today, would probably go to Hell. Does the sound of that compel me enough to seek as never before after God for their salvation? “For no man can come unto me, except it was given unto him of my Father.” John 6:65
What about the stranger on the street or the child molester in jail? Are they worth it as well? What would I be willing to give to see them come to salvation?
I know many times, I have prayed for my children when they were sick that they would be healed. I would say a prayer and then just move on. Prayer and the power in it are often neglected in changing not only our lives but the lives of others. We try to do everything by our own means. I have children that I know need Christ. Am I like David in Second Samuel, pleading day after day, that my son live. Is their salvation that important to me?
My prayer had been for New Orleans to be moved by God. I prayed for the clubs and drinking to cease. That men and women would see their sin and come to repentance and faith in Christ. That God would move as in times of Finney. That was my prayer. But that did not happen. Did God hear me? Did he hear my honest heartfelt prayers for this city?
Our prayers are not always answered to the letter, but often only according to the spirit. God may have not moved in New Orleans as he did when Finney preached. But ears heard the Gospel. Some accepted Christ, others refused.
Many more people though still need to hear the Gospel. They need to know the truth that only Christ sets men free from their sins. They won’t hear it while we sit comfortably week after week in a comfortable pew. Why we hide from the world in our small groups. The majority of people that need to hear the Gospel will never sit foot in a church building. Think about how many times you have asked your unsaved friends and loved ones to come to church with you.
Do not misinterpret me. We need fellowship. We need discipleship. We need the church body. But we are not to get to comfortable in our pews where we stop going out and reaching the lost.
Catherine Booth, the co-founder of the Salvation Army stated regarding church building, “A barracks is meant to be a place where real soldiers were to be fed and equipped for war, not a place to settle down in or as a comfortable snuggery in which to enjoy ourselves. I hope that if ever they, our soldiers, do settle down God will burn their barracks over their heads!”
What type of Christianity is it that sits quietly and sings hymns while men fall into Hell? It is not Christianity at all. What are you willing to give so that men would be saved?
Pray as never before for God to save those we love. To save those we forget. To save those we do not know.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. If it was that important to God and he was willing to give his very best to save those unworthy of being saved, should not it be that more important to us?
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” JEREMIAH 33:3
It is my prayer that God will use this letter as his instrument. As an encouragement and to rebuke you as well where it is needed. That you would seek his face and call on his name ever so more. Every stranger would be to you as an unsaved brother or sister. That you would not be over taken by fear, but over taken by love to do all you can to reach all you know with the only cure for this lost and dying world. To God give all the Glory,