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Ye have not because ye ask not

Posted: February 19, 2000
1:00 a.m. Eastern


By Rev. Jerry Falwell

© 2000

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."

Rev. Jerry Falwell, a nationally recognized Christian minister and television show host, is the founder of Jerry Falwell Ministries and is chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

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