When Jim Cymbala became pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, the first Sunday there were 15 people in attendance and a grand total of $85.00 in the morning offering toward a mortgage payment of $232.00 plus utilities and other bills. The building was small. The walls needed painting. The windows were dingy and the floor was bare. It was both “pathetic and laughable.” [1] The first two years were years of testing – meager salaries, funding challenges, constant struggles. All of that brought him to a place of humility. He learned a principle: “God is attracted to weakness. He can’t resist those who honestly and desperately admit how bad they need him.” [2] He recalled, “The embarrassing truth is that sometimes I did not want to show up for a service – that is how bad it was.” In that season of holy desperation, God spoke to him, “If you and your wife will lead my people to pray and call upon my name, you will never lack for something fresh to preach. I will supply all the money that’s needed, both for the church and for your family, and you will never have a building large enough to contain the crowds I will send in response.” [3] The Tuesday evening prayer service at Brooklyn Tabernacle is riveting! The house is full. The people pray – really pray! And the little congregation in Brooklyn is little no more. It is known around the world.

Loran Livingston was raised in small Church of God congregation in Wadesboro, NC. His father was a praying man – a simple Pentecostal whose daily faith and walk with God impacted his children. Loran became pastor of the Central Church of God in Charlotte with a membership of a couple dozen. The Church is now known for its turn away crowds. Every Sunday, both services are flooded with six-thousand worshippers who crowd into the church founded on dependence upon God in prayer. The mantra is “Read the Word, and pray!” For decades a core of faithful men have met on Monday night for prayer. The elders are praying men, who meet for the purpose of prayer. On Wednesday evenings, when the service has been dedicated to prayer, a thousand people have collected in the sanctuary for prayer.

When I arrived in Surabaya, Indonesia a few years ago, I was told to prepare a brief challenge on prayer for the Wednesday evening service. The church building was packed! I shared. They prayed. And then I was informed that a business leaders prayer service would occur the next morning at 6:00 a.m. It would be my assignment to share briefly with those leaders. When I arrived, over 500 businessmen sat cross-legged on the floor, praying and crying out to God. Throughout the day, the sanctuary would empty and another group would gather for prayer. At that time, Pastor Alex Tanasuputra was ministering to 70,000 people. The driving force of his Church – is prayer.

Who has not heard of Dr. Paul Cho? A congregation with over 700,000 members! The very culture of the Church is bathed in prayer. Prayer-sensitive, mega-churches are popping up all over the earth. Prayer meetings in majority world nations are drawing tens-of-thousands. I was recently in a prayer meeting in Indonesia which drew 100,000 people.[4] Out of such gatherings, the nation is being changed.

Al Vander Griend tells about a pastor who “spent years training for ministry at a strong evangelical seminary … he learned all he could learn about church renewal and church growth. And he applied all he was learning. Nothing work ed. His church was as dead as ever. One day he walked out of his study and into the sanctuary, and feeling led of the Lord, stood at the front of the church in the center aisle. He began to pray for his parishioners one by one. He moved down the aisle, praying for those who would typically occupy each pew. Day after day he continued this practice. Soon the renewal he wanted and prayed for began.” [5]

What kind of church do you have? Do you have a church that prays? Or, do you have a praying church? Do you have a house of prayer for the nations? What are the differences?

[1] Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 11, 16.
[2] Cymbala, 19.
[3] Cymbala, 25.
[4] This occurred on May 5, 2005 at the conclusion of the Transform World Conference. At that time, one-million intercessors had been mobilized across the island nation in 450 prayer networks.
[5] Vander Griend, 15.

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