It was pioneer missions at its best. J.O. Frasier, a missionary among the Lisus of the mountains of western China earlier this century, struggled whether to work among the southern tribes or the northern tribes. He came to the conclusion that he was to work among the northerners, but from sunup to noon he would intercede for the southerners. As he worked among the northerners, few accepted Christ. Later, Frasier discovered that as a result of one chance contact with a southern man tens of thousands had come to Christ in the southern tribes! Waves of revival had come to the southern tribe not because of his direct ministry, but directly in answer to fervent prayer! That true story changed my life and the life of the church I was pastoring! We quickly realized without prayer our Cells were weak in spiritual power and ability to deliver people from strongholds. In prayer we both share and hear from God. It is here we communicate our personal burdens and the burdens of others; it is here we engage in warfare in the heavenlies; it is here we unwrap the gifts of the Holy Spirit which flow out from us to the Body for edification.
As you read this issue, allow God to make you what He wants you to be in prayer, laying aside any failures of the past. Our desire is not that you receive guilt or condemnation, but challenge! And challenge is indeed the hallmark of the cover articles.
David Yonggi Cho says in "Praying Heaven Open" on page 24, "At first it was not easy. . ." Nor will it be for us. Easy is not our goal, is it? Also, Larry Stockstill, pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, shares on page 18, "[We saw] the Lord establish over 250 Cells in a one-and-a-half year period. We believe this is because we showered every move in prayer, we knew God had spoken at each level . . ." Having known these men and their ministries first hand, I can testify to their honest desire to be intimate in prayer with Christ and to pray for His will.
My article (on page 20) is a report of some of my personal prayer journey. From a young pastor at a revival meeting, to Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore, let me share with you what I have learned so far about the greatest thing in the world: communication with Jesus Christ. May God empower you with a new vision of how prayer can increase the life of your Body of Christ!
One Saturday a year ago, Etna interrupted my wonderful afternoon of mindless entertainment in front of the television to discuss our water bill. I have found long naps in the TV room (preferably involving network golf tournaments_these sessions really reduce stress if watched intently with closed eyes) to be very comforting during the renovation of our 80 year old home. She was accustomed to water bills under $10 a month, and the one she was holding was well over $30. I knew I was in trouble because one of the many "honey-do's" I had forgotten about from weeks past was repairing a drippy faucet in our bathroom. As she booted me out of the house with a check and a commission to buy whatever parts and tools were needed to repair this costly mess, she said "It's poor stewardship to waste that much water."
I wholeheartedly agreed. I bought a few tools and a hose thingy, but I was unable to fix the problem. In a fit of desperation, I shut off the cold water intake to the faucet and announced that hand washing and the brushing of teeth would be performed with hot water until further notice. That was more than a year ago.
Consequently, I have put up with a scalding every time I brush my teeth for the last year instead of correcting a simple plumbing glitch. The problem is that this quick-fix mentality is often the way we approach spiritual challenges as well. If God doesn't answer our prayers or fix our problems immediately, we resign ourselves to living with them as though they were God's will.
Even with my trusty repair books, that faucet got the best of me. Now that's not saying much, considering I invested fifteen minutes of my life into fixing the problem. We must learn perseverance! Our struggles are not against flesh and blood, so why do we try to fight the battle with the human mind and will alone? Regrettably, I have given my spiritual battles the same amount of time and energy I gave to plumbing, showing poor habits in my prayer life as well as home repair. If we look at each situation the way the Lord looks at it_as a spiritual battle_perseverance will emerge. In fifteen minutes, we can determine that a battle needs to be fought, but it may take hours, days or weeks to see victory. If we give up after a few simple prayers, we indicate to the spiritual realm (the Lord and Satan) that we have no faith.
Two weeks ago I got fed up and called a plumber. I can't pinpoint the reason for this long delay. I'm not sure if it was pride or having to fork over $50 for a stupid little leak. Spiritually, we live with unneeded discomfort. We drag around our burden for the same reason I didn't call a plumber. We're too proud to admit we couldn't solve our own problem, or we feel the cost of freedom is too great. At some point, the spiritual battle becomes a forefront issue again, with greater intensity and aggravation.
Seeing the smile on my wife's face and brushing my teeth with chilly bubbles gave me a whole new perspective on two big "P's" (plumbing and prayer!) Knowing the source of the problem was helpful, but it wasn't enough. I lacked the confidence and perseverance to see the job through to the end. If you want results, you have to pray. You must pray through the issue to the end, and learn perseverance. Believe me, it will be more rewarding than paying $50 for a plumber.
When I read Where Do We Go From Here? by Ralph Neighbour, my dreams of structuring a church around small groups were crystallized. For the past three years, we have been transitioning our church (Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois) from a church with small groups to a Cell Church.
As we began this transition, our staff recognized immediately that we needed a strategy. Fortunately for us, we had access to some of the best strategy thinkers around, through our affiliation with TOUCH and Jim Egli, the former director of North Star Strategies. We employed sound, Spirit inspired strategies during this move.
But after several months, we began to notice something was missing. We have always been open to the Holy Spirit, but for several years it seemed as if He had been hiding. Realizing He makes Himself known by different ways in different seasons, we proceeded to implement the Cell strategy to which He had led us. We also prayed that He would come and breathe His life into our body. Even the best strategists cannot breathe life into what they produce. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. In March, our prayers began to bear fruit. The Holy Spirit began to blow upon our sails and a fresh anointing has filled the place.
What we have encountered here_and what is happening many other places also_is an increase in joy, accompanied by the Holy Spirit's power and a heightened expectancy that God will interact in the lives of His children. We have seen frayed relationships touched and changed instantly. We have seen people with chronic physical conditions healed. People have a new hunger for the Bible to the point that they spend hours and hours reading it. Still others are so filled with a desire to pray and intercede that they long to be in God's presence like never before. The youth and children have been affected to the point that they really desire to come to Cell or to celebration. Others have rearranged priorities, schedules, and giving patterns to such a degree that, to the leadership here, it is obvious that something unmistakably supernatural is upon us. The Holy Spirit seems to be moving in a way that is described in Acts 3:19: "Repent, turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord." [emphasis mine.]
While some churches have chosen to incorporate this move via large corporate meetings, we decided to use our established Cell group ministry immediately, suspending only the regular agendas for extended times of ministry.This allowed us to answer questions many people naturally had about such an outpouring (accompanied with such varied manifestations) as well as allowing each person to receive the most possible ministry. We divided our pastoral staff into teams. At each home we visited, the Spirit overwhelmed the group. We saw skeptics touched and lives radically changed. As church leadership, we have all experienced the heartache of watching individuals in our churches struggle with specific issues or sins for years. Actually, for our church, this is one of the main reasons we were driven to pursue the Cell strategy in the first place_the belief that it offered greater hope for healing and restoration. But we were frustrated even though we knew that God had given us the Cell strategy. We see now what God has done: taken His divine wineskin (the Cell strategy) and filled it with His wine (the Holy Spirit).
Not surprisingly, those who had not attended a small group in years suddenly wanted to get back into one. The meetings regained a feeling that God was going to do something special. Expectancy, hope, and faith began to rise dramatically. Now the Holy Spirit is moving freely in the Cells. The ministry is led, for the most part, by the people in the Cells.
More than I have ever seen, I am seeing the Cell strategy work. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is filling the Cells. The strategy and the Spirit have come together and the effect is staggering and powerful. We believe no less in Cells, only more in Cells combined with the mighty presence of the Holy Spirit. We believe this will now become the status quo in many or all American Cell Churches_a powerful union of strategy and Spirit resulting in places where people live in community. Because of hunger and love for Jesus, they receive and minister healing, discipling, nurturing, and all of the other blessings of the Kingdom.
The challenges youth ministers face cannot be met without prayer. Here are a few practical steps toward prayer-centered youth ministry.
The challenges youth face today are overwhelming. Teen suicide is up 400% in the last 10 years. Teen pregnancies are up. Drugs are available and cheap. Youth of today have been labeled "Generation X" because they don't care about anything. Youth ministers are often left with the task of sorting it all out.
Because of this dilemma, we strive to find the right program to fix the problem. When we know that we have found the "miracle program," we implement it only to find that the program in and of itself is not enough. Something is missing. The students are still aimless and struggling.
We say, What am I doing wrong?
Well, it's not necessarily what we're doing wrong, but what we are missing. We're missing the experience of intimacy with Christ which comes when we join with Him in praying for our youth. He wants us to minister to them in the context of an intimate relationship with Him that flows out of prayer. As we express to Him our helplessness in ministry, He will come with power.
This should be the focus of any youth ministry, but especially a youth Cell ministry. The demands, the chaos, the needs: they all put pressure on the youth minister that can only be dealt with in prayer.
E.M. Bounds said in his classic, Power Through Prayer, "Much prayer, much power; little prayer, little power; no prayer, no power." Like the desert where there is no rain and in turn no growth, so are the youth in a ministry where there is no determined intercession for them, no crying out to God for them.
We must ask God to teach us the first steps not only to dynamic intercessory prayer for youth, but also a vital personal prayer-life with Jesus. If you are not confident in this area, be honest with God about it. Pray like the disciples: "Teach me to pray. I want to be a man of intimacy with You, out from which flows prayer for others."
As you personally grow in prayer, so will others. But don't wait until you pray like Elijah to implement some practical principles that will help you establish your ministry more solidly on prayer.
Generation X is definitely one generation with an extra share of obstacles. They need our help. And the greatest help we can give them is a dynamic personal prayer life_a life of prayer that spills over onto our youth. Here is where the power is.
by Larry Stockstill
Twelve years ago we changed our name from Bethany Baptist Church to Bethany World Prayer Center because of our conviction that prayer had to be our focus. In 1983, we began a Saturday morning intercessory prayer meeting from 9-10 a.m. God spoke to us that our church was to be a center for intercessory prayer for the nations, and we established a twenty-four hour "World Prayer Center" to pray for our missionaries, pastors, and government leaders. This center has been in operation round-the-clock ever since, except for a brief period of remodeling.
In the summer of 1991 we established Gideon's Army, a 500-member prayer force. We sensed that the Cell strategy was from the Lord, but that it must be birthed in prayer. In the very beginning, we established Cells which met every other week for edification and every other week for evangelism (members would bring friends). But these Cells were made up of people from Gideon's Army who were praying diligently through each step in the process.
It was after this foundation of prayer was established that we ventured forth aggressively into the Cell structure in April of 1993. We have since seen the Lord establish over 250 Cell groups among us in a one and a half year period. We believe this is because we showered every move in prayer, we knew God had spoken at each level, and we were determined that prayer would be the heart of it.
But there were practical, biblical reasons for this emphasis on prayer. Let's look together at six reasons to base your Cell ministry on prayer.
Prayer births things that God wants to do. Prayer has the power to "birth" things. The church of the New Testament was birthed at upper room prayer meetings. I feel no church can transition into revival and the immense changes of Cell structure without a prayer base.
I am not alone in this. Many great moves of God in history were birthed in prayer: the Moravian missions phenomenon, the Methodist church and its emphasis on praying, small groups, etc. Someone once said that we have gone from the upper room agonizing to the supper room organizing. Prayer is the birthing power of the church, for "as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children" (Isa. 66:8). "Substance before structure" is a guiding maxim that reminds us that revivals are "prayed down and not worked up." All the Cell structure does is divinely contain and protect the harvest_but Cells will not provide the harvest. One trip to Korea and Prayer Mountain should be enough to convince any pastor that Cells do not bring the revival, they hold the revival. To see thousands of Korean intercessors at Prayer Mountain in the middle of a weekday on their faces praying for souls or to pass by a little prayer grotto and see a pair of shoes outside while a powerful intercessor inside is crying out for revival will be enough to reveal to you in what direction we should be moving.
Prayer helps isolate the committed core of your Cell ministry. Think about it: what activity in your church trims down the attendance more than a prayer meeting? I have learned that the strongest disciples are those who long for the presence of God. Though you must occasionally endure some who are unbalanced, it is reasonable to say that your prayer warriors are the committed core of the church. They are also the most sensitive to the changing direction of the Holy Spirit in a church and most aware of the spiritual warfare necessary to birth something that is a major threat to Satan's kingdom. Therefore, they will be the least resistant to change and the most resistant to demonic efforts to thwart the fledgling effort. Teaching your prayer core the principles of intercession and spiritual warfare equips them to be the leaders and reapers of the Cell dynamic.
Cells have the ability to do strategic spiritual warfare in prayer. Located geographically, they provide the natural "command post" to do spiritual "reconnaissance" for their particular area and engage those spiritual forces in intensive prayer battle. Much material has been written recently on how to do spiritual warfare for city blocks, neighborhoods, city zones, etc. Cell groups can do "prayer walks" and other intercessory activities to begin the process of loosening the strongholds of darkness over their area.
Because who better knows the particular spiritual strongholds of a neighborhood than those who live there? However, when most churches pray, it is for "the city" and is not informed, intelligent prayer for specific areas, like a street. We envision a time in the next three or four years when 1,000 prayer Cells from Bethany and a host of other area churches work together to know each block of our city spiritually. There will be a group committed to interceding for that place daily. This strategy has been very effective in Argentina and other countries that are experiencing great revival through "prayer Cells."
Praying Cells mean that the church-wide prayer load is evenly distributed. We have discovered that a Cell structure works because it brings "shared responsibility" instead of "volunteerism." In the prayer area, we share the load by assigning a section of three to five Cells to be in our prayer room during each service, praying for the presence of God and for unbelievers to be saved. Led by the "Section Leader," the Cells draw closer together as they intercede together. Then they actually provide the "altar workers" needed to reap the harvest at the altar call!
Also, the Cells are each assigned to provide a "prayer covering" for one missionary family and one staff pastor (their District or Zone Pastor) through daily intercession. In this way, we know that all our missionaries and pastors have several groups calling out their needs continually before the Lord and are not lost in the shuffle without adequate prayer covering.
Cells can focus on specific prayer objectives. As the Senior Pastor, I have the vision of the current state of the church and the challenges we are facing in a particular month. The leaders hear the specific goals and urgent prayer needs that will affect the entire congregation from my vantage point and then communicate those prayer objectives to their Cell groups. This means that the Pastor has hundreds of focused prayer warriors who are praying for the very burdens he is continually lifting up before the Lord. Breakthroughs come quickly, and progress is never impeded.
Cells can intercede for the harvest. Our Cell meetings operate on an alternating format: one week is edification, where believers minister in prayer to one another. The next week is evangelism, where unbelievers are invited and the lesson format is geared to specifically reaching them. During the "edification" week, the believers not only pray for each other's needs, but they break into "prayer triplets" and focus on three unbelievers each. The prayer triplet covenants together to pray for those nine names and then invites each to the "evangelism" meeting the following week. This prayer of agreement for the lost speeds up the harvest process, and now an average of 22-25 people are being saved weekly in the Cell groups!
God brought an unexpected revival among us last spring as the Cells prayed weekly for unbelievers. A drama came for a three-day performance in February and one thousand people came for salvation on the first night! The meeting went on for twenty-one nights, and a total of 18,290 people came forward for salvation and filled out decision cards. This was twice the harvest that the Baton Rouge Billy Graham Crusade had! Our Cell groups went quickly into action, each day following up the massive harvest and directing them to other area churches from which they had come or placing them in Cells if they had no church. Some pastors, who did not even attend the dramas, baptized 25-30 new converts into their churches! This abundant harvest showed us the power of intercession for unbelievers and the crying need now in America to "get the nets ready." Harvest is coming to this generation as we have never seen or known, and we pastors had best be spending our time preparing our leadership to hold and conserve this coming massive harvest.
I challenge every church and every pastor to seek the Lord for a fresh outpouring in America before it is eternally too late. The dynamic of prayer when God moves in power is truly the only hope for this world. Prepare your church to be an engine of prayer that will open heaven over your city!
I was 32 years old when I experienced the Lord in a life- changing time of prayer. It was triggered by a time of great anguish. I was scheduled to go to Suffolk, Virginia, to preach for an evangelistic campaign. During a time when racial prejudices ran deep, this was to be the first city-wide meeting co-sponsored by white and black churches. Then, at the last minute, the leadership of the largest white church in town refused to allow their church or their pastor to participate. As a result, that pastor asked me to come and hold a meeting for his congregation alone.
The spirit of hate was strong in the Sunday services! The people resented my presence, which convicted them of their decision to kill the crusade. After the Sunday services, I asked the pastor to leave me undisturbed in my hotel room until I called for him. I explained I did not know how long it would take, but I could not return to that pulpit until God showed me what to do.
I threw the key under the bed of my room, stretched out on the floor, and began to pray. Sunday night, all day Monday, and into Tuesday, I continued to fast and pray, agonizing over the situation of that church. I confessed my powerlessness to bring about change in those church members, and cried out for God's presence.
In the early hours of that second night, God came upon me. So heavy was His presence that I felt I could not catch my next breath! Waves and waves of His Spirit flowed into that room. When it was over, I felt totally exhausted, but I knew I had received His powerful presence and my preaching would never be the same.
Since the Monday night meeting had been canceled, people came in great numbers on Tuesday night out of curiosity. I don't think they knew that God was going to come in the power He did, but that packed auditorium met God in an encounter unforgettable. Repentance and confession of many forms of sin poured forth, and at 1 a.m. we were still meeting. I recall I was on my knees at the front row of pews with the pastor, and he whispered to me, "Ralph, I have never experienced anything like this! I am frightened. What should I do?" "Do nothing!" I whispered back, "God is bringing repentance, and we're not needed."
Little did I know back in those P.B.D. days that what we were experiencing then is what should be the norm for the Church. The manifestation of God's power is the heart of the Church's life. This means prayer should be the central focus of each Cell group.
An examination of key Cell Churches in the world will demonstrate their common emphasis on prayer as the key to ministry.
When I attended David Yonggi Cho's Cell Conference several years ago, he launched it from Prayer Mountain instead of the lovely facilities of the Central Church on Yoido Island. The pastor of the world's largest church began his opening address by saying, "I have asked you to meet me here because I believe prayer is the most vital part of Cell Church life. This is my way of making that fact real to you." With that, the delegates spent several hours praying with him.
In the hours that followed, I walked past the prayer grotto which is reserved for Pastor Cho. We were told how he goes there on a Friday evening, to pray all through the night and into the next day.
In another visit, I made an appointment to see him. As we chatted, his secretary entered the room to inform him it was time for his next appointment. I dismissed myself and sat in the waiting room outside his office to wait for a friend coming to meet me. Curious about who his next visitor would be, I observed his office door to see who would follow me. Fifteen minutes later, no one had entered that door. Tactfully, I said to his secretary, "Has Dr. Cho's next appointment been delayed?" She smiled and said, "Oh, no. They are together now. You see, each day he uses this time to talk to the Lord."
The secret of his church growth was revealed to me by this experience. Dr. Cho has learned to prioritize the "Listening Room" in his life and ministry, to regularly be seated in the heavenlies to hear the Father's voice.
Over two million visits per year are made to Prayer Mountain by the members of his church. I have listened there to the wails of a broken hearted mother, praying hour after hour for a wayward daughter. I have heard the screams of a demon possessed man as he was delivered in one of the prayer chapels. I have watched the long lines of Christians lined up to be assigned a space to pray, holding a jug of water and a bed roll. At one sitting, I observed nearly 10,000 of his people gathered to pray on the upper level of the building there shaped like Noah's ark.
In the Ivory Coast of Africa, another significant Cell Church has grown to over 40,000. Pastor Dion Robert's schedule would cripple many men. He retires about 11 p.m., to awaken at 1 or 2 a.m. While the world around him is sleeping, he takes time to commune with his Master. His ability to hear the voice of the Lord in those night hours has guided his church since 1975.
With only eight hours' notice, Pastor Dion can assemble over 10,000 of his members for an all night prayer meeting. In preparation for their annual Easter harvest, 500 of his members lived in a stadium to fast and pray for ten days prior to the launch.
These two examples of Cell Church pastors reveal that prayer is the secret of the spiritual power in their churches. The anointing and harvest are results of their prayer lives. Prayer has produced the vision and passion that is seen in their Cell Groups.
My own experience within the Cell Church movement has revealed several levels of prayer activity taking place. These include:
In The Arrival Kit, Cell members are trained to daily enter the "Listening Room," their time of prayer. They are encouraged to keep a journal to record impressions and thoughts which flow from His throne during those times. It is in the Listening Room that Cell members first learn to hear from God and receive His guidance. Not only is his or her inner life strengthened by these experiences, but edification of other Cell members begins with hearing from God about ministry to them.
The Listening Room experience differs from the traditional "Quiet Time." The awareness of the community, the Cell, must be present in these intercessory times. The Cell member's time with God is not a private event. He or she carries the needs of those in the Basic Christian Community to the throne of God, returning with spiritual gifts which can be released to meet the needs of others.
I recall an attorney in Fort Worth, Texas, who said to me, "I begin to prepare to edify the other members of my Cell on the way home from each meeting. Through the week, the needs present in their lives is a vital part of my Listening Room times. By the time of the next meeting, I often have a special word from the Lord to build up a brother or a sister."
Further, the Cell member becomes an intercessor for the unsaved. The Share The Vision times which conclude each Cell meeting provide information about unbelievers who are being cultivated by Cell members. Knowing that Satan has sent the spirits of deception to blind and deafen the ears of all unbelievers, prayer for their release from this bondage is crucial. Cell members return to their homes with the information required to pray against the strongholds in the lives of unbelievers. It is because of these times of daily intercession that powerful grace begins to operate in the life of unbelievers. The needs within unbelievers is a daily issue for the Cell member's prayer times.
In the Cell Group meeting, prayer becomes a vital part of the worship and praise times. There may often be special moments as the group acknowledges the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is also a lovely experience to observe prayer in the Edification Time, as a group surrounds one of its members in a Cell meeting, praying for physical healing or ministering to a serious problem.
Realizing that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12), Cell members must include prayer warfare as a vital part of their ministries. The domains of Satan are penetrated by the prayers of believers, creating an atmosphere where spiritual freedom can exist. Prayer walking is taught to Cell members, and becomes a consistent practice for the group. For example, at Faith Community Baptist Church a special seminar was held to train all the Cells to enter a geographical territory in prayer before entering it with Share Groups or Interest Groups. In Singapore, Faith Community Baptist Church sponsors Zone Prayer Walks for its Cells. Sometimes a Cell will walk through the passages of the Housing Development Board flats, praying before each door. Most are marked by pagan symbols, including incense cans, images of gods, or mirrors to frighten away demons when the door is opened. With awareness of specific strongholds in the people living in each flat, prayer warfare can then precede each visitation.
Zones or Districts in some Cell churches gather together on a regular basis (perhaps every six weeks) for a half night of prayer. The sessions begin with worship, testimonies from Cells or members about what God has done through prayers for healings, deliverances, etc. After exhortation from the Pastor in charge, the groups may be given maps to designate areas for prayer warfare. In cars or on foot, clusters of Cells will spend the evening, often past the hour of midnight, praying over the territory of the Zones.
Special attention is given to areas to be targeted for the establishing of new Cells. This joint effort increases the vision of the Cell members to the District or Zone as they pray. Special needs of the area are observed. In one such Prayer Journey in Singapore, kerosene lamps were observed burning inside large buildings under construction. An investigation revealed that there were several dozen indentured laborers from Bangladesh living in the space they were building. Out of this, a ministry has been generated to make contact with these workers and establish Cell Groups among them.
Gathering together all the Cells from the church for prayer is also vital to their work for the Lord. For example, every Friday night the facilities of the Central Church on Yoido Island in Seoul are packed and jammed with members coming for the half night of prayer. Twenty-five thousand or more gather for a meeting that begins at 8 p.m. and continues nonstop until 2 a.m. Singing and Bible teaching times are interspersed with the prayer times. Simultaneously, all the people pray aloud with great fervor. These prayer sessions may continue for 30 or 40 minutes before the leader rings a bell to call the audience to attention.
Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore devotes a full hour of prayer in their worship services about once every three months. Everyone prays aloud at the same time. The pattern used for this 60 minutes includes ten minutes each for worship, prayer for the nation, prayer for the church, prayer for one's family needs, prayer for the unsaved, and prayer for one's own needs. This continual repeating of hour-long prayer times by the entire church is a powerful way to train Cell members to pray for one hour.
When special events are forthcoming, church wide prayer vigils are held. For example, in December of each year Faith Community Baptist Church conducts an evangelistic harvest event called "Come Celebrate Christmas." In 1993, there were 48,000 people who attended this event. In September, at a prayer vigil people began to pray for one hour for every seat in the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Reports were received weekly from the Cells of the number of hours the individual members had invested in prayer for this event. Thus, when the activity was held, every person sat down in a seat that had been prayed over for one full hour. The atmosphere of the event, from the first minute the auditorium was occupied, was charged with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
It makes a difference when prayer is a focal point of a church! When Peter Wagner came to speak for the Touch Equipping Stations classes, he remarked after his first three- hour session, "Speaking in this auditorium is amazing! Seldom have I experienced such freedom in my teaching. The atmosphere here is charged with God's presence as a result of your prayer lives."
Sadly, I have participated in religious organizations all my life, beginning with my early post-college years with Billy Graham and including denominational jobs and serving as pastor or staff member of Program Base Design churches. Not once was I exposed to the life of prayer as thoroughly inserted into a church staff as I have experienced during the past four years at Faith Community Baptist Church!
Each staff member is given three days of prayer leave every three months. A small stipend is given toward the rental of a hotel room, and staff go in pairs for this time of quiet meditation and prayer. While most of the time is spent alone, there are seasons of prayer and sharing between the two during meals.
The first Tuesday of each month, the 173 employees of the church begin a prayer season which goes from 8 a.m. to 1 or 2 p.m. Part of this time is spent praying individually, another part as an office staff event, and finally all the staff gathers for praise and prayer warfare which occupies the last hours. The rest of the Tuesdays include a prayer meeting for everyone from 11 a.m. to 1 or 1:30 p.m. We often wrestle with problems the church is facing, and always pray for our Cell Church planters who have gone out from us to labor in Vladivostok, Alma Ata, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, and among the restricted nations.
Each day begins with an hour of prayer within each department. Thus, the staff is saturated with prayer events that are done on "company time." It is my feeling that the reason we have gone for seven years without a serious problem between staff members is because of the prayer bonding that takes place on a regular basis.
Like a machine needs oil, so does a ministry or church need prayer. We must pray for God to anoint what we do. We should pray for God to touch every area of our ministries with His anointing. Charles Spurgeon once said, "I don't know what anointing is, but I know when it is not there." Do people sense this "anointing" in our lives, in our ministries and churches? Let us ask God anew for His help in not only our personal prayer lives, but also the prayer lives of those we minister to in the Cell Church.
It is refreshing to walk into a church and immediately sense the presence of God! It is also encouraging to be aware of the power of God in our daily lives over every situation. Both the refreshing and awareness of the power of God every day comes into our lives through prayer!
How can we develop a great desire to pray, that we may experience this power and reality in our churches and personal lives? I believe developing a great desire to pray is partially the result of knowing the purpose and benefits of prayer. That's the way God made us_we are motivated to do something when we understand its purpose and benefits. If we realize the benefits of prayer we will be a people of prayer.
To pray this way, however, means a change in our lifestyles, a change which does not come easily and is uncomfortable. There are many examples, both Biblical and contemporary, of God's people acutely aware of the purpose and benefits of prayer.
Take the revival in Korea, for example. God has opened up heaven over Korea. I personally believe God is pouring out revival because our people have established strong prayer habits. Though they are already very industrious people, they have made prayer their first priority. By prayer they have communion and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Today the Holy Spirit guides them in their daily living and they have power with God.
At Yoido Full Gospel Church, our people learned to pray in this manner. At first it was not easy, but as I led the way, they followed. We began with early morning prayer at 4:30 am. We added an all-night prayer meeting Friday nights from 10:00 pm to 4:40 am. Our people came to one or both prayer meetings. Although each person was on a different level of maturation, our coming together strengthened us.
The fervency and persistence of the Koreans was an indication of the new place in prayer we had found. And this fervency was not unrewarded. One by one we prayed through to an overflowing experience of joy and faith and filling of the Spirit. We prayed through every visible and invisible hindrance before us. Lives were changed. There was an unseen high tide of faith and victory! The believers never went back to their passive praying, which is to pray only when one has time or feels like praying.
Neighbors and business associates saw the difference! The joy and peace and faith became contagious. Unbelievers were attracted to our church and when they came they accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Prayer was the key that opened revelation of God's Word in their hearts as the Holy Spirit made the truth very clear to them.
This is why our church has grown monthly by an average of 10,000
to 11,000 members. We are now ready to pray with others for the many hundreds of prayer
requests that come to us from all over the world. Prayer changed us and prayer has now
changed the course of our nation.
n the Bible, examples of praying people are everywhere. These people knew how to pray. They prayed God down on their world, and He opened heaven to them.
For example, Moses had power in prayer. He could speak with authority not only to the enemies of God, but also to God's people. When he prayed, plagues came to Egypt. When he prayed, the Red Sea opened before Israel. When he prayed, God moved. Joshua also saw the mighty hand of God work through his life and ministry. He knew the will and strategy of God in battle. Mighty cities fell before his untrained army. Where did this power come from? His prayer life! Joshua had learned to pray. While Moses was praying on the mountain, Joshua spent the night at the foot of the mountain in prayer. When Moses departed, Joshua was trained in prayer.
David was a man utterly given to prayer. When he was anointed king of Israel, Saul was still on the throne. David could have been discouraged by the fact that only a few recognized his kingdom, yet in prayer he came to a place of trust. He waited for the Lord to place him on Israel's physical throne. David was strong enough in his relationship with the Lord that he did not kill Saul when he had the opportunity. After Saul's death, David's first action as the recognized king of Israel was to bring back the Ark of the Covenant to its rightful place at the center of Israel's worship. When we look at the power in David's life and his kingdom, we see the source of his power: a life of prayer.
But no one has ever manifested the power of God like the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Before He entered His public ministry, He spent much time with the Father in prayer. This was the source of His power. He could do nothing unless the Father revealed it to Him.
Here in Korea, I have learned much from these examples of prayer in the Bible. I have learned that in my own personal ministry I must depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. It is not by might or natural power but by the Holy Spirit that great things are accomplished for God. I can pastor a church of over 700,000 and still have time to travel all over the world because I have power from the Holy Spirit in prayer.
s we pray there is a purpose: that God may be known and worshiped in the world. But when we pray the Holy Spirit also works on the one praying. One of the ways He works is by breaking us. Over the past 36 years I have learned that God cannot use a person who is not broken and completely surrendered to Him. Look at the example of Peter. When Jesus met Peter in his fishing boat, Peter had one reaction: conviction. He felt as if he were too sinful for Jesus to be in his boat. Having denied Christ three times, he was broken by the grace and forgiveness of Christ. Peter was then used by Christ to open the spiritual door to the Gentile world. God was able to use Peter once he was broken. When a man is broken, his heart resists pride, and can be used greatly.
The Holy Spirit is the comforter. Yet, the comforter can make you most uncomfortable if you are not willing to be broken. The Holy Spirit ensures our obedience to the Heavenly Father by breaking us.
Another purpose of prayer is authority over Satan. In this evil age, Satan, supported by the fallen angels and demons is out to rob and destroy. Without depending on the power of prayer we are not able to break Satan's power. The Devil has never been concerned about church ritual, but he is deathly afraid of genuine prayer. When you begin your life of prayer, you are going to discover new and diverse opposition from Satan.
How is this authority exercised in prayer? Satan opposes the prayers of God's people more than anything else. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12) When Christ was crucified and resurrected He took the keys of death and the grave and declared "All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth." (Mt.28:18). Jesus now shares His authority with you and me here on earth (Luke 10:19). As we learn how to pray in the Spirit, we realize we have been given Christ's authority, and with His authority operating in and through us we are able to bind the forces of Satan in people, cities, and nations. How can we develop a great desire to pray? Know the purposes of prayer: that we might be changed, that the world might be changed. Then know the benefits of prayer: that God is victorious in all situations through our intimacy with Jesus in prayer, and He motivates us with dreams of what could happen through biblical and contemporary examples. When we experience the biblical dynamic of prayer in our lives we will then experience the refreshing and power of God in ways we never imagined.
Bible Study: Reverend Cho constantly reminds western Christians that the key to his church is fervent prayer, yet we are still amazed that Yoido Full Gospel Church is so big and having so much impact. The Book of Acts records the prayer life of the new Church and how the church rapidly grew because of their trust in Jesus' words, "Ask and you shall receive. . . ." Read Acts 4:23-31 twice. What do the believers boldly ask God to do in v.29? In v. 31 what are the immediate results of their prayer? In vv. 32-36 and 5:14 what is the continuing fruit of their fervent prayer?
Prayer: "Lord, I want the New Testament model of prayer to be in my life. I want to be a person of prayer. Help me, Jesus. Amen."
Cell Time: Practice praying biblical prayers. Read Acts 4:23- 31 aloud. Then invite everyone to pray the same prayer the first Christians prayed. Try praying other prayers in Scripture at Cell time.
Cells are not the answer for your church. You are probably surprised to read this statement in a magazine devoted to the Cell Church movement, but it is true. Cells are not the great panacea for all your church ills. Cells will not fix all your problems or people, and Cells will not get you over your next church growth hurdle. Cells must be built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. Without Christ and His transforming power changing our lives, Cells are simply another unstable structure.
God showed me the truth of this while sitting in a traffic jam in Bangkok, Thailand watching a huge machine drive pillars down, down into the earth. Much time and money was spent on building these pillars, which would form the foundation of a 25 story building.
It's this way in the Church as well. The true foundation of any church must be the pillar of Jesus Christ and His values. I am convinced that the only final, authoritative answer for the church's problems today is a powerful, dynamic, life- changing relationship with the Bridegroom of the Church, Jesus Christ. It must be a relationship where we walk and talk with the Author of the universe, where we are conformed to the image of Christ. In this relationship, the values and mind of Christ are worked out in our lives: Be filled with the Spirit, bear one another's burdens, speak the truth in love, walk by the Spirit, love one another, forgive each other, serve one another, let all things be done for edification. The Holy Spirit works these values and attributes into our lives, forming the pillars on which the church structure can be built.
Foundation vs. Structure Before you scream "hypocrite," know that I am passionately committed to the Cell structure. I believe that Cells are the most natural structure for the new wine. If you have read any issues of this magazine, you know that many vibrant, dynamic churches tend toward a Cell structure. The Cell structure flows in these churches as a natural result of seeking to walk in New Testament values.
A major problem, though, is that most who visit these Cell Churches grasp what they can see with their eyes and miss out on the values that form the foundation for the structure. The hidden, unseen pillars that support the visible structure are totally missed. This is a dangerous mistake, because any structure is only as strong as the foundation on which it is built. You simply cannot build a stable structure, even a Cell structure, without a solid foundation (Luke 6:46- 49).
Those returning home from visiting dynamic Cell models often jump right into constructing the Cell structure, without first checking their foundation to see if it is solid enough to hold the building. They totally ignore what Jesus said and seek to put a new Cell patch on their old garment. In the end, they usually destroy both the patch and the garment. The new patch of the Cell structure is designed for the new garment of a church walking in vital relationship with Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It will be devastating to try and patch up your old garment with this new Cell patch. I have found that most of us (myself included) want to be a part of the new wineskin of the Cell Church, without the difficult process of being pressed and crushed into new wine. We want to enjoy the freshness of a new wineskin but lack the power to fill up what is only an empty, useless skin by itself. Containers are important, but they are not inherently valuable. They are valuable because of what they contain. Without the new wine, we have a pliable, supple structure, but no substance to quench our thirst and nourish us. On the other hand, without the proper container, we have wonderful wine, but no receptacle to keep it from spilling all over the ground. Those of us entering into the Cell model should see ourselves as managers of wineries. In this management, a good steward will bring the wine and wineskins together at the proper time. Some of us have labored to make the wine, but must now give attention to preparing the skins to hold this wine. Others have focused on preparing skins and now must pray "God, bring the wine and fill this skin." Where are you? Spend time with the Master of the Vineyard and find out.
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