You can pray in a manner that will free up the Word of God to get into people's hearts — yes, you can.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, my dear radio friend, how in the world are you? Everything going alright at your house? I trust so. Bless your heart. Nice to be back with you. This is your friend, Bob Cook. We’re looking at First Thessalonians, just finishing up our little walk through that book. And I’m grateful, believe me, to be with you, and the Word of God, in these precious moments that we invest together, in matters that are eternal.
We’ve been walking around in some concepts that grew out of Verse 25 of First Thessalonians Five, where Paul says, “Brethren, pray for us. Pray for us.” You remember, I mentioned a few prayers that seemed to be the wrong kind of praying: King Saul, and Jonah when he was in a snit, and Elijah when he was depressed, different kinds of prayers. Simon the sorcerer, who wanted to get out of the consequences of his greed, that’s the wrong kind of praying.
We mentioned, too, that prayer’s a battle. Paul says, “Strive together with me in your prayers.” Prayer is work, prayer is a battle. Anytime you wanna find that out, just decide you’re gonna spend a few minutes in prayer, and everything will happen. The phone will ring, the doorbell will ring, the dog will be outside trying to get in, or inside trying to get out, as the case may be. Everything will seem to conspire against you. Prayer is work, you have to work at it. “Strive together with me in your prayers.”
And then, Paul prayed that, “Utterance may be given, that I may open my mouth boldly, as I ought to speak.” We need to pray for each other, that God will make us good spokesmen for the Gospel. How often the sound of the trumpet is uncertain, and the message is muted, or mumbled. And we need to pray for each other, that God will make us clear spokesmen, effective spokesmen for the Gospel.
Well, then, the last time we got together, we went over to Second Thessalonians Three, where Paul said, “Finally, brethren, pray for us.” [chuckle] Some wag has said that when Paul says, “Finally,” it doesn’t mean a thing. [chuckle] He keeps right on. Just like the preachers, huh? Well, “Finally, brethren,” he said, “Pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may have free course.” That word ‘may have free course’ means, actually, ‘may run,’ “May run and be glorified, even as it is with you, and pray that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, for all men have not faith, but the Lord is faithful. Pray that the Word of God may have free course.” Prayer, actually, can open the door for the proclamation of the Word of God.
When I was president of Youth for Christ, we had a number of evangelists working with us, one of whom was Jack Cochrane. I haven’t seen him or heard from him in many years. A fine Irish brother he was, and a great preacher, and evangelist. He took a trip down to Australia, and when he came back, he told us the following story. He said that a local committee in one of the Australian cities had lined up plans for a citywide crusade, with our Brother Cochrane as the preacher. And they had rented the largest theater in the town for that purpose. Well, as the time for the meetings drew nigh, the owner of that theater showed up one day at the little headquarters office and said, “I’m sorry. I have to cancel your rental agreement, because a theatrical troupe has come. And of course, you know, we’re in the theater business, and so I have leased the theater to them, for the time when you would be holding meetings.”
Well, this was all young people who were sponsoring the crusade and it was a stunning blow to them. And they did the only thing they knew how to do, which was to start to pray. Many of them worked during the day at a regular job, but they would come after their employment was over, and have a sandwich or so, and then they would pray through the night hours. And there was a continual round-the-clock prayer meeting going on. Now, Jack said that the essence of their prayer was something that even he himself would have hesitated to pray. I’m sure that I would have had some hesitation in praying the way they did, but here’s what they prayed, “Oh, Lord, make those people sick, so they’ll give up and move out.” That’s what they prayed. Well, some time went by, and now, the owner of the theater shows up again, hat in hand, very crestfallen. He said, “The strangest thing has happened.” He said, “That entire troupe fell ill and has cancelled their agreement. I’m wondering if you would want to take back the theater and use it as you intended to?” Would they take it back? That’s what they’d been asking for. And so the meetings went on. They had a great time, a lot of people saved, and the Word of God, indeed, had free course. That’s what Jack told us when he came back from Australia.
Now, my dear friend, I’m not in favor of extravagant praying, and I don’t know, as I say, to be honest with you, whether I would have prayed in that vein, but they did. And evidently, it was of the Lord, because that’s exactly what happened. God took them at their word, moved the other gang out, and that was it. Myself, I had the same kind of experience in my own salad days. I was just out of Moody Bible Institute, from which I had graduated, and was sort of in between. I was leading a choir for Torrey Johnson, and acting as a kind of assistant pastor, and going to Wheaton College, commuting back and forth from the west side of Chicago, out to Wheaton every day and back again, and sharing my few dollars a week with the caretaker of the church, who with his wife and a little boy were on relief. And so they shared their pasta and tomato sauce, and I shared a few dollars, and bought them a pound of butter now and again, and we made it. [chuckle] That was the kind of a set up it was.
My home sweet home, at that point, was one of the Sunday school rooms. I had my earthly belongings piled in there and that was where I lived. I had to get out every Sunday morning, so the little kids in a certain Sunday school class could use it as a Sunday school room, but it worked alright. And, well, as the time went on, I felt a strange desire to preach some. I had never done much preaching, I always played the violin. You didn’t know I was a violinist, did you? Well, I’m not, [chuckle] but I was then. And I had always played the violin, and did a little with the guitar, and led choirs, that was the thing that I could do. And so I didn’t know much preaching, but I felt this strange stirring in my heart, and so I began to seek places where I could preach the Gospel. And the most likely possibility, obviously, would be a rescue mission, which I did. On Tuesday night, I was at the Union Gospel Mission on Union Street, just off of Madison. And on Friday nights, I was at the Madison Avenue Mission, the Chicago Gospel Mission, it was called, 1340 West Madison Street. I think they still have the same name, but they may have moved to a location a few blocks away now. I get their mailings and pray for them.
But in those days, the Mission on Madison Street was run by a man named Russell McNamara, who had been saved out of a life of sin, and drunkenness, and was thoroughly born again, and had a real heart for lost men and women, and he was running the mission. Now, there was one problem that we had to face. And I was completely dismayed, when the first night I preached there, just about the time I was going to give an invitation, and sing the invitation song, we heard this terrible ‘thumpety, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, bump,’ which actually was the rolling of a body down the stairs from an upstairs flat over the Mission. The upstairs flat was occupied by some bootleggers, who were operating a speakeasy, they called ’em in those days, and the process would be somebody would stay in there until he got completely drunk, and then they would relieve him of everything, but his pants, and then throw him out on the street, and the cops would pick him up, and they’d put him in the drunk tank until morning.
Well, this happened. And after that last bump, in a few moments, the flashing lights of the police car would show up outside, and they would pick up this man, and take him away. Meanwhile, all of the fellows in my audience were chuckling, and chortling, and pointing, and enjoying themselves hugely, because they knew what was happening. You try to give an invitation under circumstances like that, it’s pretty hard to do. [chuckle]
Well, Russell McNamara said, after this had happened once or twice, he said, “We’re gonna pray those birds out of here.” He said, “Cook,” he said, “We’re gonna have an all-night prayer meeting tonight. You wanna stay?” Well, nobody was waiting up for me. All I had was an empty Sunday School room at Messiah Baptist Church on Flournoy Street in Chicago. And so I said, “Sure. Nobody’s waiting for me. I’ll stay,” and we began to pray. I soon learned something about all-night prayer meetings. You pray the first time around and you pray your best prayers, sort of a speech to God. But then the second time around, what are you gonna say? You have to start really getting down to business with God. And so I learned, early on, that real praying involves effort, it involves brutal honesty, it involves real earnestness, and passionate desire for something. All of these lessons were taught to me in those all-night prayer meetings.
Well, the first week nothing happened, and there was still the same disconcerting noise from the bootleggers up above us in the flat above the mission. And so, again, McNamara said, “Well, we’re gonna have another all-night prayer meeting. You wanna stay, Cook?” “Sure, I’ll stay.” I stayed with ’em through the night hours and we prayed that God would remove this hindrance to the work. Well, the following week when I came, McNamara was waiting for me at the door with a broad smile. He said, “You know what happened, Cook?” I said, “No, what happened?” He said, “Last Tuesday, that whole gang moved out without a word. They just moved out. And I went to the landlord, and rented the whole second floor, and we’re gonna make it as a haven for people who wanna get started on a new life after they get saved. Hallelujah.” [chuckle]
Well, what a difference. When you preached that night, there was no longer the noise, and the bumping of a body rolling down the steps, and the flashing of the police car lights, as they picked the poor, wretched person up. Now, there was a different atmosphere, because God had given free course to His Word.
Oh, beloved, some of you are facing great difficulty in getting the Gospel across to someone. Maybe it’s a husband or a wife, or a son or daughter. People who are near you are the hardest, sometimes, to reach, isn’t it true? They close up emotionally, when you begin to speak with them about anything that touches their lives. I know. And others of you are involved in a work situation, or a community situation, where you say, “Oh, God, am I ever going to be able to get anything across to these people?”
Now, beloved, remember, you can pray the door open, pray the Lord of the harvest, that He will thrust forth laborers into His harvest. Jesus said, “You can pray the door open,” and you can pray in a manner, that will free up the Word of God, to get into people’s hearts. Yes, you can. And that’s why Paul was saying, “Pray for us, that the Word of God may have free course,” that it may really run, and Christ may be glorified. Good idea. Start praying today.
Dear Father, today, oh, may we learn how to pray the door open for the Word of God to do its work. In Jesus’ name, I ask, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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