Connecting Leaders for Prayer and City Transformation
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Praying Pastor ~ Sammy, your new book came out of a powerful personal experience . . .
Yes, God has done an incredibly deep work in my own life during the past couple of years. I lost my best friend in an accident. Then, a gentleman who was translating my materials into an Afghan language was kidnapped and killed. Immediately after that happened, a man from Portugal contacted me saying that he had evidence that he was my brother and that his mother had committed suicide because of her relationship with my father. All of these events left me in a place in my life where I desperately needed God. I took some time off and sought God.
The man from Portugal was not my brother. This produced many questions about what God was trying to say to my heart. I faced somewhat of an identity crisis. However, out of this experience, I learned that I had a
spiritual heritage that I never imagined. My father had been dead more than 40 years. He became very ill when I was young and died while I was in college. I did not know his family because they lived deep in the pine forests of Southwest Louisiana. My dad's family came from a unique people group who were mixed racially. They were some of the first Protestants bringing the gospel west of the Mississippi River. Then I learned of a praying grandmother. My parents opposed my commitment to Christ when I first became a Christian. Therefore, I didn't think that I had any Christian heritage. But I discovered that my grandmother prayed for my father. My father came to Christ one year before he died – 25 years after my grandmother died. God answered her prayers a quarter of a century after her death. I realized that I was living in the aftermath of her prayers.
God has done an incredible work in my family – with my children and grandchildren. It was out of this experience that I knew that I needed to challenge, train and teach Christians to pray Biblically and effectively
for their families.
Praying Pastor ~ How important is the message for pastors?
It must be a top priority.
Churches are basically made up of families, and the family is under attack today. I believe that if we teach our people to pray effectively and Biblically for our families that we will see several things take place. First, we will see much healing in the homes of our church members. Second, I believe that we will see many people come to
Christ. But there is something even more critical for pastors. I have discovered that many pastors are hurting because of their own children who have wandered far away from the faith of their fathers. Pastors are on the
front lines of the battle for the souls of men and women. Therefore, it stands to reason that Satan will shoot at any vulnerable target in our lives. We must cover our families in prayer.
Praying Pastor ~ What has happened to prayer in Christian homes?
I think that the great sin of the church in the 21st century is the "sin of busyness." We have become hyperactive in all kinds of things – recreational, political, and even religious. However, we have lost the sense of our need for a time where we steal away and meet with God. We have lost the urgency of communion with the Father. We become busy in our occupations and lose sight that the greatest work to which we will ever give ourselves is that of seeking God. There are only 24 hours in one day.
We cannot put time for prayer in our lives until we are willing to let go of something. The great need of the hour is to slow down and take some time to be with the Lover of our souls.
Praying Pastor ~ You have discovered several foundational truths about family prayer. Comment about:
The Meeting Place – Praying for your family begins with "praying." The great men of the Scripture had a time and place where they met with God. Moses had a tent that he pitched outside the camp and met with God. Paul went to place of prayer by the river outside Philippi. Jesus would often find a place early in the day and meet with the Father. The place and time may be different with every person. However, we must determine that we will first seek Christ and His kingdom for our families. It is the greatest investment of time that any of us will ever make. We will discover the Sovereignty of God and the choices of man intersect at the place of prayer. It is at that place that God will do far beyond anything that we could have ever imagined.
Praying with a forgiving heart – We live in a culture of anger. Much of that anger is a reflection of broken relationships within the home. Before we can have power to pray effectively for our families, we must first know that we have been forgiven and that we have forgiven those that have hurt us. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, forgiveness was at the center of everything that He taught. Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity. Guilt and bitterness are the two thieves that steal our power in prayer. When we come into the presence of an absolutely pure and completely loving God, we must be transparent. We must be honest about where we have hurt members of our families and be willing to seek their forgiveness, and we must be willing to forgive those that have hurt us so deeply. When we do that, I believe that God will open the windows of heaven and pour out an extraordinary blessing on us.
Leaving a legacy – When we pray for our families, we leave an eternal legacy. That happens in two different ways. First, God will answer our prayers and provide a future for our families. That was what shook me to the core when I learned about my grandmother. She died not having seen the answer to her prayers. Yet, 25 years later, God answered her prayers by saving a grandson that she never met and as a result of that, her son came to Christ. I can only recall one time of my father going to church as I was growing up. Yet, there was no place to hide from the prayers of my grandmother. I am convinced that much of my international, cross cultural ministry is a result of my grandmother's praying, and I never met her. Second, her life of prayer was a legacy left to me. It was not just how God answered her prayers, but her prayer life was somehow imparted to me. I have built my ministry on the foundation of prayer. I have walked into a revolution, the aftermath of a genocide, preached in war zones and faced prison and the threat of death. Prayer brought me through all those
circumstances. That was the legacy left me. Prayer has been in my DNA since I became a Christian. It is legacy left me by a praying grandmother.
Desperate praying – God hears hurting hearts. He is compassionate. Our churches are filled with hurting people. However, we have become experts in covering our hurts with creature comforts. Yet, when we come into the presence of God with a humble and transparent heart, He will show us His great love. Parents with wayward children are prime targets for God working in their families. One of the things that touched me about my grandmother was that she had a place under the trees that she went to seek God. I wondered why she went to that particular place. As I searched for answers, I discovered that she had a son just a little older than my dad. He died as a small child and was buried under those trees. My grandmother would go to the place of her sorrow and meet with the Man of Sorrows. God comes to the hurting. Through prayer, we can watch our family sorrows turn into great answers to prayer. God will turn our burdens into blessings.
Tearing down strongholds – We often hear people say, "He's just like his father, or she is exactly like her mother." Most of the time that is spoken in a very negative way. There are patterns of behavior and patterns of thought that keep us from a deep and intimate knowledge of God. These are the strongholds or "fortresses" that Paul spoke about in 2 Cor. 10:3-6. I have seen many of those weak areas of my life in my son and daughter. However, I have also learned that I don't have to live and think in that manner, and they don't have to either. We can identify those patterns of thought and behavior and trust God in prayer to tear down
those fortresses. By prayer, we can overcome and we can trust God to enable our children and grandchildren to be victorious.
Praying Pastor ~ What prompted you to produce, along with the book, a workbook and DVD?
Our ministry co-sponsored a conference, Heart Cry for Revival, at Billy Graham's training center, The Cove. Pastor Jim Cymbala spoke the final evening and asked pastors who had children or grandchildren who had walked away from God to come to the front of the auditorium and allow us to pray for them. I was shocked when 90% of those in attendance came forward. I realized then that there was a great need in our churches that must be addressed. God laid it on my heart to write Praying for Your Family. After I left the conference, God continued speaking to my heart. I realized that it needed to be more than a book. It needed to be an initiative that churches could take and use to teach and train their people to pray effectively for their families. Therefore, I wrote the book and we developed a Bible study workbook that runs parallel to the book. I share principles and hope in the book. But the workbook enables people to dig out those principles of the Bible for themselves. I then put together a DVD that will enable small group studies for churches. Pastor Jim Cymbala, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, former President of Asbury Seminary, and Dr. Crawford Loritts, pastor in Georgia have contributed to the DVD. The DVD also runs parallel to the book and workbook. Thus, entire churches can go through the study if they desire.
Praying Pastor ~ You have also produced several resources for pastors . . .
Yes, we have put together a website specifically to help pastors and churches to pray for their families. We have a Sermon Outline for pastors to introduce Praying for Your Family to their people. We also have a 40 day prayer calendar for church members. Both of those are free downloads at PrayingForYourFamily. We are hoping to have book marks that people can use which will have Biblical prayers that can be prayed for their
families. We have also produced a weekly webcast/podcast called "Legacy." We hope that all of these materials, products and communication tools will help people to win the battle for their families.
Praying Pastor ~ Sammy, please write a prayer that you'd hope pastors would pray along with you . . .
Father, I ask you to heal hurting families. I pray that you would send a mighty, sweeping revival to our nation, and let it begin in our homes. We need You. You are our only Hope. You are our Salvation – our Rock – our Fortress. I pray that You would still the violent winds that have blown across our homes. I pray that You would turn destruction and defeat into hope and a future for families in our congregations. I ask You to move by Your Spirit and heal broken families and restore Your altar in our homes. Protect our families, Oh
God. We ask that Your kingdom would come and Your will would be done in our families. We refuse to allow our children to be taken captive by the spiritual forces in heavenly places. We trust in You. Thank You, Father, for Your victory that You will surely give. In Jesus Name. Amen.