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Soul Hunger In And For India
The task of world evangelization is primarily dependent on witness and prayer. Prayer must prepare
"I have looked into the heart of India and found it filled with nothing but longing," wrote a well-known missionary to this land. We, too, have looked into the heart of India; we dare not say we understand India, or that in our twenty-five years we have seen the depths of her heart, but we most certainly can say that wherever we have caught a glimpse into her inner spiritual nature, wherever we have had an insight into the soul of her people, we have found hunger and longing.
India is hungry for God. I do not say that she is fully conscious of this hunger, but she does hunger for God nevertheless. India has been called the most religious nation in the world. Her people take religion more seriously, perhaps, than any country in the world. Religion enters every phase of the daily life. Its influence is felt everywhere. Moreover, Indians are not ashamed of their religion. There is not the slightest hesitation in proclaiming their religious beliefs: by their clothing, by their body markings, and by their actions the people are constantly declaring their worship. Yes, they are deeply religious and they are not ashamed of their religion, but they are seeking – they have not found that which satisfies. India, the nation of seeking souls! May God use us to transform many of these into joyful finders!
I had preached in Raichur on "The Experience We Need." At the close of the altar service several Kanarese boys who professed to have found the Lord were giving testimony to us through an interpreter. Said one, "I knew I did not have the right spirit in my heart, but I came here to the altar and prayed, and now the old spirit is gone and I know I have the Spirit of Jesus within." Said Brother D__, the interpreter, "I used to go out every night outside the city to pray, but one night as I was kneeling there Jesus came and spoke to me. And then several weeks later I was praying in my room at two o’clock in the morning, asking Jesus what this meant, and suddenly the room was filled with the brightest light, brighter than the sun. Jesus appeared before me, and I fell as if unconscious at His feet. He touched me and set me on my feet, and told me three times to refer to Hebrews 11:25. I trembled from head to foot. Finally, I picked up my Bible which was by my side and, still trembling, read these words: ‘Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.’" He told me how he immediately left his excellent government position to obey His call to preach the Word.
A Brahmin, of the highest caste of the Hindus, who puts on his caste mark fresh every morning and glories in his rank, admitted to one of us: "The Hindu religion is not practical, but the Christian religion is." I talked to a Hindu agent at the railway station and felt immediately a responsive chord in his heart. He could not hide his feelings. He, too, was hungry for God and admitted to me that it does not make any difference what a man professes about religion, but that the important thing is whether or not he has found peace. His heart was plainly calling out for that peace.
The barber, when asked whether he was a Hindu or a Christian, responded: "Oh, a Hindu." I told him that I had found many people who were seekers after peace, but only a few who were finders, but that I had found true peace; that God was real to me; that prayer was real in my life and that God had answered many prayers; that I knew the power of God from my own experience. He stopped his job of haircutting, dropped his hands at his sides and humbly listened to what I had to say.
We had been holding services in a Tamil-speaking church, at five o’clock in the morning. On the last morning, after I had spoken a timid Indian lady, well up in years, stayed after the service to invite her nephew to come home with her for dinner the next day. The moment we spoke to her about her soul her chin began to quiver and she admitted that she was a sinner. We immediately knelt to pray and she shook with sobs and cried out to God for help, until the burden of sin was gone and her heart seemed satisfied. She arose with a smiling face to testify that she knew her sins were forgiven.
Yes, India is hungry for God. Old and young, high caste and low, everywhere souls are seeking, but few are finding. Brothers and sisters in the homelands, we are depending upon your prayers to enable us to lead them to Christ. Only prayer, yours and ours, will enable us to present Christ and His message with the power that will compel them to accept His love. We are without doubt in a great battle, and it is largely a prayer battle. Will you not stand side by side with us in Holy Ghost intercession for the outpouring of God’s Spirit in our midst? We believe some of you will, and with this confidence we are strengthened for the tomorrows as we face them with Him.
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I wrote the above article more than fifty years ago.
After twenty-five years of emphasizing prayer and preaching on prayer, sowing and battling in prayer, we only had twenty-five churches and 1,500 baptized believers. We had three Bible schools in three language areas, and we had missionaries and our trained co-workers.
I flew to Los Angeles to report to our OMS Board. I did not sleep a wink between Delhi and Los Angeles. My heart kept crying out to God. We had had frequent half days of prayer for our seminary students and faculty. We had had days of fasting and prayer. We had tried to ground our church in holy living and in prayer. What more could we do? I prayed all the way from Delhi to Los Angeles.
Somewhere between Honolulu and Los Angeles, I felt led to ask God for 1,000 people who would commit themselves to pray fifteen minutes a day for one year for our India work. That next year God gave me more than 1,500 who made that commitment. Within two or three years we began to see the difference. We had a spiritual "jump start."
Today, we have more than 2,175 organized churches in India. Today, we have more than 430,000 in attendance on an average Sunday. What made the difference? Prevailing prayer!
We don’t have one resident missionary in India any more, but our Indian brethren met together last year and agreed to ask God to have 10,000 churches and 2,000,000 believers by 2020. Is this foolish? Not to God. Does any other church have that many? Probably not. The need is far greater than that. About one-fifth of the world’s population is in India. One billion souls need prayer.
It is not foolish to hunger for souls. It is not foolish to pray and fast for souls. I have seen the growth from 0 to 430,000. Cannot God do much more? I don’t want to go to the judgment bar of Christ and have failed to join our India church in prevailing prayer for the goals they believe God gives them. There is blind soul hunger in India everywhere. God help us to have soul hunger for India. Jesus is praying. Are you?