The following is edited and abridged from a message given at the Midwest Prayer Conference of Harvest Prayer Ministries, in October 2007 at Maryland Community Church in Terre Haute, Indiana. Dick Eastman is president of the ministry "Every Home For Christ."
Several years ago I wrote a book titled Beyond Imagination. The subtitle is A Simple Plan To Save The World. It describes what God is doing in the world as bold believers take the good news of Jesus into some of the most remote places, and the resulting harvest they are seeing. I am sharing in this message on the theme, "Beyond Imagination." Sometimes I title this message, "Look What God Is Doing!"
I follow the good habit of reading through my Bible from Genesis through Revelation in the course of one year. Something happened to me one day as I was reading Isaiah 60. Isaiah is a prophetic book recorded about 700 years before the birth of Christ. The Holy Spirit speaking through Isaiah describes essentially the coming of the Messiah but also how the light of the Messiah is going to spread until He someday returns. Chapter 60 begins with the words: "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn…. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come" (vv. 1-5).
As I was reading that as I have done many times, my heart was warmed, but I didn’t expect something dramatic to happen. It is good to be in the presence of God whether we feel it or not. Nine out of ten of my prayer times I don’t feel anything, but what I know is that God hears me. But that day when I came to the last verse of Isaiah 60, it was not like I was reading Scripture. It was like God was shouting from His throne room right into my spirit this word, which I would like to share with you and read it with the force that I felt the Spirit was speaking into my spirit.
Look at verse 22. Suddenly it was like a voice came directly from the throne room of heaven saying to me: "The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly." There was a slight pause and I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "It is time!"
Think of it!
"The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty
nation…"! We are talking about multiplication. I believe God is going to use intercessors and prayer ministries in this. Sometimes it looks like they are behind the scenes, but I tell you, when you pray, there can be an open heaven over a whole nation – like is happening right now in China!
Look now at Colossians 1:3-6: "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints – the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the Word of truth, the Gospel that has come to you. All over the world this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood…." I don’t know of anyone who has more hope than the intercessors!
I want to share with you three global indicators of a coming spiritual awakening. I believe a spiritual awakening is beginning to happen because of the prayer that is taking place all over the world. My desire is that a seed of excitement, anticipation and hope will be planted in your spirit until you will say on any given day, "I can’t afford not to pray," and that you will get involved even more in mobilizing others to pray.
1. The Indicator of Accelerated Harvest Advances
The first indicator I would like to share with you is what I call "The Indicator of Accelerated Harvest Advances." There has been no point in history that can begin to compare to what is taking place in recent days. Sometimes I refer to this as the "Prayer Evangelism Indicator."
In Scripture we read of when the disciples asked Jesus about the end of the age. The disciples asked, "When will these things [plural] happen? And what will be the sign [singular] that they are about to take place?" (Luke 21:7). Jesus then proceeded to share many things. He said there were going to be wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes. But the end is not yet, He said. He was saying that these things were going to happen, but then He gave what I believe is the real sign, the real indicator: "This Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14).
Prayer and intercession have a significant part in bringing about the greatest harvest in the history of the Church, which I believe is already begun because of the prayer that is taking place. In this great harvest, you see the power of the Holy Spirit. In 1985, missiologists who study missions and do research on what is happening among the people groups, believed that about 75,000 people were coming to Jesus daily. If heaven rejoices when one repents (Luke 15:7), how exciting this is! By 1998 it was thought to be 178,000 a day. In the year 2000 they believed the number was over 200,000 a day. In China alone, in the year 2000 they estimated that about 25,000 Chinese were coming to Christ in a day. In December 2006 researchers in that area said they now believe that it is probably closer to 50,000 to 53,000 Chinese people coming to Jesus every day! What a harvest is going on in the world!
In the organization, Every Home For Christ, we have mobilized the Church to take a message of salvation from door to door in the local language, seeking to give the Gospel to every home. Separate literature for adults and children is given, with decision cards included. In addition there are programs for oral learners, the non-readers. Workers go into villages and sit down, home by home and share the good news of Jesus. As of the last few weeks in our overseas work, 1,135,000,000 homes have been visited and given the good news. Over 52,800,000 people have responded and said they had come to Christ or had read the message and want to know more about Jesus. A great percentage of those who go through the four-part Bible correspondence course come to know Jesus. There have been over 60,000,000 courses sent out. Christ Groups are formed where there are a handful of believers but there isn’t a church within hundreds of miles for them to study with. About 112,000 of these small New Testament fellowships have been planted. There are hundreds of different organizations and partners who unite to make this happen. And this is just one strategy! Other mission leaders could describe to you what their groups are experiencing. Evangelism Explosion, for example, say that they have seen more people come to Christ in the last four or five years than they have in their entire history.
Remarkable Response of God to Prayer
Many prayers went up for change in Russia during the years of the Cold War, but how many were prepared for December 25, 1991, when Mikhail Gorbachev signed a declaration dissolving the Soviet Union as a nation? The red star of Communism came down! In 1993 such a large evangelistic meeting was held in Moscow by an American evangelist that there were more people on the outside of the auditorium watching on huge screens than there were on the inside of the auditorium. When the invitation was given to these Russian people to know Jesus, so many people jumped up and hurried to the front that the evangelist had to put out his hand and say, "Don’t run, please!" How does that compare with our Sunday morning services?
Just before the evangelist preached his final message of the campaign, the Red Army Russian Men’s Choir sang phonetically in English, as beautifully as ever sung, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," slowing down the tempo of the third stanza: "In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me…." Yes, in Russia it was sung with emphasis on the Christ who was born to transform men’s lives, to a crowd so hungry for Christ that they ran to the altar!
For three months before the crusade the Every Home for Christ ministry went to work with a handful of Christian churches to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ with an invitation to Christ to every home in central Moscow, as well as an invitation to the crusade. The following decade or so over 40,000,000 households were given the good news of Jesus Christ and hundreds of thousands responded to ask for Bible courses! That is the power of the Holy Spirit responding to people praying! Although prayer times may seem very ordinary, God’s ear is listening and in His time comes His powerful response. If you don’t have some good daily prayer habits, might God speak to you about what you can do to make prayer a vital part of your daily life, as well as your corporate life in whatever local church you are involved in.
2. The Indicator of Acceleration of Strategic Prayer Movements
There is an acceleration of strategic prayer movements of organizations that are growing in their commitment to train and mobilize people to pray. This is the "Prayer Warfare Indicator." The passage of Scripture which immediately comes to my mind is 2 Corinthians 10:3-5: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
At Every Home for Christ ministry we fundamentally believe that prayer is the foundation for all that God does and we give much attention to prayer, even though essentially we are a world evangelism ministry. The ministry is based on three unalterable convictions:
1. The Great Commission must be taken literally. Everybody deserves to have at least one chance to know Jesus, no matter where they live.
2. Without unity the task is impossible because it is going to take the whole Church to reach the whole world. We believe that the reason we see God’s blessing on what we are doing is that different ministries are coming together to do ministry. When we work together, we don’t just double responses, but we have about ten times the number of responses than if either ministry did it by themselves.
One prayer ministry that unites many is known as "Praying Through The Window." This focuses on a geographical section of the world called the 10/40 Window, so defined because it encompasses an area 10 degrees above the equator to 40 degrees above and ranges from western Africa to Korea on the east. In that box-shaped area is 2/3 of the world’s population but 1/3 of the land mass. Ninety-seven percent of the world’s unevangelized people are in that window. It became obvious to mission strategists that we must get the Gospel to these people so we must have an intensive movement of prayer. At a meeting in 1992 seven or eight of us gathered. God put on the heart of those in that room that day that we should target the goal of a million people praying for a month that would be set aside. October 1993 was set aside as the month. The idea came that we should send or encourage prayer journeys of prayer teams, at least 61, to go into the 61 or so 10/40 Window countries. After all the reports came in, we now know there were 22 million Christians who can be documented praying for the 10/40 Window, and there were 249 prayer teams which went at that time. The movement has continued to grow until there are about fifty million Christians praying.
Two years after that first October focus, I was interviewing one of our coordinators and I said to him that in 1993 there were millions of people praying for the 10/40 Window and it included the region in which he was located, the Middle East. There were prayer teams and prayer journeys which visited his area.
I said to him, "Did you notice any difference from when you first went there until after the praying of those millions?" The young missionary and wife had been there for a number of years, and he said, "There is only one thing I could tell you of any change. In the two years leading up to that month of prayer, my wife and I went with literature from home to home. We could not go in a systematic way door-to-door where we would be noticeable (since it was not a Gospel-friendly country) but we would go to a home here and there throughout the town and keep a record and come back a few months later and go to other homes like a person selling things door-to-door. In two years not one non-Christian family invited us in. They slammed the door, they spit at us, and they threatened us. Not even one person opened his home to invite us in. The only reason we kept going is because the Great Commission is the Great Commission whether you see any results or not. You go because Jesus said, ‘Go!’
"But then came that month," he said, "and in the last two years since that month of prayer, we have been invited into the homes of and led to Jesus Christ over 2,000 persons who lived in those same villages!
"One other thing," he said, "two Saturdays ago a team of our workers was out in a village and they had the same experience in three different homes in different areas of that village that afternoon. They knocked on the door, and the person who opened the door threw up his hands and exclaimed something like, ‘Oh, I knew you were coming! I had a dream and you were in my dream, with the same colored clothes. And in the dream it said you have a gift for me! What is the gift?’" Yes, there is something happening in response to prayer – three dreams in three separate homes in the same night!
Now we hear of the Global Day Of Prayer. In practically every nation of the world there are gatherings, in many parts of the world in stadiums, tens of millions of people praying. It started in South Africa with one stadium, and the next year it was in six stadiums, and the next year in about 160 stadiums. Do we not sense that God is doing something?
Matthew Henry many generations ago made the classic statement: "Whenever God gets ready to do something extraordinary, He first sets His people apraying."
3. The Indicator of Acceleration
Of Signs and Wonders
Acts 2:43 says: "Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles." I carry in my Bible a three-fold statement by A. W. Tozer: "Anything God has ever done at any time He can do now. Anything God has ever done anywhere He can do here. Anything God has ever done for anybody He can do for you."
I want to share a case study from Myanmar, the former Burma, a country that needs much prayer. There was a monk in one of the high mountain monasteries. He was sitting in front of the statue of Buddha. He was chanting and his eyes were closed as he was sitting there. All of a sudden he heard an audible voice. He was positive the Buddha had talked to him, and the voice said, "Go find Jesus." Although he had never heard the name, "Jesus," since he thought the Buddha had said, "Go find Jesus," he started out. The head of the monastery saw him practically running out of the monastery and he called out, "Wait! Where are you going?" The monk turned to him and said, "The Buddha told me to go find Jesus."
The head of the monastery said, "Who’s Jesus?" And the young monk said, "I don’t know, but the Buddha said to find Him."
The monk headed on down the mountain and when he came to the first town and had taken only a few steps into the town, on a stone wall he saw a huge poster that said in the Burmese language, "Come see ‘JESUS.’" With excitement the monk thought, "He’s here in town!" It was that night they were showing in some hall the JESUS film. The monk went to that meeting that night and saw the story of Jesus. By the end of that first encounter, he gave his heart to Jesus! That monk realized shortly after this that it was not the Buddha that told him to go find Jesus. It was the Holy Spirit working. The last I heard, the monk had become an evangelist. How can you explain that? The Holy Spirit can come and work unusual things even while we are routinely giving out the Gospel door-to-door.
I am convinced that what God is doing is because people are praying. I have discovered that most of the unusual things God is doing happen in ordinary prayer times when suddenly someone begins to pray in a certain way. Someone senses that God wants us to pray about something, and after a few days, you may read in the daily paper that it happened.
I want to encourage you. God has a great plan for your life as one of His warriors. I believe as we continue to worship and to pray, God wants you to hear from Him as He speaks to you about what He wants to do. He wants you to pray for His will to be done. There is an incredible harvest taking place around the world, and I believe God wants to do it here in the United States of America. As we keep seeking God, the heavens are going to open and we are going to see great things happening. There is no challenge nor any problem too great for which He lacks a solution. The real school of prayer is at Jesus’ feet. Might we concentrate on what He wants us to do!