Jim Cymbala is the pastor at Brooklyn Tabernacle in Manhattan, and I love his heart for prayer. Here’s a story from his book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire that tells how God initially spoke to him. In the context, he has come down with a protracted cough and is in Florida visiting his inlaws and trying to recuperate. He goes out on a party fishing boat with 20 or 30 tourists, and begins to muse…
…Carol and I had frankly admitted to each other that unless God broke through, the Brooklyn Tablernacle was doomed. We couldn’t finesse it along. We couldn’t organize and market and program our way out. The embarrassing truth was that sometimes even I didn’t want to show up for a service – that’s how bad it was.
We had to have a visitation of the Holy Spirit, or bust.
“Lord, I have no idea how to be a sucessful pastor,” I prayed softly out there on the water. “I haven’t been trained. All I know is that Carol and I are working in the middle of New York City, with people dying on every side, overdosing from heroin, consumed by materialism, and all the rest. If the gospel is so powerful…”
I couldn’t finish the sentence. Tears choked me. Fortunately, the others on the boat were too far away to notice as they studied their lines in the blue-green water.
Then quietly but forcefully, in words heard not with my ear but deep within my spirit, I sensed God speaking:
“If you and your wife will lead my people to pray and call upon my name, you will never lack for something fresh to preach. I will supply all the money that’s needed, both for the church and for your family, and you will never have a building large enough to contain the crowds I will send in response.”
The rest in history, and Cymbala spends the rest of the book telling the glorious story of how God fulfilled His promise.
By the way, Jim Cymbala also gave one of the most powerful messages I have ever heard on prayer. It was so good that about ten years ago, we showed the entire message in church one Sunday morning. It’s about 50 minutes, but worth it if you can set aside the time…