Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Do You Believe in the Power of Prayer?

Leslie: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

At Revive Our Hearts we’re focusing on these words from 2 Chronicles 7:14. The National Religious Broadcasters has called the Christian radio community to 40 days of prayer for our nation starting today.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss and the team at Revive Our Hearts are eager to participate. The word revive isn’t only part of our name, it’s part of our DNA as a ministry. So we’re excited to ask our listeners to pray for our nation.

To begin this 40-day emphasis, we’ll hear a conversation Nancy recorded with a woman who truly knows the power of prayer in an individual, in a family, and for a nation.

Here’s Nancy:

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I am so delighted today to be talking with a longtime friend, Evelyn Christenson. I'm at a conference called Heart-Cry for Revival. I looked at the registration list a few weeks ago and saw that Evelyn Christenson was going to be at this conference.

I said to my assistant, "Can you call her office and see if there is any way that she would be willing to sit down and talk to us about prayer, about revival, to help those of us women who have a heart for the Lord and a heart for prayer and a heart for revival."

Many of you are familiar with the name Evelyn Christenson. In fact, yesterday I was recording for Revive Our Hearts in Little Rock, Arkansas, and we had about 30 women in the room there. I told them that today I would be coming to this conference and would be interviewing Evelyn Christenson.

I wish you could have seen the heads and the eyes in the room that just were nodding, and the women wished that they could all be here with us to share in this opportunity. So now they are going to have this opportunity.

You are going to have the opportunity to get to know a very precious woman. If this name, Evelyn Christenson, is not familiar to you, it will be after we have had a chance to share her heart here.

More than 25 years ago now, Evelyn wrote a book called What Happens When Women Pray. This book is not theory. It's not just something she just came up with in her notes. It's something that was birthed out of her life, her experience, her walk with God as she had seen what God does when women start to pray.

She had no idea at the time what God was going to do with this book. But now it has sold over 3 million copies. She has written about 15 other books. She is a conference speaker worldwide and is still at the age of 80, traveling around the world ministering to God's people and sharing out of her life. I am delighted for you to get to know her.

Evelyn, thank you so much for joining us and welcome to Revive Our Hearts.

Evelyn Christenson: Nancy, this is my privilege. It is wonderful to be here.

Nancy: What a treat this is for me. I feel like, even if no one else were ever to listen to this time we have together, that I would want to have it just for mejust to sit at your feet and to ask you some questions and to learn from your heart. What a wealth of experience God has given you in your relationship with Him.

Evelyn: Nancy, the privilege is mine. So thank you very much for letting me be here.

Nancy: Evelyn, I want to talk about this whole area of prayer because it's something that is a life message for you. I have to confess to you that, when I am asked to speak on the subject of prayer, I very rarely agree to do so (at this point in my life) because I have to say to and I've said it to people who have asked me, "That is not a life message with me, yet."

I want it to be. I am growing in that area, but it's a tough area for me. You talk about what happens when women pray, and I want to just start at some basics for those of us who love the Lord and have a heart for the Lord but who really struggle with distraction and time and hurry and busyness. How did God start to give you a heart for prayer? Did you just always have this? Tell us a little bit.

Evelyn: It's very amazing. There have been some real steps in this whole thing. When I was only nine years old, I accepted Christ. It was very dramatic—seeing my nine-year-old sins, weeping all Sunday afternoon until I could finally get back to the church and the pastor or the evangelist who was there finally gave an invitation, finally I could accept Jesus. It was that kind of thing. It was a very definite thing in my life.

I was so excited about my new life, as a nine-year-old in Jesus, that I started praying for those whom we would bring to church on Sunday night. Well, when I was a child (and that was a long time ago), the biggie was that our pastor would exegete the Scripture on Sunday morning for our saved people.

Then on Sunday night we would bring our neighbors, our relatives, our families, our members in, and he would preach to them about Jesus—those who needed to know the Lord.

So I would sit there with all these little neighbors dotted around in the audience, and I would sit there and zero in on one of them. I would grit my teeth and clench my little fist, and I'd sit there week after week after week and pray for that same person until that person finally walked down the aisle. That’s what we did in those days, walk down the aisle and accepted Jesus Christ.

Nancy: Had you seen this heart in your parents?

Evelyn: Oh, my mother. My mother was the greatest pray-er I think I have ever known, and she was the only Christian in all her extended family. She was young, in her 20s, when she accepted Christ. Then she had the privilege of leading . . . She prayed and every single extended family member, before they died, had been won to Jesus by my mother.

Nancy: You had a heritage there.

Evelyn: So it was sort of born in me. I was just desperate about these people who were going to hell. We did not avoid that word, and Jesus did not either. He talked about hell more than heaven, of course, and Jesus talked about it, and I knew that those neighbors, they were my neighbors, they were my friends—we were a nice community.

Nancy: But you knew they needed Jesus.

Evelyn: I knew they needed Jesus, and that included my brother and my father. We prayed and prayed. My father did not accept Jesus Christ for 25 years. We would pray for him, and he would come to church. Then he wouldn't come to church at all. He lived a very worldly lifestyle, and finally, after 25 years, he accepted Christ.

Nancy: So you had prayed all of those years.

Evelyn: We prayed all those years. We prayed 30 years for my brother.

Nancy: Isn't that something? And he did come to know the Lord as well?

Evelyn: Yes, and that's a wonderful story. Do you want me to tell you that story right now? It’s such a precious thing to me.

Nancy: Sure.

Evelyn: He was my little brother, and we were playmates (2 years apart). We were just so close, and he sort of seemed to come Jesus' way (or whatever he did) when he was about 7 and I was 9. We really thought he had accepted Jesus but evidently it wasn't the real thing, whatever . . . maybe everybody else was doing it. I'm not sure.

Little by little my father with his very worldly lifestyle . . . My brother when he got old enough started traveling with my father, who was a highway contractor, and that made him live away and come home on the weekends. It was a horrible lifestyle in which to bring a young boy.

So my brother finally decided that there was no God. With this godly mother and those mothers who are godly and are praying for their children—this is something that you just can't guarantee, that they are going to go right along with you. They don't.

But you keep praying. You never stop. My mother persevered. I think that some of the other family members would get real warm on it and pray on it, and then they'd forget, not mother, she never did.

And for those whole 30 years my brother said, "There is no God." Finally, my mother prayed a prayer that's a very hard one to pray. She had prayed everything possible. My brother had gone through 3 wives, 3 swimming pools, and everything else that was in the lifestyle he was in. She finally prayed, "Lord, do anything you have to do to my son to bring him to Jesus."

A very short time after that, he was in Detroit, Michigan. He was walking across a highway, and a car traveling 50 miles an hour hit him broadside. They peeled him off the car (the windshield) and put him in intensive care and put all the pumps on him. They wouldn't let us see him. We all flew in and gathered at a hotel, and they said, "There is no point in seeing him. He's just dead; there is no life there. It's only the pumps working."

Nancy: And how long was this after she prayed that prayer?

Evelyn: Oh, very shortly after that. It wasn't a long time at all. I can see my little mother when we gathered in the hospital, when they wouldn't let us in to see him, she just dropped her head down in her knees and she shuddered. And she said, "Is this my fault? Is this my fault?"

Sometimes I wonder that [same thing] when I pray this for my children, "Lord, do anything that You need to do to bring them back to Jesus." That's not an easy prayer.

Then we all gathered as a family; we were a praying family. In that motel room, we all gathered around that bed. We wept and sobbed before God. We said, "Lord, give us one more time to talk to Bud." We had talked to him. We had loved him. We had done everything we knew how to do and prayed for him and everything. We had done everything, but we asked for one more chance.

The next morning they wouldn't let any of us go in to see him, but we all gathered in the hospital. Then they decided to let 2 of us go in to see him. One would be mother, of course, and then they chose me.

I got to go in with my mother. We had 10 minutes only. And we waited, and I waited. I wanted to say something so badly. Finally I sort of leaned over Bud and I said, "Bud, God loves you." And his body stirred. There was life there.

Then I didn't dare say anything more. I thought, "If I say too much, I'm going to push him right over into eternity, an eternity that I didn't want him to face." I waited until the 10 minutes were almost up and then I leaned over him and I said, "Bud, can you trust Jesus today."

And my brother instantly came alive. He smiled and he grinned through all those pumps going down his throat, and he said, "Uh, huh!" And he lived. He died from cancer 2 years later, but he lived as a Christian for 2 years.

So don't give up if you're praying. Some people say, "I've been praying for a whole year and this one hasn't found Christ yet. I'm giving up on my children. I'm slamming the door. They can go out and live their own life."

Don't ever give up. We know as a family what it means to pray for someone for 25 years and 30 years.

Nancy: To persevere, and then to pray that prayer. You said you’ve prayed that for your children, “Lord, whatever it takes.”

Evelyn: Oh, that's a difficult one to pray, but I've done that. Yes. "Lord, whatever it takes." I think every mother, every parent knows, that their children will do things that they don't approve. Then "Lord, do what it takes"—not only if they're doing something you don't want; but "Lord, do what it takes to make that child what You want that child to be." The finer gold.

Would you like to hear about the finer gold in my daughter?

Nancy: Yes, I would! Had you prayed this prayer for this daughter?

Evelyn: Well, yes, but this is an example of how she was something different than she wanted to be, than she didn’t like to be, the finer gold, and that’s what I’m going to tell you in this story.

Okay. It's our oldest child. When she was in Junior High school, just ready to get out of Junior High and go into Senior High, she had boyfriend, and he lived down the block. He was one of these very outstanding young men. He had single-handedly pitched in the International Pony League to a championship. He was just in ninth grade. He'd already had poetry that was published and was president of the student council and the captain of the football team. I mean, he was just one of the kids who had everything together, except he didn't know Jesus.

When Dave Wilkerson came to our city, we had a big youth rally, and our church was one of the main sponsors of that. Jan didn't drive yet. She wanted to take her boyfriend, and so she did. A whole bunch, we put them in our car. We sat close enough to hear when Dave Wilkerson gave the invitation to accept Jesus. We saw that beautiful little Dave slip down beside his chair, kneel down, and pray to accept Jesus.

But what Dave didn't know was that he had fatal leukemia. He could not live. Jan did not know. She did not know at that time. He only lived a short time after that. They had the yearbooks when they were leaving Junior High school, and he had written in her book, "Dear Jan, You will never know what Christ means to me now and what He will in the future." In a yearbook!

Jan was so overwhelmed with this. It just seemed that the one missing dimension that he didn't have in his life, but after he wrote that, he only lived two weeks.

Nancy: Isn't that something?

Evelyn: The morning he died, my pastor husband was down at the home, of course. I was sitting downstairs in the living room praying, and Jan came down. She sat down with me, and we sat with arms around each other, and she said, "Dave's gone, isn't he?"

And I said, "Yes."

But I said, "Honey, God must love you a lot to give you all of this, all of these hard things when you're so young. He must be preparing you for something really great." Then I told her about Job. The finer gold is tried in the hottest fire.

Someone told me recently that it takes degrees of 1,400 and some degrees to really refine gold. Think of how hot that is.

Nancy: To make it pure.

Evelyn: Yes, to make it pure. So all the dross comes to the surface and everything. We were talking about that and she starting crying and she said, "Mother, I think I'd rather be a little rusty."

And I said, "Honey, we all would."

At that time, you don't give sermons. I just held her in my arms and cried. She went on to be a medical doctor and then was in critical care. That was the special assignment that she had in the hospital. She was the last one to see many of the patients.

When I was writing one of my books, I was writing at some point and Jan said to me, "Don't leave out 1 John 5:13, you can know, you can absolutely know that you have eternal life" (paraphrased). 

She said after she leads them to Jesus and tells them about Christ and everything. Then she said, "Mother, I couldn't have this job if I didn't have the assurance, the absolute assurance that they will see Jesus."

Where did she learn it? She learned it while she was a teenager and God was making finer gold. God doesn't do it all in one fell swoop. He was preparing her for a whole lifetime as a medical doctor. God doesn't make mistakes.

And so when we pray, this is that releasing our children for God's will. We want only the wonderful good things for them; but you see, when I released her, "God, do what You have to do to my child, for her, through her, whatever You need, so that she will be what You want her to be not what I want her to be but what You want her to be.

I would never have chosen that for her as a mom.

Nancy: Right. You don't want her to hurt.

Evelyn: I didn't want her to hurt. I don't want anybody to hurt, especially not the people I love. I don't want them to hurt. This is the hard part of releasing to God for His will.

Nancy: So often we try and rescue the people we love from the cross, from the very thing that God wants to use to make them gold.

Evelyn: I know. I don't think gold is ever made on the mountaintop where we're flitting around with the breezes blowing and the roses smelling so sweetly and all that.

Nancy: Just the way we'd like it to be.

Evelyn: That's the way we'd like it to be, but that isn't where you're really made into what God wants you to be.

Nancy: To be willing as a mother to let God do that in the lives of your children, that has to be so difficult at times.

Evelyn: It was very, very difficult when our son had graduated from college. He wanted to get into the doctoral program in a certain university because he felt that was the best one, and he was so struggling with that. He wanted his doctorate in physics, and so he called me one night and said, "Mom," (he was down in another state) and he said, "Mom, I'm going to start taking my tests now. Pray. Pray like mad."

He wanted it so badly, but I couldn't pray.

Nancy: How did you pray?

Evelyn: I released him. That was the very first thing I did.

Nancy: Your first prayer wasn't, "Lord, get him in this program."

Evelyn: Oh, never. I never prayed that. He wanted it. I would've liked it.

Nancy: So why didn't you pray that?

Evelyn: Because I am afraid to pray for my son to get into a physics program when God may know that he not only is not talented for that or that his talent is in some other direction or God wants him to do something else. My will for my child was, "Lord, Your will." What I desire, what I desire is the secret of what we pray for.

What do I really desire? Do I want fame and fortune and education and all these things? All of which . . . I'm not saying they're bad.

Nancy: But they could be your child's undoing.

Evelyn: Could be my child's undoing. So I prayed. I released him to God, and I stayed in prayer all the time. In fact, he had learned this way back when he was taking his SAT tests to get into college. He called me and said, "Mom, call the prayer chains." That was SOP, standard operating procedure, in our house, to call the prayer chain. He said, "I have to take my SAT tests tomorrow. Pray that I'll pass and everything."

And I said, "No, but honey, I will pray for you that whether you pass or not, it will be what God's will is for you."

And he said, can you hear this high school kid say, "Oh boy, it'd be just my luck that it's God's will that I flunk!"

And I said, "Honey, if you do, it will be a closed door in one area. But I want you to know, honey, the closed doors are just as important, maybe more so, than the open doors."

I said, "God will open doors where He wants you to be, but He will close doors if something isn't what He wants you to be." So I said, "Honey, make sure that when the doors close, if something closes along in your education, if something closes, that is more important than if God would open that door and it would've been the wrong door."

And that's not an easy thing to learn.

Nancy: So what happened in his grad school? You have to finish that story. What doors did God open?

Evelyn: This is exciting. We were already in bed. The phone rang and the operator was struggling with whatever it was that she said. She was trying to say, "Doctoral candidate Curt Carl Christenson is . . . this is a collect call from doctoral candidate," and she couldn't get it straight. It was the funniest thing because he was announcing to us he had got in, he had made it.

Nancy: Through the operator.

Evelyn: He did his post-doc at IBM. He's full-time, and he's in that ministry. But he's serving the Lord full-time in his church, too. So he's in a Christian school and is also a physicist. The Lord had it all planned, and He knew what He wanted Curt to be.

I think that parents need to learn that closed doors are important. We get our own ideas of what we want our children to be and to do, and it may not be God's will at all. We can fall so flat on our faces when we do what we want.

You know. I don't have to tell you that. That when I do what I want, I don't dare do what I want. Do you?

Nancy: Well, we think we know what's good.

Evelyn: Well, we think we know what's good. But I mean to say to God, "No, I'm going to go this way when You're trying to tell me that way." I would never dare do that because I know the disaster that it can bring.

This releasing of your child to God is an awesome thing, and there’s such peace in it. It’s so wonderful, and then you watch God. Then at 80, you can look back and I see all these steps. You see, I've given you a little nutshell, but this took years. All of these steps took years. You watch God working, and it's awesome. It's just awesome.

Leslie: Evelyn Christenson has a life message on prayer. She and Nancy Leigh DeMoss have been showing us what happens when women pray, and Nancy will be right back.

Evelyn’s written a book called What Happens When Women Pray. We’d like to encourage you to make prayer a bigger part of your life, so we’ll send this book when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Learn to pray more consistently. Learn to pray more effectively. Evelyn will show you how in these pages.

Ask for What Happens When Women Pray when you call 1-800-569-5959 with your donation, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

We’ve chosen to air that conversation today because it’s the launch of a 40-day emphasis on prayer for our nation. The National Religious Broadcasters Organization is asking the Christian radio community to call listeners to prayer.

On the launch of this important emphasis, Nancy’s back to lead us in prayer.

Nancy: Oh Lord, we confess our great, great need for You. Thank You for the privilege of prayer. Thank You that You initiate prayer in our hearts. On this special day we cry out to You on behalf of our nation. Oh God, we’ve sinned against You greatly; we have forsaken Your laws and Your Word. We’ve gone our own way. I pray that You would have mercy upon us, that You would restore in this land a sense of right and wrong and a sense of the fear of the Lord.

Lord, I especially pray that in our country this day You would be calling Your people to humble themselves and pray and seek Your face that we might turn from our wicked ways, and that then You would be pleased in Your way and in Your time to pour out the Spirit of revival all across this land.

Oh Lord, revive this nation, revive Your church, revive our homes. How we need it. And Lord, revive our hearts, and start that work with me, Lord. Revive my heart, I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.  

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