Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Modeling a Life of Prayer

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you have children, then I know that one of your greatest desires in life is to see your children have a heart and a hunger for the Lord.

Leslie Basham: This is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: So let me ask you this question, if your children’s faith depends on how often they see God answer prayer in your home, how strong will their faith be when they become adults?

Leslie: Nancy’s asking this important question at the beginning of a 40-day emphasis on prayer. The National Religious Broadcasters has called ministries like ours to ask listeners to pray for our nation. We’re eager to take part in this important campaign because of the need our nation has for God. As part of this emphasis on prayer, Nancy’s talking with a special guest.

Nancy: Our guest on Revive Our Hearts this week is Evelyn Christenson, one of America’s best-loved Christian woman authors. She’s the author of a book that has sold more than 1½ million copies called What Happens When Women Pray.

As I talked with Evelyn at a conference recently, she shared some fascinating stories about how her children grew up seeing the reality and the power of God because they saw God answering prayer in their home.

Evelyn Christenson: I was not aware, Nancy, at first that they were watching this closely. When you’re bringing up children, they can be listening and still they’re doing something else and you think they’re not paying any attention. There were two main things that I think influenced my children in prayer. One was telephone prayer chains.

Nancy: Tell us what you mean by that.

Evelyn: Well, it's you have a chairman. Let's just take one simple, simple little prayer chain. You can multiply it. The chairman can call many number ones if she wants to, but the chairman receives the prayer requests and writes them down, condenses them, puts them in words that people can understand and spell. It's amazing.

Nancy: Keep it simple.

Evelyn: Keep it simple. You don't tell God the answer. You pray a request, not the answer to God. That's important, too. We finally learned all these rules, and we have just a little piece of paper with those on it. But when there was a request, it would go to the prayer chair, and then she would do this.

Then she would call number one on a prayer chain and all that person would do was write it down verbatim, not delete or add to, no matter how much juicy stuff they knew about it, they didn't add anything to it.

Then number one would call number two. They all had their own notebooks of course. They would date it and then write down exactly what the chairperson said. Then number one would go to prayer after she hung up with number two. Number two would call number three. And in 10 minutes, you can alert a whole telephone prayer chain if you abide by the rules.

Nancy: So they pass it on, and they're praying.

Evelyn: And then they have to stop; they have to pray right then. One of the rules is that you will not leave your phone (unless there's an emergency) unless you have prayed. And that's very, very important because you think, "Oh, I'll pray later today." And you don't. You don't. You pray right then. But we found awesome, awesome results.

When we started in 1968, I said, "Okay, I'll be the chairperson." So we had this phone in the kitchen. They started coming in—prayer requests—all times of the day and night and everything. We finally had to make rules. You can call in at certain times.

Now, if you're going to speak next Thursday, call in so that we can start praying. You don't have to just call in the very last second, and we have to call an emergency through. I mean, you had to learn all those things. But we did.

Nancy: And your children were seeing this taking place.

Evelyn: Well, you see, they were watching this whole process. Yes, they were watching it. But most of all, then we had the rule, you must call the answer if you get one.

Nancy: So you pass that on, too.

Evelyn: You pass that on. You pass the answers on. They watched this a couple years. Then we finally got to the place that we had to put in a second telephone line and the parsonage couldn't handle it. Then we got a chairperson, which was just wonderful—Elmie. In fact, she's still on it and that was 30 years ago. So they're still praying.

Nancy: Now your children were hearing you pass the requests.

Evelyn: They were hearing all this. But they were hearing answers, and they were absorbing all of this. When my children went away to college, all three of them called back to the telephone prayer chains.

Nancy: With their requests?

Evelyn: Yes, or for a professor whose wife was having back surgery the next day and things like that. It was absolutely amazing. They have some kind of a faith in God answering prayer that I could never have preached at them. I didn't even know they were absorbing. I think we need to know that as parents.

Nancy: It's interesting. I heard about a study where young people who had grown up in Christian homes and had gone on to college had left the faith, rejected the Lord after they left their Christian homes. They said that the number one reason was that they never saw God answer prayer. They had grown up in homes that claimed to be Christian, but they didn't see the evidence that God is alive, that He was real because they had not seen answered prayer, which is just the opposite of what you're saying.

Evelyn: That's awesome to see. It’s awesome, isn’t it?

Nancy: Your children grew up, and they had no doubt that God is real.

Evelyn: Well, it was there; it was there. They couldn't help but see it. And I wasn't doing it to show off.

Nancy: Right, but they were catching it.

Evelyn: As busy as I was and I taught all the time and everything and had my children and you know what pastor's wives do. And yet, I took time, they watched me taking time to do what I felt was so desperately important and they saw. Oh, there are so many, many things.

I had my own neighborhood Bible study, evangelism Bible study, during those times, those years. My son, our Curt, knew all the names of the people who were, at that time, in the Bible study. He used to pray for them.

We had an arrangement. The only reason Mother would not be home on time for his lunch, to make his lunch (we lived one block from school, so it was no big deal) would be if somebody was trying to accept Jesus and was struggling and hadn't come through, and I wouldn't leave them at that point.

Whenever I was a little bit late, he would say, "Who was it, Mom?" because he had prayed by name for them. And so, it was just the automatic thing.

Nancy: He was seeing his prayers being answered.

Evelyn: He was seeing his prayers being answered. Absolutely.

Nancy: So your children have learned that the first response in all of life is not to try your own ways, your own thoughts but to seek the Lord in practical, everyday ways.

Evelyn: Oh, right. Little James was only a preschooler. This was so fun for me, but it wasn't fun at the time. We were having one of our Christian Women United meetings at Kay Arthur's, and I, as president, had all the handouts on my computer. I had typed out everything we were going to do, and it was all there. And I thought, I can print while I throw stuff in the suitcase.

Well, there were all the clothes ready to go in the suitcase and I punched one through the print process and nothing happened—over and over and over. It would not print. So I finally had to say, "Okay, we will have this conference without handouts. There's just no way." And then, I thought, "No, I'm going to call Curt and see what he can do."

He was stuck in some lab someplace. They couldn't find him. So his wife and his little preschool son, our little James, not finding Curt, decided that they would pray. They got on their knees and they prayed for Grandma's computer.

Well, I threw a few clothes in the suitcase. Then I thought, "I'm going to try one more time." I walked back in, there's nobody else in the house, I walked back in and it just went, prrrrrr and away it went and it printed. It was so awesome!

Nancy: Do you think God cares about handouts and computers and printers?

Evelyn: He does. But He cares about grandchildren. And James, I'm telling you, he grew 10 feet.

Nancy: Sure, sure.

Evelyn: God answered. He didn't care that his mother had prayed or that Grandma may have.

Nancy: But he had prayed.

Evelyn: He prayed and God answered. Prayer life in a family is just so awesome. It’s so exciting, it's fun, it's thrilling.

Nancy: And how much do you think many families miss out on because the parents aren't praying, the grandparents aren't praying, the children aren't praying. They're going through life living in the realm of the natural, the explainable, what they can fix, what they can do, what they can manage.

Evelyn: And they're missing all that God has for us.

Nancy: Never seeing what God can do.

Evelyn: It's just awesome, awesome, awesome. In fact, I've written a whole book on praying for our families, What Happens When We Pray for Our Families, and it is very exciting because we have all kinds of subjects that I cover in that book. My second daughter wrote in there, our Nancy, that when she calls home and Mom says, "We'll pray," she said, "I know they will pray, and I can depend on their praying."

Now that's something else. I think lots of us say, "Well, I'll pray for you." We do something like that. That doesn't make sense because usually we forget, or it's a good cop-out, isn’t it? But Nancy said, in the book, "I know when I call home, my parents will pray." That's an extremely important thing for parents to realize. If their children are depending on them, they need to pray.

Nancy: So let me ask you as mothers:

  • Do your children know that when they call you, that you will pray?
  • Do your children know that when they have a need, that they can pray and that God hears and God answers prayer?
  • Are they seeing in your home evidence of a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God?

Let me ask you this. When your children leave home and they're tested, their faith is tested and they have to make it their own, will they leave the faith and say, "We had no evidence that God was real. We didn't ever see Him do things in our home"? Or will your children have this bedrock, solid, unshakable foundation of faith that was developed in their lives because they grew up in a home where there was a praying mom?

And you were just telling me something about the triangle prayers. Tell me about that.

Evelyn: It's a simple little concept. I have a little granddaughter named Kathy. We spend all of our vacations on Lake Michigan. We deep-sea fish, and we water ski and all of those fun things on Lake Michigan.

Nancy: Don’t tell me you water ski, Evelyn.

Evelyn: They made me give it up about two years, almost three years ago now. This will be the third summer.

Nancy: You are a remarkable woman.

Evelyn: Oh, I just absolutely love it. That was one of the hard things to give up, but they made me.

All the family would gather. I think Kathy was 4. She was not about to leave Grandma on the beach. They had to leave a week before Grandma and Grandpa had to leave, so she's hanging onto my leg. If you have any grandchildren, you know what this is. She had her arms just absolutely locked around one leg, and she was just howling, “I am not leaving Grandma. I’m not leaving Grandma.”

I said, "Kathy, let's go talk for just a minute." So I said, "My mother told me a wonderful, wonderful secret—that we are only a prayer apart. Even if we have to be real far apart, it doesn't matter.” I said, "Kathy, let me show you how this works. Take your hands and put them together like you're praying.”

Nancy: Right.

Evelyn: "Now, put them up over your head, way up." And I said, "Right at the tip of your fingers, God is up there. Now, Kathy, Grandma on the beach is here at this right elbow. Now, you are going to be who knows where. You're going to be traveling through Michigan, and you're heading for Washington, DC. You're going to stop at a motel, and you're going to do all these things. Grandma won't know where you are exactly. And we're going to feel very separated and far apart."

But I said, "Kathy, the secret is this. While you are traveling, here's Grandma at this elbow now, and I see God is up at the tip of your fingers. And Grandma is going to pray up to God. Now, God is going to look down and say, ‘Oh, I know where Kathy is.’ And He'll just go bing! There she is, they’re right in that motel or they're on highway so-and-so, and God will know where you are.”

“I will pray for you, Kathy. I will pray that God, wherever you are, will just answer that prayer. See, Kathy, you don't ever have to be alone because God will answer that prayer wherever you go. It doesn't matter. Wherever you go, God knows wherever you are, and He will reach down and answer. If I pray, ‘Don't let Kathy be too tired’ or, ‘If they're hungry, help them to find a nice restaurant’ or whatever. I'll be praying for you.”

But then I have to say to the mothers and the fathers or whomever, sometimes it’s a babysitter or Sunday school teacher, whoever it might be who has promised to pray, make sure you are praying. Don't ever let the child down and say, “I will pray for you,” and then you don't because then that child will lose all faith in God. But if that child knows they never have to be alone, my mother taught me that we’re only a prayer apart.

That has been something that has been very precious, not only in my own family, but I've been able to teach it in prisons where parents were separated from children in some of the saddest situations. When my husband went overseas. If we can get that picture, it's such a simple little thing.

Nancy: And what a wonderful encouragement for parents who don't know where their children are or whose children are not walking with the Lord, to know that as they pray for their children, God knows where they are.

Evelyn: God knows where they are. When you're emotionally separated and those children will not talk to you. Sometimes it's not that they aren't close enough. They can be right next to you in the room, and they won't talk to you.

You can still pray up to God and the wonderful part is, though, that God doesn't just come with whatever we say—give them a bushel of Hershey bars or something like that—God comes to them with what He knows is best for them, which is such a precious thing. It takes a lot of pressure off being separated, and we’re all separated.

You get the empty nest, or the first one goes to kindergarten. That’s a very traumatic thing.

Nancy: True.

Evelyn: But to know that we are only a prayer apart and that you, the caregiver, whoever you are, the parent, you can pray for that child or your husband.

Nancy: I was going to say you can apply that in marriage.

Evelyn: I did. I used this at a shower for a bride and groom. He was a Northwest Airlines pilot. I said, "He’s going to be gone a lot, but it doesn’t matter. Sarah, you can pray up to God. The two of you when you’re very lonely, especially when you should be on your honeymoon and you’re very lonely and he’s had an assignment, you can still be together. It’s an awesome, awesome thought.

Nancy: So prayer really unites people. It brings them together.

Evelyn: It’s tremendous. That is a huge subject and of course that praying in one accord and what Jesus has promised us when we do pray.

Nancy: Let’s talk about that. How does prayer bring God’s people together?

Evelyn: I have a board, a praying, advisory board which has met monthly since 1973. Some of them of course are in a nursing homes, some have died and younger ones have taken their places. But we have kept up this continuous praying. We have a oneness in Jesus that’s awesome.

Jesus promised that "where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I [Jesus, Jesus] will be in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20, NKJV). When we walk into that home, there is a presence of God and Jesus there. We just don’t have to have a lot of introductory stuff and all of that anymore. We’re right there; He is there with us. It is actually a fact. Jesus is in our midst—that oneness, that unity, that being in one accord, Acts 1:14, which is so beautiful.

When Jesus left this planet earth, He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they had power, until they got what the Father was promising in Acts 1:8—“You shall receive power.” So they were waiting, but they waited in this oneness. They waited in prayer. But Acts 1:14 says they were "praying in one accord."

Nancy: What does that mean?

Evelyn: That means in one heart and one mind.

Nancy: How do you develop that? Does it come naturally or quickly or easily or does it have to be worked on?

Evelyn: I think it has to be worked on, and you don’t develop it the first time you meet. You have to meet for a while, but you don’t have to meet for 25 years.

Nancy: Now, you’ve seen God do an incredible work in churches as they began to pray together in one accord. Tell us how you first got started in this whole ministry of prayer. You started in 1968.

Evelyn: '68, but preceding that, the first call may have been, and I think it was, when I accepted Jesus and I started praying immediately for those neighbors who needed Jesus. But it was after that, 1964, that three of us were in our new building and everything was going well. We doubled our membership in four years.

Nancy: This was at your church you’re talking about?

Evelyn: Our church. It was popping and hopping.

Nancy: Your husband was the pastor?

Evelyn: Yes. All at once in this big, new lower auditorium, the three of us just happened to be walking. We met and we threw our arms around each other, and we started to pray for the church. So we stood there and cried and committed to the Lord that we would pray on Thursday afternoons every week, which we did for almost four years until it came to what you’re talking about where we started formally.

Nancy: Just the three of you.

Evelyn: Just the three of us.

Nancy: Was it disheartening to think there were only three of you? Did you think there should be 30 or 300?

Evelyn: This was what was so amazing. I think I should tell you. This isn’t in the book because I hesitated to say it. But when we first got together, we didn’t know what we were doing. There wasn’t a whole lot written—Rozel Reeker had a few little things on it, but there wasn’t much written back there in 1964 on how you would start a little prayer group with three people.

So one of our members said, "Well, I think we better take a Scripture verse and pray about that. We ought to at least base it on Scripture each week." That’s fine. And one of them said, "Well, how about Psalm 66:18?" I said, "That's great. What does it say?" I didn't know what Psalm 66:18 said. I know now! "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (NKJV). 

Well, it sounded pretty simple, so we started praying Psalm 66:18. Don't pray Psalm 66:18 if you don't mean it. God started showing us our sins, the three of us.

Nancy: And you were meeting to pray for the church.

Evelyn: We were meeting to pray for the church.

Nancy: But God is saying . . .

Evelyn: God is saying, "Get your own act together, honey, and then you can pray for the church."

Nancy: You began by confessing your own sins.

Evelyn: Whoa! We started confessing the biggies. Not one of us was living in any horrible sin, in fact, one of them . . .

Nancy: Did you think, at first, I don't know what major sin I would confess?

Evelyn: Well, we didn't have a clue. But we kept asking God to bring to our minds any sin, like the attitudes and things. And we could see some of these, and we were confessing them. Oh boy, we were so glad when we got through that hour of praying. And we came back the next week.

Nancy: You were finished with Psalm 66:18 now.

Evelyn: We thought we were. Next week, same thing. But we learned something. Every week, God was digging deeper and finding things that were "littler" sins, what we would call "littler" sins, and things finally that we didn't think were sin at all. It was awesome.

We wept and we sobbed before God for six of the most miserable weeks I've ever gone through in my life. We wept.

Nancy: Knowing that you couldn't really pray for the church until . . .

Evelyn: I use the word release. God would not release us to pray for the church . . . 

Nancy: . . . as long as these sins were unconfessed in your own hearts.

Evelyn: But they were such little dinky things.

Nancy: Like what?

Evelyn: Oh! That's what the editor of the book said when I wrote that. He said, "Tell me what sins pastors' wives commit.”

Nancy: Probably because I think some people may be thinking, "I don't know what I would confess."

Evelyn: I wasn't living in adultery; I wasn't doing any of those things. But it would be an attitude. One of the things was I did my own studying, and I taught the Sunday School class. I studied a minimum of 25 hours a week. I mean, I really worked at it. Then I would type an outline and run the copies, and I would have this little attitude. There was this little "Here is my outline. This is what I have studied."

See, I didn't realize I had pride. But I did. That's one of His biggies, and it was just terrible. Little things like that, that we don't even think are . . . Would you think just to say, "Here's my outline." I never said, "Here it is, you lucky kids" or something. I just said it as I passed out the outline. But down inside of me, there was this little feeling that, well, I've really worked hard on this, and I didn't realize I had that attitude.

Nancy: So it was heart attitudes that God was dealing with.

Evelyn: It was heart attitudes and reactions to things, reactions to my children in times when there would be unkindness when there could have been kindness. Just things that seemed so little, but they are sins which Christians commit all the time. And the only way, I believe, is what we've done here at this conference. The only way to really know what those things are is to stay in God's Word and also let Him convict you in prayer.

"Lord, search my heart." And that's what we prayed for those six weeks. "Just search our hearts. Just search us." And one thing came out. One of the gals who we thought was such an awesome Christian, had an attitude toward her husband that I wouldn't even dare put on the tape. She couldn't stand something her husband was doing so she had to get that all cleansed.

Nancy: Before she could pray for the church.

Evelyn: Oh, yes. And finally, finally, after six weeks . . .

Nancy: Six miserable weeks!

Evelyn: Miserable! Very miserable weeks. God finally released us. I have to use that word because suddenly, He said, "Okay." It was almost like Isaiah 6:8, "Lord, now send me" (paraphrased).

Leslie: Hear what happened in that church after those women spent six weeks in prayer. Evelyn Christenson will be back tomorrow to describe it. She and Nancy Leigh DeMoss have been talking about Evelyn’s book, What Happens When Women Pray. This book will increase your passion for prayer. It will show you how your prayer can influence your family, your church, and your world.

We’ll send a copy when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. You can take us up on this offer by visiting, or call 1-800-569-5959.

We didn’t have time to air that complete interview segment. When you order the series on CD, you’ll get a longer version of the conversation. Just look for the series, When Women Pray, at

I also hope you’ll join us in praying for our nation and our world. We’ve just begun a 40-day emphasis on prayer for revival along with other religious broadcasters. Please pray that God’s people will be revived and the gospel will spread in our nation and world.

Here’s Nancy with a final thought.

Nancy: As God said to His people back in 2 Chronicles chapter 7, verse 14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,” just as those women did who were praying in that little group. If we will do that, then God says, “I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.