Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Labor Pains of Prayer

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Yesterday, we heard this statement from Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle:

Jim Cymbala: There are more books on child-rearing, quality time with your children. Talk to any pastor. There are more problems with children and young people in the church, per hundred young people, than any time previous. Not because we're lacking knowledge, not because we're lacking how-to—all of that has its place. But brother, sister where the rubber meets the road, we need the power of God. We need the grace of God. Listen to the promise as I come to a close. Therefore, let us come boldly to the throne of grace, so that we might receive grace and mercy to help us in our time of need.

Nancy: Pastor Cymbala isn't just talking theory. He knows what its like to watch a child turn their back on God. I know that many of our Revive Our Hearts' listeners understand this pain as well. We often get letters from listeners asking us to pray for one or more of their children. One listener wrote,

“We asked my son to leave our home because of his involvement in sin that we knew would lead to spiritual decline and possible physical death.

Another wrote,

I listen to your program as I drive to pick up my youngest son who is rebellious and in the grip of a drug problem. [She told us how her son has been in three car accidents. And then she went on.] The anger, worry, and strain have taken a toll on my health, my emotions, and even my work.

I know many listening right now could share a similar story. We're about to hear an honest and moving account of a dad who understands that worry and strain.

We heard the first part of this message from Jim Cymbala yesterday. He talked about the importance, the necessity of prayer in the life of a church. We're focusing on topics like this this month, because we're in the middle of a 40-day prayer emphasis that was called by the National Religious Broadcasters. If you didn't get to hear the first part of Pastor Cymbala's message, now we're going to hear part two of his message My house Shall Be Called a House of Prayer. Here's Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle:

Jim Cymbala: "Therefore, let us come boldly to the throne of grace, so that we might receive grace and mercy to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). It doesn't say let us come therefore to the sermon. We in American have made the sermon the centerpiece. God never intended the sermon to be the centerpiece. The preacher, if he does his job, is supposed to get people to come to the throne of grace. Why? Because it's at the throne of grace that God gives grace and mercy.

If a gospel singer really does his job—and every gospel singer, listen to me . . . You're going to answer one day, because God's going to say to you, "Did you bring people to where the action was? At the throne of grace. If you just entertained them, if you just tickled them and gave them a little warm fuzzy moment, woe unto you, because at the throne of grace I could have changed their life."

"Pastor Cymbala, did you bring the people and dazzle them with your footwork and try to be clever, or did you make Jesus wonderful so that they could come to the throne of grace." Therefore, let us come boldly to the throne of grace. That's why Jesus descended to the right hand of the Father so that He could make a way, so that me, with my problems, could go receive grace and mercy to help me. Just an awesome thought.

But we've created a religion kind-of of our own. Sometimes, His house shall be called a house of prayer, in a lot of churches and services you have everything but prayer. You have talks, readings, talent, and choir. My wife conducts a choir. I'm all for those things, but you get what I’m driving at? If it doesn't end up with somebody touching God and praying, who are we kidding? We need the Lord.

For someone who is so ill-prepared as myself for the ministry, it seems to me that God has chosen, among other things, to make my wife and I an example of those foolish things that confound the wise. My wife writes music and directs the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir, and she neither reads nor writes music. She's never been trained. She doesn't know what she's doing, she just does it.  I've never been to a seminary or a Bible school, but I ended up with fifteen or twenty people in New York City on a street that was so depressing. Our church was so depressing, I didn't want to go, and I was in charge. Drugs everywhere. Inner-city is a totally different culture than especially where my wife grew up. I, as a ball-player, had been around.

And then I realized, what am I going to do? Am I going to live in this Christian fantasy about what God once did and what God's going to do one day? But then life goes by and you never see God do anything. You're going to let your life pass by with that kind of talk. Remember, the worst epitaph on anybody's tombstone will be this: You had not because you asked not.

Someone says, "Brother Jim, you understand that you don't get everything you ask for, it has to be according to God's will." I understand all of that, but we can't use little theological dodges  to get away from the fact that a lot of people don't have things that God wants you to have right now today. He wants you to have it right now today. But over my life, or possibly yours, He writes, “You have not, because you ask not.” I want to do it for you.

But God has chosen prayer to be the one conductor, the one channel for all of God's blessings. The channel is prayer. In other words, God has this table set for us. He sees Jay and Amy and He knows exactly what they need to raise that child. He has the table spread with every kind of wisdom and grace and strength that they could possibly need. But He says, "The only way you get it is to pull up to the table and taste and see that the Lord is good." Pulling up to the table is called prayer.

In other words, God doesn’t tell us pray because I want my people to pray. He says, "Pray because I have all kinds of things for you. And when you ask, you shall receive." In other words, it's not legalism, its not get in there and start praying. It's "I need thee, O I need thee. Every hour I need thee. God, you see what I’m facing. Help me, Lord." And as we pray, He is faithful to His word and supplies.

My wife and I began to learn a little bit about this conductor and this channel called prayer. We began to see people's lives get changed. I began to preach. Not being trained, but studying on my own and building a library which has grown quite large, and trying to stay a student. But at the very beginning it was rough. The sermons I preached at the beginning—it's tough when you fall asleep doing your own sermons. Not just the people falling asleep. It's when you doze off.

But you know, I found that God—when you become a Christian and because of what I just said—He blesses people through prayer. He's going to make you a woman of prayer. He's going to make you a man of prayer, and if you try to run, He'll chase you. But He will make us people of prayer. He knows how to order our lives and to get our attention and say, "Do you realize how much you need me now?"

"No, I can handle this on my own."

 God says, Fine. When you hit the stone wall the thirty-second time, remember that you need me."

Notice He's not making me a man of prayer so He can say, see I got him praying. It's a Father saying, "I have all of this, and you live with such scarcity. Please come unto Me all ye that labor. Pray, talk, spend time—what are you so rushed for? Running for what? Working with what? There's nothing in Jim Cymbala to work with. Everything that you need, I have. So when are we going to talk?"

So I began to learn, and we began to stress our Tuesday night prayer meeting as the barometer of our church. This past Tuesday night, between twelve-hundred and fifteen-hundred people gathered like every Tuesday night. Since those days, we've had fourteen other churches begin all stressing that prayer meeting night, because we found that if you can beat the devil on the prayer meeting night, you'll beat him on every other level.

That's the way it is in our personal lives. If you can beat the enemy in prayer, you can beat him on every level. You will read the Word. There's grace flowing thorough your life. You have an appetite for the things of God. So, from me standing in front of two people on a Tuesday night, I used to do that. The first offering I took on a Sunday was eighty-five dollars in tithes and offerings. I had a daughter named Chrissy. My wife took a second job. I took a second job. But the people began to pray.

But in closing let me tell you some of the last lessons I've learned about this wonderful truth. I'm not trying to preach down to anyone. I’m preaching to myself as I’m talking to you. About eight or nine years ago, my daughter who is here today got away from us. She got away not only from us, she got away from God. She got away from our house. My wife and I went through a two-and-a-half-year-long nightmare that I don't want to go into. But I promised God, as I was getting at the end of it, as He brought me through it, wherever I got a chance I promised God that no matter how hard it would be, as God as my witness today, I would tell people what God does in answer to prayer.

You know what the feeling is to not know where you daughter is? She grew up as a model child. I have two other children. Chrissy is now twenty-five. I have a daughter twenty-one and a boy eighteen. But at that time Chrissy was about seventeen or eighteen and it was, I’m talking nightmare. I’m talking about getting in my car and leaving my house to go to the church in the inner-city where I’m going to face ten new people who visit who are HIV-positive, and a battered woman, and no-need family units and everything discombobulated. I don’t want to be the focus; I’m supposed to be there to minister to them. But I’m crying from the minute I leave my door to the church, and saying, "God my heart is broken, my nerves are shot. I've screamed, begged, pleaded, tried to use money, reasoned, cried and she is getting worse, not getting better."

How am I going to minister? We're starting other churches, renting Radio-City Music Hall, and starting new churches in the city, and going to South America, and Carol is writing songs and making albums. But nobody knows that we're hanging by a thread, my friend, a thread. All the times I drove and cried out to God, coming in and saying, "God, please just get me through these three meetings." We have 11:00, 3:30, and 7:30 services, each about two hours long or more. And I’m just saying, "God, please just get me through another Sunday. God would just lift me, and I’d have the grace to get through and minister to people, even though inside I was just shaking."

I learned that when you pray, God comes. I learned that when you have, no logical way to stand, God somehow, when you pray, gives you fresh feet and  a fresh foundation. We have a prayer band in our church. Its more important than the 240 voice Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. There's a prayer band that not only prays through each service—about twenty of them pray through each service. While I'm preaching and ministering, they're in a room locked away praying.

Now they pray, for several years now, from two in the afternoon till six in the morning. In the church, there are people praying every day two in the afternoon till six in the morning. If any of you have some need, you can just mail it to our church and someone will pray for it at three in the morning. It's an amazing thing how God honors that.

Well, they began to pray for me. And as God is my witness, I would sense myself at night sometimes or shaving in the morning, I would feel God's grace just come underneath me and begin to steady me and hold my emotions. I hadn't even been thinking about God, and I would say, "Lord, what is this that is coming into my life?" Somebody is praying for you. Somebody is praying for you. Those people would be praying for me, God bless them.

Then my wife got ill. She had to have a hysterectomy and the hormonal imbalance that she ended up with. My daughter is out of the house. My other two children, I’m doing the best that I can. Now my wife is talking not just about leaving New York, which she wanted to . . . The enemy had told her, "Fine, start your churches and influence people, but I'm going to have all of your children. I've got one, and I’m coming for the other two."

My wife believed it and told me, "You leave with me, or you can stay. But, I'm leaving, because he already has Chrissy, and I’m not losing my other two kids. Enough with this. We can't do this. The atmosphere in the city—New York is a miserable place to be." I’m not there because I like it; I'm there because God put me there. And then, after the operation, she's talking about how she doesn't feel any reason to live any longer.

What do you do? Your wife is flipping out. You're preaching. You're doing all of these things. I'm telling you how wonderful it is that at the throne of grace, no matter what is happening God can lift you and hold you. What a wonderful God.

One November, after about two years had passed and Chrissy was away, God and I got totally alone in Florida. God spoke to me and said, "I know you've been praying for Chrissy." The impressions I got were basically this—I don't want to sound mystical or sensational, I’m just going to tell you from my heart. No more talking to Chrissy and no more talking to anyone else, no more money, and no more screaming, and no more crying. "Drop it. Just tell me. Let's make a covenant. You just tell me, and I’ll take care of it." I told my wife I’m not going to see my daughter until she's right. That's my first child.

My wife kept in touch with her. Months went by. Christmas, a sad Christmas. Who wants presents when your daughter is away? On a February night in the prayer meeting, "my house shall be called a house of prayer," we were all praying and calling on God and waiting on God. You know, nobody in charge, no choir, no speaker, who needs it—you have Jesus. Its amazing how wonderful He is.

Someone sent a note up to me. A woman, a young lady who is sensitive to the Lord, she sent a note up through the usher. She said, “I feel deeply impressed that we should stop the prayer meeting and pray for your daughter.” I looked at the note. People were praying all around me. I looked at the note and said, "God, is this really you?" I don’t want to be the center of attraction. People have their own needs. But I felt impressed it was.

I stopped the prayer meeting after a little while and everybody gathered together in that room in that church and held hands—over a thousand people probably that night—and I called one of my associate pastors in the front, and he began to pray. All that I can tell you, I don’t know what your theology is, and it really doesn't matter. I'm just going to tell you what happened. You know where Paul said, “I travail like a mother giving birth till Christ be formed on you” (see Galatians 4:19)? 

Well, I told the people, "My daughter thinks up is down and down is up, and she thinks light is dark and dark is light, and unless God visits her and intervenes, my daughter is out there. Someone wants me to stop the meeting so you can pray. My associate is going to come, and he is going to pray." Suddenly, it turned into a labor room. You ever hear women when they are giving labor? It's not pleasant, but it has great results. They began to pray. I was overwhelmed by it. They went to the throne of grace like, “And now Satan, you will give up that girl.” And they prayed. I came home. My wife wasn't there that night, and over a cup of coffee I told her, “Carol, it's over.” She said, “What's over.” I said, “It's over. If there is God in heaven, what I experienced tonight, it is over, finito.”

Just about a day later, I was shaving and my wife burst into the bathroom and said, “Chrissy is here.” Chrissy, I hadn't seen her in four months. I went down the steps, wiping off the shaving cream, and on the kitchen floor was my daughter on her knees. I walked into the kitchen. She grabbed at my pants leg, and she pulled it. She was weeping, and she said, “Daddy, I’ve sinned against God. I've sinned against myself. I've sinned against you and mommy. Daddy, forgive me for being rebellious, etc. Daddy, it's different. But Daddy, who was praying for me? Who was praying Tuesday night for me?”

“What Chrissy, what happened?”

And she said, “In the middle of the night, God woke me up and He showed me I was heading towards a chasm, and it had no bottom. But Daddy, even as He showed me that, He showed me how awful I was. He put His arms around me and showed me that He loved me, and He had a plan for my life. Daddy, I’ve made it right with God.”

I could tell by her face that she was my daughter again, the one I had raised. Very soon, God opened the door, and for the next four years she directed the music program at a Bible school. She married a man of God. They are both in the ministry today.

And God reminded me once again, "My house shall be called a house of prayer, because when you call I will answer." And the hard cases that some of you are facing, I want to tell you now, it won't come from another seminar. Seminars have their limit. All they can do is be an arrow that gets you to the throne of grace. But when you get there, watch out because God can do exceedingly beyond what we ask of Him. I’m not being emotional. I'm not being simplistic. But we have too many technicians now invading the church that are into methodology. The answer is not in methodology, the answer is in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The answer is in the grace of God.

Nancy: We're listening to a message by Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. He's been sharing about how God can transform the most difficult challenges that you face and how God chooses to work through the prayers of His people. If there's a heartache or a difficult situation that you're facing where you need the grace of God, I want to encourage you to stay with us over these next few minutes as Pastor Cymbala extends an invitation to cry out to the Lord on behalf of that situation.

Let me just say that I know many of you will want to have a copy of this message that you can listen to again and share with others. So, we're making this complete message from Pastor Jim Cymbala available on DVD and would be glad to send it to you when you send a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. I hope you'll take this opportunity to share this powerful message with someone else whose life could be transformed through the power of prayer. Just give us a call at 1-800-569-5959, or visit us online at When you send your donation of any amount, just ask us for the DVD of Pastor Cymbala's message on prayer. Now let's listen as Pastor Cymbala continues to take this message home to our hearts.

Jim: Father God, we come to you this morning, and we sense your presence here. I've done my best to honor Your Word, God. We're not the ones who invented prayer. You’re the one who called us to your side, the throne of grace. And Lord, for these moms and dads who are weeping over that son or that daughter, we understand God. For those grandparents who are concerned about a grandchild, or that marriage that's falling apart, we need Your grace, we need Your mercy O Lord. We need the Holy Spirit to come.

Even as you changed my daughter and countless other people who have been prayed for over the decades and centuries as Christians have called upon you, God we ask you to do it again. We're coming to the throne of grace. We don't have the strength to do it, our money won't do it, we're not smart enough to do it. We can't finesse it. We need an invasion of the Holy Spirit into that person's life. Wake them up in the middle of the night, O Lord. While they're driving in the car, let them feel the glory, O Lord. While they're taking a shower, remind them of verses that were taught to them as children, O Lord.

God, we're not going to hand them over to the enemy. We're going to fight the good fight of faith. We're going to pray, and we're going to keep praying. And after we pray, we're going to pray again. We won't let You go, Lord, unless You bless us, unless You touch the situation by Your Grace. Lord, I pray that there will be a new aroma and fragrance of prayer in all of our lives as we go back to our homes. O God, let prayer be in our churches. Let prayer meetings begin at family alters in homes. Let people see God, all of us afresh, that when we call upon You, You're faithful to answer us. Stop us from being so rushed and so busy. We're learning and never coming really to the knowledge of the truth. Work on our hearts, and not just our heads. Make us men and women who live at the throne of grace, tasting and seeing how good You are.


Let me at a throne of mercy, find a sweet relief.
Kneeling there in deep contrition, help my unbelief.
Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry.
While on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by.

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.