Victory Through Prayer
July 14th, 1991 @ 10:50 AM
VICTORY THROUGH PRAYER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-14-91 10:50 a.m.
In our preaching through the Gospel of Mark, we are in chapter 11, and the text brings to the heart of your senior pastor the subject, Victory Through Prayer Power or, The Marvel of Living in a World of Miracle. Verse 22:
Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
Verily, verily—amen, amen, truly, truly—I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea: [and] shall not doubt in his heart, but believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he asks.
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall possess them.
Victory Through Prayer Power. In this fallen and mundane world, power is the determining dynamic in all life, national, personal, political power, financial power, military power, in the sea, on the air, across the land, manpower, comprising our armies and creating our factories that support them, fire power, the artillery, the projectiles, the atomic bombs, air power—
I was with these youngsters in our chapel choir in Rapid City, South Dakota, just beyond the city limits; we have a great air station there. And I couldn’t believe those fighter planes. I’d see them there, and the sound would be there—through the skies at twice the speed of sound. And whoever controls the air controls the cities that lie beneath them; naval power, monitoring the supply lines across the seas from continent to continent.
But out of all of the powers we know in this world, none is like or comparable to prayer power. The atheistic unbelieving skeptic scoffs at such an avowal. Napoleon Bonaparte said, “God is on the side of the biggest battalion.” Is that true? Listen to the Word of God in Zechariah, chapter 4, “This is the word of the Lord saying: Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord” [Zechariah 4:6].
Listen again to Ecclesiastes, chapter 9, “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong” [Ecclesiastes 9:11].
Listen again to Exodus 15, the song of Moses and the children of Israel [Exodus 15:1]:
I will sing unto the Lord. He hath, triumphed gloriously . . .
The Lord is my strength . . . and my salvation . . .
The Lord is a man of war . . .
Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath He cast into the sea: His chosen captains are also drowned in the sea.
The depths have covered them . . .
The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil . . .
Thou didst blow with Thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the waters.
Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like unto Thee, glorious in holiness? . . .
Thou stretchedst out Thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.
Prayer power; God’s power. In Judges, chapter 7, “And Gideon called the people and thirty-two thousand answered. And the Lord God said, ‘They’re too many. These that are afraid, send them home.’ And there remained ten thousand [Judges 7:3]. And the Lord said, ‘They are too many.’ He brought them down to the waters. Those that bowed and drank—‘Send them away’—those that lapped as they moved. And there were three hundred [Judges 7:4-6]. And God said, ‘It will be wrought, victory given, through the three hundred’” [Judges 7:7]. That’s God.
In 1 Samuel, chapter 17:
When the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him. He was but a youth, ruddy, of a fair countenance—hadn’t grown a beard.
And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David and the Lord.
And the Philistine said to David, Come, I will give thy flesh to the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.
Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, with a spear, with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
[1 Samuel 17:42-45]
Guess who won? Guess who won?
In Isaiah 37:
Thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, Sennacherib. He shall not come to this city of Jerusalem, not even shoot an arrow. . .
By the way that he came, by the same way will he return. . .
For I will defend this city to save it. . .
Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand—one hundred eighty-five thousand soldiers—and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
Who wins? Who has the power? It’s God! And whoever invokes the presence and the power of God is assured of ultimate and final and glorious victory. This is not only true as I read the Bible, God’s Holy Word, but this is true in all history. Why wasn’t our ancient civilized world Oriental? God said it will be Greek. And Alexander, in the 330s BC, decimated the vast armies of Persia, of Darius, with a small phalanx. God was in it.
Why isn’t our world where we live Muslim? In 732 AD, Charles Martel in Tours, France, confronted the seemingly invincible armies of the Saracens, and there slew their leader and brought ultimate and final victory to the Christian people—God intervening in the power of the Almighty. Thus it is with our own people, our English-speaking, beloved native England, for some of us, and native America for all of us. The winds of God blew, and the Spanish Armada that was approaching England to conquer it was taken away from the face of the earth.
You won’t believe what I am about to say. When the Japanese attacked in Pearl Harbor, there was nothing between them and an invasion of the United States, except—I was preaching out there on the West Coast, in California. And those great seaports of California were protected by balloons that were anchored there on the shore, and about two hundred feet up, attached by a wire, was a balloon. And that was the protection of America. Why didn’t those Japanese come with their navies and with their air force and with their armies? There wasn’t anything to prevent their invasion of America except we knelt in prayer. O God, bless America; prayer power and victory. I lived through every syllable of that.
This year, this year, in our very midst, I fully intended and prepared to do as I had done in the Second World War. When a soldier was slain, the pastor went to the home and announced to the family, their boy had died. Sweet people, fully, fully, I prepared my heart to see thirty thousand, forty thousand, fifty thousand of our finest men slain in that Desert Storm. We prayed. We prayed here in our church. We prayed on our knees at home. And God gave us victory. God did it. And we lost practically none; victory through prayer power. God has a way of protecting those who look unto Him in intercession and in faith.
Do you remember the story in the Book of Kings? Ben-Hadad, ruler and king of the Syrian Damascus, said, “Even what we think in our private chambers is made known to Israel by the prophet Elisha” [2 Kings 6:11-12]. He sent an army and surrounded Dothan where Elisha was living [2 Kings 6:13-14]. And Gehazi his servant said, “O my lord, my lord, look, the army is around us.” And the prophet said, “Son, they that are with us are more than they are with them.” And Elisha looked to heaven and said, “Lord, open his eyes that he can see.” And the Lord opened the eyes of Gehazi and, behold, the mountains, the mountains round about Elisha, were filled with the fiery horses and chariots of God, [2 Kings 6:15-17]. That’s the Lord’s care for His people.
Let me read. Adam H. Dickey, a man of God, said, “If a man were drowning in mid-ocean with apparently no human help at hand, there is a law of God which, when rightly appealed to, would bring about his rescue.” Now I read, Major Allen Lindberg of Westfield, New Jersey, was pilot of a Boeing Flying Fortress, forced down at sea on his way to Australia. He and his crew of nine were given up for lost.
“It was before dawn when we crashed,” Major Lindberg said. “We just had time to shove off on two rubber rafts, without a crumb of food or a drop of water. The boys were worried, all except Sergeant Albert Hernandez, our tail gunner. Right away that lad from Dallas”—am I proud of him—“right away that lad from Dallas started praying, and pretty soon he startled us by announcing that he knew God had heard him and would save us.”
Drifting beneath a broiling sun with their lips too cracked and their tongues too swollen to join Hernandez in singing hymns, their prayers continued. On the third day, just before nightfall, they saw the outline of a small island and soon after that the almost unbelievable spectacle of three canoes filled with naked men coming toward them.
Their rescuers turned out to be Australian aborigines—I’ve looked at them—black-skinned, kinky-headed fishermen from the mainland, hundreds of miles away. These men told Lindberg that the day before they had been homeward bound with their catch, when a strange urge came over them. Something impelled them to change their course and steer for this uninhabited and worthless bit of coral. And from that atoll they spied Lindberg and his companions. That’s God; the Lord’s care for His own.
Dear sweet people, we live in a world of miracle, we just don’t realize it. We don’t speak of it. We don’t think of it. But the world in which we live is one of intervention from God. Hard to realize, I say.
I read in the life of David Livingstone, the missionary in Africa; underneath the equatorial sun, he was trying to explain to an African chief what ice is. And can you imagine the possibility of that? Paul, standing before Herod Agrippa II, describing the resurrection of Christ and the power of God to raise the dead, Festus, the procurator of Judah, cried out and said, “Paul, you are mad. You are mad!”—such a thing is unthinkable and impossible, that God should raise the dead. And Paul replied, “O noble Festus, the words that I speak are words of truth and experience” [Acts 26:23-25].
And may I take a leaf out of my own life and out of the life of our dear church? Back yonder, we were building that activities building that they named for me, that one across the street. And just as they were beginning that construction, right there, across the narrow Patterson Street, on a quarter of a block right there, the Central Christian Church put up a sign: “For Sale.” I took it to the deacons, “Let’s buy it. We own nothing in that block over there. Let’s buy that Central Christian Church.” And they refused. “We’re going in debt over here on this side and you want us to buy that property over there? We wouldn’t even consider it.”
I was standing right there. See that door right there? I was standing right there on Patterson Street with Billy Souther, our minister of education. And standing with him looking at that sign, Billy Souther said to me, “Isn’t this a tragedy? Isn’t this a tragedy we can’t buy it?”
I said, “It is a tragedy. It is a tragedy.”
And he said to me, “Pastor, why don’t you ask God for it?”
Dear me, ask God for it? I thought you asked the deacons for it! It had never occurred to me to ask God for it, hadn’t entered my mind. I got to thinking about it. And I thought, “You know, I’m just going to try it. I’m just going to see.” So I got down on my knees and asked God for that property there. And while I was on my knees, I got a telephone call. It was from Minnie Slaughter Veal. She said to me, “Pastor, I hear you’re on your knees. What are you praying for?”
I said, “Mrs. Veal, I’m praying that God will give us that Central Christian Church there, right there, that quarter of a block.”
“Well,” she said, “What does it cost?”
I said, “I don’t know, but I’ll tell you real soon.” I found out what they wanted, and I called her back.
And she said, “Buy it. I’ll give you the money, just provided you won’t tell anybody where you got it.”
She didn’t want people hammering at her, you know, for money. She didn’t want it known. So I bought that quarter of a block right there, that Central Christian Church.
Then I got another telephone call. And Mrs. Veal said, “Pastor, I forgot to ask you. What do you want it for? What do you want to do with it?”
I said, “Sweet Mrs. Veal, I want to build a parking building there for our people so when they come to church, they’ll have a place to park. And then on top of it, I want to build a gymnasium, two stories of it, for our children and youth and for our adults.”
She said, “What will it cost?”
I said, “I don’t know, but I’ll tell you real soon.”
I found out from a contractor what it would cost. I called dear Mrs. Veal. She said, “I’ll give you the money and you build it. Just don’t tell anybody about it.”
Preacher, you won’t believe this. I built that building there and the church had no idea what was going on. No idea. Yeah, I tell you, it was amazing! It was amazing!
Here’s another little aside. While that thing was going up, the entire labor force of Dallas went on strike. All of the builders, all of the people, you know, involved in erecting these things—they went on strike. And they—up and down, you know—they picketed that building, up and down St. Paul, up and down Patterson.
You know what I did? I went out there and I got in step with those pickets. I got in step with them. They were carrying those signs, you know: “UNFAIR.” You know how they carry them. They were carrying those signs: “UNFAIR.”
And I just walked up and down with them, and I said to them, “Do you know what you’re doing? This is God’s house that we’re building, and we’re building it for people to come to church. And we’re building it for their children, to get them off of the street and to employ them in their hearts and lives in the things of God, and you’re out here picketing this work. Do you know what you’re doing? You are affronting God Himself.”
I tell you, those picketers put down those picket signs and they went to their labor unions, and when the labor unions sought to send them back, they said, “We’re not going. God is down there in that place. God’s down there in that place.” And we dedicated it to the Lord. And not only did God give us that quarter of the block, but the whole block, right next to the post office. O Lord, what God can do! What God can do!
I have to close. Let me read Alexis Carrel, one of the great doctors, physicians, of all time: “Today, as never before, prayer is a necessity in the lives of men and nations. Our deepest source of power and protection has been left underdeveloped.” And a psychologist wrote, “God may be likened to an electric dynamo. We can receive the power of this dynamo by attaching ourselves to it by prayer, or we can prove it has no influence in our lives by refusing to attach ourselves to it by prayer. The choice is ours.” And I close with this beautiful poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me day and night.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and for those who call them friend?
For so the whole world round earth is every way
Bound by chains of gold to the feet of God.
[“The Passing of Arthur”]
Let’s pray. That’s what we need to do. If God has spoken to your heart make it a matter of prayer. He lives and He answers from heaven. And above all, if you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, open your heart to Him now [Romans 10:9-13]. It will be the greatest decision you’ll ever make in your life. And to the throng in God’s sanctuary, in the balcony round on the lower floor, “Pastor, God has spoken to me and I am answering with my life.” On the first note of the first stanza, come! While we stand and while we sing.
I. Power the determining dynamic in all
life in this mundane, fallen world
A. None comparable to
atheistic skeptic scoffs
C. Napoleon – “God is
on the side of the biggest battalion.”
Word says it is not so (Zechariah 4:6,
Ecclesiastes 9:11, Exodus 15:1-12, Judges 7:2, 1 Samuel 17:42-47, Isaiah
says it is not so
a. Alexander vs. Darius
b. Charles Martel vs.
c. England vs. Spanish
d. Japan vs. America
e. Desert Storm
II. God’s care for His people
A. Victory through
1. Elisha, Gehazi,
Dothan (2 Kings 6:12-17)
2. Adam H. Dickey,
Major Allen Lindberg
III. We live in a world of miracle
A. David Livingstone
B. Paul before Agrippa
II, Festus (Acts 26:23-25)
1. Labor unions
D. Quotations on prayer