And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”Matthew 17:14-20
In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.Matthew 21:18-22
20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
I have never done this before, but I was deeply impressed this week that I should share this one story from Love On Its Knees by Dick Eastman. This is a book I highly recommend for all who would like to deepen their prayer life. I pray you are deeply moved by this brief powerful story to move closer in the mission through prayer. Dick Eastman has been used by God to mobilize more prayer warriors than possibly any other single man. Millions of people have come to know Christ because of his ministry, as behind the scenes as it has been.
Several years ago, in May 1986, I was preparing to take School of Prayer training to Poland at the invitation of a dynamic young pastor from Pittsburgh, Mark Geppert. Six weeks prior to my departure for Eastern Europe, I met with Mark to finalize our schedule.
“There’s been a change in my itinerary,”Mark said. “I’ll meet you in Warsaw as planned, but first I’ll be going to the Soviet Union for a month.”
“The Soviet Union?” I asked, puzzled. “What will you be doing there?”
“I’m going to pray,” Mark responded. “God spoke to me a few days ago and told me I was to go to Russia just to pray. He told me exactly where to go and what to pray about. I’m to pray that God will shake all of Russia. I’.. as Him to use current events – whatever they are – to shake what can be shaken, so doors will open to the Gospel and believers will have a new freedom to worship.”
Thrilled that someone would go anywhere “just to pray,” I asked Mark to be sure to send me a copy of his itinerary so our ministry could be praying with him before I joined him in Warsaw. The itinerary arrived and I thought little of the specifics until a few days before my departure. Suddenly, Mark’s presence in the Soviet Union praying for God to shake the nation held unusual significance. Just before my departure at the end of April 1986, headlines shouted the story of a shocking incident that occurred there at a nuclear power plant in a small city named Chernobyl. Chernobyl, the papers said, was just a short distance from the sprawling Soviet city of Kiev. Wasn’t Kiev on Mark’s itinerary? In fact, if memory served me, wasn’t Kiev the final place God told him to visit?
I immediately got out the letter Mark sent me listing the places God told him to visit. My recollection had been accurate. mark’s mission was to end that very weekend in Kiev with a train trip to Poland that would take him right through the area of disaster. I had been on a train trip with Mark before, in China. To Mark, a train is just a long prayer meeting on tracks, moving from one place of prayer to another.
Checking the itinerary more carefully, I noted that Mark had planned to leave Kiev late on the evening of April 25, 1986, and would be passing close to Chernobyl early the next morning. THat happened to be the exact time of the explosion of Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant.
Only later would analysts see that Chernobyl played a major role in the events of glasnost, the Russian word for openness. Under normal circumstances, the Soviets would have kept secret the news of a disaster. But this was not possible with Chernobyl. In a matter of hours after the nuclear accident, scientists spotted a sudden elevation of radion in Sweden. The source could be traced with absolute accuracy to the Soviet Ukraine
So in the case of Chernobyl, glasnost was forced onto the Soviets. being secretive was not an option. Suddenly, whether they wanted to or not, they were forced to be open.
I couldn’t wait to see Mark in Warsaw. Had he kept his itinerary? If so, how had God asked him to pray?
We had hardly checked into our hotel in Warsaw before I was asking my questions. mark indeed had kept his schedule, exactly as the Lord directed. It included four days of prayer in Kiev, ending on Friday, April 25. That day was to be the culmination of his mission of intercession. And now I was more anxious than ever to hear how God directed Mark to pray.
“Well,” said Mark, settling back in his chair in our hotel room, “I went to the square in the center of Kiev and sat down under a huge statue of Lenin. Every fifteen minutes I changed the focus of my intercession for believers in Russia. I could tell when a fifteen-minute period passed because there was a gigantic click in the square that let our a bong each quarter-hour.”
I asked Mark if he felt anything unusual during this prayer. “Only at the end, “Mark responded. “It was on the last day, the day I made my final prayer visit to the city square. Just before noon, I was suddenly convinced God had heard and that even then something was happening. Something that would shake the Soviet Union. Something God would use to bring more freedom.”
With excitement Mark continued, “I began to lift my voice in praise, sitting there underneath the statue of the founder of Communism in Russia. But at the same time I needed a confirmation that God had heard me, so I cried out to Him: ‘O God, give me a sign, even a little sign.’ I waited, wondering what might happen next. And just then in the distance, the hands of the huge clock moved into the twelve o’clock position.”
Mark laughed as he continued. “And you know what, Brother Dick? It didn’t gong. Every hour, for each of the four days I had been praying, the clock had chimed on the hour. So I waited for twelve chimes, but they never came. It was as if God was saying an old pattern was over. The very next day I began hearing about Chernobyl.”
Weeks later, after reading volumes on the significance of Chernobyl, I came across fascinating information detailing events surrounding the disaster. Scientists pinpointed the first major mistake as happening twelve hours before the actual meltdown. This would have been within minutes of Mark’s declaration of praise, when he knew in his spirit that events were occurring that the lord would turn into a blessing
Later still, I heard a television commentator discussing the long-term impact of the Chernobyl disaster. “Chernobyl,” he said, “means wormwood in the Russian language. Wouldn’t it be interesting if a decade from today we were to discover that the despotic Soviet system had disappeared from the scene, replaced by a more open society, and that this change came about as a result of a simple mistake at a nuclear facility in a small Ukrainian community called …Chernobyl?
It would seem that glasnost may be taking hold more rapidly than anyone was prepared for, opening doors where the Gospel had previously been hindered. just years after Chernobyl, new laws were being readied that amounted to an extraordinary retreat from power on the part of Soviet authorities. None other than Soviet Deputy Justice Minister Mikhail P. Vyshinsky said, “A revolution is taking place here. Not everyone realizes this, but that is what it is – a revolution.
And then came to big news.
At the historic General Conference of all party leaders, the first in 47 years, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made a series of statements concerning coming changes. Among them was a call for new tolerance toward the religious faiths in the Soviet Union – although, to be sure, Communism is still atheistic at its roots, and when dealing with the purported changes this should always be kept in mind.
Intercessors like Mark are rarely surprised when answers come. In fact, I’m convinced that when we stand before God with the record of spiritual successes and failures, we will lean that intercessory prayer had more to do with bringing about positive changes in our world than any other single spiritual activity.
Intercessors, in short, hold the key to releasing God’s best for the world.