Exploring Prayer With
By Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
Chapter 44 — Prayer, a Soul-Winning Method
“Pastor, the hardest people that I try to win are those that are the closet to me.”
“Brother Hyles, I find it so hard to witness to my own loved ones.”
“Preacher, why is it that I can win others, but I have a difficult time even trying to win those in my own family?”
These are just a few of many statements that I hear from even the best soul winners. There is certainly a valid reason for this. Those who are the closest to us know us best. They know our weaknesses as well as our strengths. They see our low days as well as our high days. They see the back room as well as the living room. Because of this, if a Christian is able to win his own loved ones, he must live a consistent Christian life. The Christian must convince his unsaved loved ones and those who know him best that Christ is real and that the Christian life is something to be desired. Mahatma Gandhi, the man who in his day probably influenced more people than any other man on earth, is quoted as having said, “I would be a Christian if it were not for Christians.”
A Christian was witnessing to a waitress at a restaurant. The waitress said, "I don't want to be a Christian. I have seen too many of your church people come in here, and if what they have is Christianity, I don't want it!"
The soul winner livingly replied, "Ma'am, I know that Christian people aren't what they ought to be, but can you find anything wrong with Jesus?"
Through tears the waitress replied, "No, I can't, and if more of you people would live like Him, more people like me would want to be like you."
In presenting the proof of Christ and His claims on us, perhaps no other method would be more persuasive than for the unsaved who are the closest to us to observe our answers to prayer and to see God's working in our lives. If week after week, month after month and perhaps even year after year our loved ones could see God's answers to our prayers, they could be convinced that there is something to the Christian life.
Let us notice some examples in the Bible.
The behavior of the returning exiles from Babylon convinced the heathen nations that God was with them. Psalm 126:1,2, "When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them." Notice the progression here. (1) The Lord turned again the captivity of Zion; that is, the people of God had been delivered. (2) It was like a dream to them. Notice the words, "We were like them that dream." They could hardly believe it was true. For years they had been slaves in Babylon; now they were returning home to their beloved land. As they journeyed on that trip of hundreds of miles they found it hard to believe that it could be so. (3) Their mouths were filled with laughter. (4) They began to sing. (5) The heathen said, "The Lord hath done great things for them." Especially notice in verse 2 the word "then." When did the heathen say the Lord hath done great things for them? After they had seen evidence of their deliverance from captivity and had heard their laughter and their singing. It was obvious to the heathens that God had been with these people.
It is always easier to witness to people when God's workings are obvious in our lives. Especially is this true when they continue to see God answering our prayers. It will not be hard to win lost loved ones when Christian people convince them of the reality of Christ, and we will not convince them of the reality of Christ if we continue to hide the Gospel by our inconsistencies and powerlessness. II Corinthians 4:3, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." One of the most famous atheists in history said that he could explain away every argument concerning God and the Bible except the Christian life of his mother. In the First Baptist Church of Hammond we have a lady named Mrs. Mamie Brown. She had a grown son who was not right with God. One day he made it right and is now a fine pastor in Rock Island, Illinois. pastor Mel Brown has now served faithfully in that field for many years. He said, "The thing that Got me right with God was my mother's life. We had Jesus for breakfast, Jesus for lunch, Jesus for dinner. I saw Jesus in my mother's life, and that is what brought me to Himself." What the pastor could not do and the church could not do, what the theologians could not do, the sweet consistent Christian life of his dear mother prayed him to Jesus and prayed him into the ministry.
My first year of college was at a state university. The constant pounding of doubt into my mind by the professors began to take its toll. (This is why I recommend all young people to go to Christian colleges!) I went through a period of restlessness and doubt. I decided to find out who was right—my professors or my mother. During that year I read the entire Bible through on my knees. I became convinced that the Bible is the Word of God, and through all of my doubts one thing kept coming back to me—Mother's faith in the Book and in the Christ of the Book. I had seen her in adversity, in poverty, in loneliness, in disappointment, in the depression of the 1930's, and I was convinced that Mother's God was real!
Now let us look again at Psalm 126. In verse 3 we have the people of Israel witnessing as they said, "The Lord HATH done great things for us, whereof we are glad," or "That's why we are happy!" Now notice they did not witness to the heathen until the heathen had seen their lives. It was obvious that they had been delivered from captivity. The heathen had heard their laughter. They heard their singing. They saw their lives and said, "The Lord hath done great things for them."
It would not be hard for us to win those closest to us when they can say, "The Lord hath done great things for them." People at work will want to know our Saviour when they can say, "The Lord hath done great things for them." Husbands will want to receive the Christ that their wives have when they can say, "The Lord hath done great things for her." Children will want Mom and Dad's Saviour when they can say, "The Lord hath done great things for them." Young people will will their parents when Dad and Mom can say, "The Lord hath done great things for them." A church can will people in its neighborhood when it can be said, "The Lord hath done great things for them."
A number of years ago I was soul winning on the north side of Hammond. I knocked on a door and a tall man came to the door. I told him who I was and he began to laugh at me and turn to 13 people in his living room and say, "Hey, folks, guess who's here. Old Hyles from First Baptist Church! Hyles is the biggest fake in town!"
I said, "Sir, I wish you wouldn't say that. I'm not a fake. I'm not what I ought to be in every area, but, bless God, I'm sincere, and I'm not a fake. What I have in my heart is genuine, and my call to serve God is genuine."
He laughed and kept on calling me a fake, making fun of me and the church. Before I knew it I said something that shocked me as well as him.
I said, "Sir, if you say that one more time, you're going to be sorry."
He said, "Just what are you going to do?"
Again I shocked myself. I said. "I'm going to pray for God to kill you." Oh, my soul! I had never said anything like that before! I have never said anything like that since! I had not planned to say that, but said it I did and said it I had, and there was no backing out!
He laughed even the louder, looked at the 13 people in his living room and made fun of me again. Then he said, "Hyles, you are a fake."
I said, "That does it!" Before I knew it, I put my hand on his head and began to pray. I said, "Dear Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God that parted the Red Sea for Moses and the God that made the sun stand still for Joshua, I pray in Jesus' name that You would vindicate Your servant. This man has made fun of the Gospel and of me, Your servant." I said, "Dear Lord, vindicate Thyself now."
The man interrupted and said, "Reverend, hey, reverend . . ." I kept on praying. I said, "Lord, I pray that right now in the presence of these people You would . . ."
He interrupted me and said, "Hey, Reverend, you ain't no fake! You ain't no fake! You ain't no fake!"
To be quite frank, I am not sure what God would have done; I am sure I was a bit careless in making such a statement. The point is, however, that the man respected me. He did not like me, but he respected me. He ridiculed me, but he respected me. He felt that my Christianity was genuine. Oh, how this doubting world needs to see a Christianity that is real! Nothing will convince people more quickly than to see our prayers being answered by a living God.
It is interesting to note that this testimony of the Jews as they laughed and sang was on their return from Babylon. This testimony had not always been obvious. For example, when they got to Babylon they sat down and wept when they remembered their homeland. Psalm 137:1, "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion." Though they had been great harpists, they refused to play the harp in Babylon. Instead they hanged their harps upon the willow trees. Psalm 137:2, "We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof." The Babylonian people then told them they heard they were great singers and they wished they would sing for them. Psalm 137:3, "For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion." The people, however, had lost their song because they were in a strange land. How sad it is! It is the strange land that needs to hear the song!
Years ago I was pastoring a small country church in east Texas. We had a member of our church who always loved to testify at church, and yet on the job he was so inconsistent. All of his testimonies at church would start the same way, "I am always glad to say a good word for my Lord." It is strange, however, that he was never willing to say a good word for our Lord out when people needed to hear it. We need to say a good word for our Lord out where they are saying bad words about our Lord. We need to bless Him where they curse Him and to sing of Him where they sing the heathen songs. The people need to hear the message and the singing and see our changed lives in the market place, in the school room, at the shop, in the factory, in the office and wherever men congregate.
We have a fine lady in our church named Ruth Ramsey. She and her married daughter, Patti Frantz, had prayed for Mrs. Ramsey. For years they prayed. For years they would have times of fasting. They continued to believe God for his salvation. One day he was stricken with a heart attack, was rushed to the hospital, and he suddenly died! There in the hospital room these dear prayers warriors literally prayed him back to life. He was marvelously saved and is now a fine member of First Baptist Church. I have no doubt that the thing that won Mr. Ramsey to Christ was the consistent life of his wife. Day after day after day and week after week after week she lived Christ. There was obviously something real. He saw her pray. He heard her pray. He saw the answers, and now he knows her Christ!
2. Daniel's consistent Christian life and answers to prayer convinced Nebuchadnezzar of the reality of Daniel's God. Daniel 2:46-48, "Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret. Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon." In verse 46 we have that word "then" again just as we had in Psalm 126:2. When the heathen had seen the transformed lives of the Israelites, THEN they believed it as real. Now we have the story of Daniel living for God and having his prayers answered. It was THEN that king Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and believed in Daniel's God. Nebuchadnezzar had seen Daniel's life. He had seen Daniel's refusal to drink the king's wine. He had seen that God was with Daniel as He gave him the interpretation of the king's dream. The king had seen his own magicians fail, his own astrologers fail, his own sorcerers fail and the Chaldeans fail. Then he saw Daniel succeed. He saw that Daniel was different. He saw Daniel's prayers answered. He heard Daniel give the interpretation of the dream. THEN he believed in Daniel's God. Often people say to me, "Pastor, it's so hard to win those who are wealthy or educated." It will not be so when kings, governors, mayors, professors, the rich and the famous can be convinced by our lives and by our answered prayers that there is a God in Heaven.
3. The answered prayer of Elijah convinced the people that the Lord is THE God. I Kings 18:36-39, "And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the LORD God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, He is the God; the LORD, He is the God."
A famine had been in the land. Ahab the king blamed Elijah the prophet for the famine. Elijah the prophet knew that the famine was caused by the sins of the king and the people, and he told Ahab so! Elijah challenged the king to a contest. He suggested to the king that they take two bullocks. Ahab and his prophets should place one bullock on the alter and pray for fire to come from Heaven and consume it. Then Elijah would do likewise, and whichever bullock was consumed with fire from Heaven would prove who had the true and living God. The prophets of Baal chose a bullock, placed it upon the alter and called upon the name of Baal. They called all morning, "Oh, Baal, hear us." The Bible says, "But there was no voice, nor any that answered." Then they leaped upon the alter which they had made, begging for fire to come from Baal. Of course, there was no fire! At noontime Elijah began to mock them and tell them to cry louder. He said, "Maybe Baal is talking, or maybe he is hunting, or maybe he is on a journey, or maybe he is asleep and you have to wake him up." I Kings 18:28 says, "And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them."
Then Elijah told the people to come near to him. He took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob. "And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water." (I Kings 18:33b-35) Elijah then prayed for fire to come from Heaven. Fire did fall from Heaven and consumed the burnt-sacrifice, the wood, the stone and the dust, and it even licked up the water that was in the trench! In verse 39 it says, "And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God." Notice the word "WHEN." When they saw the answer to Elijah's prayer, they believed that Jehovah was the true God. The world waits for us to show them the truth of the Gospel, and nothing will show them this truth quite as much as their seeing our answers to prayer.
4. Pharaoh's magicians were convinced of God's workings by the answers to Moses' prayers. Exodus 8:17-19, "And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast. Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said." These heathen educators saw the miracles of God in Moses' life and said in verse 19, "This is the finger of God."
The world will not be convinced of the reality of our profession until they see the reality of our lives and the reality of our prayers. No wonder this generation of synthetic Christianity has little effect on the heathen world. Christians sing the same rock music that the world sings. (We might add a few little frivolous Christian words.) We watch the same soap operas on television they watch. We smoke the same brand of cigarettes they smoke. We use the same bad words that they use. We don't tithe either. Christian men wear the same type long hair that they wear. I Corinthians 11:14, "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" Christian ladies dress as immodestly as they do. No wonder the have so little confidence in us.
I received a call from a lady asking if I would go to the hospital and witness to her dying husband. I asked her what church she attended and she told me. I said, "Have you asked your pastor to go and try to win him to the Lord?"
She replied, "Oh, you see, Reverend Hyles, my pastor doesn't specialize in cases like that."
Well, what she was saying was that when it came to the deathbed, her pastor wouldn't do. He would do for a sermonette on Sunday morning. He would do for weddings and funerals and maybe even counseling, but when it came to preparing people for eternity, he didn't specialize in cases like that. That pastor could do a marvellous favor to the world by getting out of the pulpit.
5. The deputy on the isle of Paphos believed because he saw Paul's answers to prayer. Acts 13:6-12, "And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus: Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the Devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord." There is that word "THEN" again. In verse 12 the deputy believed. When did he believe? After he had seen God's power on Paul! Elymas the sorcerer had interfered with Paul's witnessing to the deputy. Paul looked on him and said, "O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the Devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season." As soon as Paul had said that, blindness came upon Elymas the sorcerer. It was then that the deputy believed, "being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord." This is just another of many examples in the Bible where people were saved because of the answered prayers of God's people.
There are many other similar cases such as that of the Philippian jailor. Acts 16:25-33, "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway." The jailor and his entire household received Christ and were baptized because of the prayer of God's men. When the jailor saw the answered prayer, he cried, "What must I do to be saved?"
Would you win those closest to you? Would you win your loved ones? Would you win the deputies, the kings, the false teachers, the one who shares your house with you, your parents, your children, your brothers, your sisters? They can be won, but it will be so only as they are convinced of the reality of your Christian life. Perhaps nothing can convince them, more quickly than for them to observe your prayers and God's answers.
Years ago when I enrolled in college in Marshall, Texas, I found a job at J.C. Penny Company. I pastored a church on the weekend and went to college and worked at J.C. penny during the week. Then, by the grace of God, I was called to pastor a country church several miles outside of Marshall, Texas. It was close enough for people in Marshall to attend. One by one I saw the people who worked at J.C. Penny Company receive Christ. I baptized the manager of the men's department, his wife, one of the secretaries up in the office area, her sister, her sister's husband, her father and her mother. The lady in the ladies hosiery department got saved; so did the assistant manager of the men's department and his wife!
One day I asked one of the people who had been saved what really was the thing that caused them to be saved. The answer was that I was the first college student who worked there at J.C. Penny Company who REALLY worked. It was because while I was there I led the store in sales. This convinced them that what I had was real.
A new convert as he was dressing after bring baptized was approached by the pastor. The pastor asked him what it was in his preaching that caused the man to come to Christ. The convert said, " 'Tweren't your preachin', pastor, it was Grandma's practicin'." How true!
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