“I'm yelling at the top of my lungs, I'm so full of answered prayers” (Psalm 13: 6 - The Message).
The Bible is filled with God's promises. The promise verses are the fuel for believing God in prayer and living a supernatural life in a disintegrating world. God's promises are his pledge to do or not do something. “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). “Not one word has failed of all his good promises” (1 Kings 8:56).
Answers to prayer don't come by accident, but the way for them is prepared, in part, by a conscious acknowledgement of God's character and words. How is this accomplished? It is not enough to be “in the Word.” The Word of God must be in us, so that God's promises are being personalized and claimed. This is a largely untapped secret to answered prayers.
The term “claiming a promise,” however, is scary to some who have been possibly influenced by those who take random verses and desire to “put pressure” on God to give them what they want. This careless use of the Word is far from the biblical standard. God has, if you will, a garment at the dry cleaners which is mine, but it must be picked up with a claim check. The claim check? His promises!
As mentors we are pacesetters, linking Scripture with our daily lives, making the Word flesh. This linking of Scripture to life enlarges one's faith, then one's vision for a lifetime. Let's look further into a modern-day example.
“Two men went into the hills above Los Angeles to pray, for they had read Jeremiah 33:3 and wanted to see the promises fulfilled before their eyes. God has said to his faithful prophet in prison, ‘Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know’ (NKJV). How do you stake a claim on the promises of God? The two wanted to know, so they covenanted with each other to pray together every morning until they felt assured that God was going to fulfill that promise in their lives.
“Each morning at 5:00 a.m. they were up in the hills, kneeling with open Bibles before them, praying by name for the boys God had given them through their Sunday school and Boy's Club ministry. Each weekday they prayed for two hours, and then headed down again to be at work by 8:00 a.m. On Sundays they prayed for three hours before going to church.
“As the days passed they began praying for surrounding cities. In the third week they began extending their prayer interests up the West Coast. As they prayed, they soaked up the promises of God, and He gave them the faith to believe that they could be used to reach men for Christ in all 48 states. As their vision and faith grew, they bought a map of the world, putting their fingers on China, Japan, etc., pleading with God for men in these far off places. ‘Lord allow us to serve you some day in each of these places and enable us to reach men for you in everyone of these continents of the world.’ After 42 days they felt the burden lift, and they began to thank God that He had heard them.
“By the time World War II began, Dawson Trotman discovered that in his work with sailors from the Pacific Fleet, men from every one of the 48 states had been touched by his ministry and had visited his home. Jeremiah 33:3 had been partially fulfilled. By the time the war ended four years later, the men he had led to Christ touched other lives on all the continents of the world, including most of the countries for which he had so earnestly prayed. By the time he died 11 years later, Jeremiah 33:3 had been completely fulfilled for him in his ministry. ‘That 42-day prayer meeting,’ he wrote later, ‘was the turning point in my life.’”
“As essential as the promise of the Father is the prayers of His children,” admonishes author Andrew Murray. Promises are unlocked with the key of believing prayer. Peter recalls the words of his Lord and writes “Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4). The Holy Spirit links verses of Scripture, through meditation and prayer, to our needs, to people, and to opportunities. A promise from God becomes personalized as we see its potential to change our life. We must then “glue the promise to the problem.”
As a young seminary student, I found few opportunities to preach. How I wanted to preach the Bible to people! I did it one with one. But a potential pastor needs experience in churches, too. It didn't happen quickly.
When Billy Graham's Evangelistic Crusade was in Fort Worth I was privileged to meet and spend time with Dawson Trotman. He was the founder of the Navigators and had developed the first follow-up program while dealing with hundreds of new converts a month in Military Christian Service Centers during W.W. II. Billy had asked Trotman to join him for six months a year to put together and fine-tune a counseling and follow-up ministry for each of the thousands coming to Christ.
Dawson Trotman had shared with me his vision story of praying 42 days with maps. With no place to preach, I thought, “Why not at least pray to be used of the Lord?” I gathered maps and spread them on the floor. I began this different kind of praying slowly and with hesitation. That I could claim a verse like Jeremiah 33:3 and pray it for a ministry in my city, other cities, states, then to nations! To ask God for ministry around the world at first seemed proud, certainly impossible. I recall Satan's whispers against the “borrowed vision” from Trotman which I felt God leading me to ask. Kneeling before my Bible and the maps, my fingers touched the names of cities and countries. “It is silly,” I thought, “when you can't get a church to hear you preach, and you're asking God to use you around the world?” Yet God encouraged me as I read His Word and warmed to the impossible. He gave me grace to persist. I prayed daily, nearly a month. I felt led to ask for three things:
First, that God would use me to win or encourage someone to share Christ in each nation.
Second, that God would raise up missionaries to go to each nation and share the Gospel.
Third, that missionaries would disciple those won so they, in turn, would win others to Christ.
Over the next 12 years I had ministered in Chicago and wrote a six-lesson Gospel of John Correspondence Course. It was for Pacific Garden Mission's “Unshackled” radio program. I'd also pastored two small churches, and won students to Christ at four universities. In the mail I got a letter from P.G. Mission wanting to “update you on the John Bible Study Course you wrote for us.” From 300 stations the response from listeners doing the lessons had resulted in mailed testimonies of salvation from 14,000 people! Listeners receiving Christ lived in 50 states and six foreign countries! I yelled joyfully to the Lord as I read and re-read the letter.
But that wasn't the end of the blessing. Since that letter, God opened the door for me to teach all new Southern Baptist missionary personnel “the care and feeding of new believers” for 11 years at their Missionary Orientation. Plus for four years I taught their two-year missionaries. The Lord continued to surprise me, never forgetting my prayers from decades ago. He started sending me to teach national pastors and missionaries all over the world. This January I had a special time of praise, speaking in the 100th nation since I claimed the promise: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things that thou knowest not.” (Jeremiah 33:3). God has shown His faithfulness, His staggering love and longsuffering with me. I know He wants to overwhelm you with opportunities, as you believe His Word specifically in prayer. To have an exciting “three score” plus, begin to claim His promises now, while you're young!