For most people present at the conference, it was a moving moment. For me, it was somewhat different – a revelation. The auditorium at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in Asheville, North Carolina was filled to capacity with pastors and church leaders who had a passion to see spiritual awakening. I had spoken the previous day, and a great sense of brokenness engulfed the meeting. Yet I was unprepared for what transpired after Jim Cymbala, pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City, spoke.
Pastor Cymbala told the story of his daughter – how she walked away from God during her teen years. He described how he and his wife cried out to God for her and then watched God work miraculously to bring her back to Himself. At the close of his message, he invited those with wayward children or grandchildren to come to the front of the auditorium so that we could pray for them. As people flocked to the front of the auditorium, I was completely taken by surprise. Almost all of those attending the conference responded, crying out to God for their families.
I was not surprised at how many people had children or grandchildren who had forsaken the God of their fathers, but I was amazed that it was such a high percentage. Those attending the conference were men and women with a genuine heart cry for revival in our nation – people with a deep love for the Savior.
They were the crème de la crème among God’s servants. Yet the vast majority of them were hurting deeply. There had been a time when I would have been standing among them. However, several years earlier, my wife and I experienced a similar miracle to Pastor Cymbala. We watched God work in our children’s lives to bring them back to Himself.
As Pastor Cymbala prayed with the people, my heart cried to God for a mighty revival. However, this time I directed my prayer somewhat differently from most other times when I have asked God to revive our nation. I realized that perhaps the greatest felt need among Christians in our nation lies within our families. The family has been under attack for several generations, wounding many of our children and grandchildren in the battle. In that moment at the Cove, I recognized there is an urgency to kneel down, cry to God, and win the battle for future generations. The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers from on high. The battle for our children and grandchildren will be won or lost by tears we sow into the soil of their lives through our heartfelt prayers.
I did not come to this conclusion in any ordinary manner. I wish I could tell you my conclusions came from extensive research on the subject of prayer. In 1987, I wrote a book titled The Prayer Factor, which was translated into nearly twenty languages. That book has been the number-one resource we have used in our international evangelistic ministry. However, recent events in my life have brought me to a new level of understanding of the power of prayer. I have become convinced that prayer is both the great mystery and the mighty weapon of the believing Christian. It not only has the power to shape our lives but the lives of people who we will never meet on this side of heaven.
A few months before embarking upon writing this manuscript, a number of events, which I will describe in the following pages, radically altered my life. Almost everything I believed about myself was shaken to the core. Through a strange set of circumstances, I became aware of my heritage. I learned my roots come from an unknown group of people in the piney woods of Louisiana. One historical researcher has referred to them as “Louisiana’s mystery people.” They were the people who God chose to launch Protestant Christianity west of the Mississippi River. They were a mixed race of people with a violent history. However, God sent the son of an Indian slave and a handful of people, who were also of this mixed race, as His ambassadors to the land of bayous. They crossed the cultural divide and proclaimed the gospel. Ultimately, these “mystery people,” in part, birthed the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
The great-granddaughter of one of those original Christian pioneers into Louisiana died five years before I was born, but she would make an impact on my life that would reverberate around the world and touch millions of lives in more than eighty nations. She learned to seek God for her family in those piney forests. Her godly prayers would pave the way for me to walk into a revolution in Romania, the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda, and preach the good news of God’s love in the middle of wars. I would not have any idea about the impact of her life on mine until sixty-three years after she died. She would not have any idea either – until she reached heaven’s gates.
That woman owned little but possessed much. That dear woman, a descendant of a mixed race, possessed something far richer than any material thing this world could offer her. She inherited a legacy given to her by a long line of praying men and women. She met God in the piney woods of central Louisiana, and millions of people in the darkest parts of the world have felt the impact of her prayers. She left a legacy – a prayer legacy.
In the following pages, you will read this intriguing story of how God raised up a humble, praying woman in the middle of a mystery people called “Redbones” and used her to affect history and nations that she never imagined. You will discover that prayer is the place where the sovereignty of God and the will of man intersect. You will learn how you can leave a legacy with your children and grandchildren – a legacy of prayer. You will read about the great heroes of the faith – people in the Bible and people throughout history who have prayed and then watched God do extraordinary things. You will see they were common, ordinary men and women who simply learned to wait upon God.
You will discover you were left a legacy and you too can leave one – a prayer legacy. You will learn principles that will enable you to pray effectively for your children, grandchildren, and even your larger family. You will understand spiritual strongholds and learn how God removes them from your life. You will taste of forgiveness and find the blessing that rests on the sorrows of your family life.
You will learn that Evangelical Christians are still living in the afterglow of an incredible legacy of prayer. A mighty revival swept across North America 150 years prior to the publishing of this manuscript. It was the last Great Awakening on this continent. Historians commonly call it the “Prayer Revival.” Prayer meetings swept across the country in a time of a major financial crisis. Then God intervened. The nation shook. The Protestant church awoke. A simple shoe salesman in one of those prayer meetings, D. L. Moody, was catapulted into a ministry that would shake two continents.
We live today in the afterglow of that great move of God’s Spirit. It can happen again. God has not changed. His power is still available. There is no energy shortage with God. He is waiting on those who will seek Him. Those who learn to wait upon Him will be “legacy leavers” and “world transformers.”
I invite you to join a rising movement of prayer that is rapidly spreading around the world. This invitation does not go out to only the gifted, the powerful, and the wealthy. It goes to struggling moms; aging grandparents; and multitudes of common, ordinary people. It goes to those hurting and suffering. It is an invitation to the humble of heart and contrite in spirit. It is an invitation to any who will dare to take the step of faith and follow in the footsteps of Jesus. It is an invitation to petition Jesus in the same manner of His early disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Those who take the challenge will stand on the shoulders of those who have left us a legacy, but they also will leave an incredible legacy for future generations.