Raising the Bar on Prayer

“We’ve even prayed for the toilet seats!”

I’d never heard of anyone praying for toilet seats before. But then, this was going to be a very different and very unforgettable night.

I was in West Palm Beach, Florida working as the follow-up coordinator for Josh McDowell’s speaking tour with The Newsboys. Night after night on this multi-city tour Josh would share the gospel message to a stadium full of young people. My job, as part of my seminary internship, was to prepare the volunteers who would connect and pray with people who wanted to learn more or make decisions to follow Christ. 

When we arrived at the stadium, we asked the organizers how many tickets they had sold because knowing anticipated numbers would help us prepare accordingly. We were shocked when the the organizers shared that they hadn’t sold any tickets. They had no idea how many people – or if any people – were coming. However, they did say (with smiles) that they had been praying intensely for weeks. Their prayer was that God would fill every seat in this 5,000-plus seat stadium with young people who needed to hear the gospel. 

The main organizer went on to say when they were allowed into the stadium that morning they had a team assembled who physically touched and prayed over each and every one of the 5,000-plus seats. Their prayer over each seat was that God would bring a young person who needed to hear the Gospel to fill that specific seat. Not wanting to miss any potential “seat” somewhere along the line, they also prayed for those who would sit on every single toilet seat! 

We were blown away by our hosts. Their faith and intentional prayer was off the charts. But, to be honest, I wasn’t just wondering how many people were going to come. Part of me was wondering if anyone was going to come. God was getting set to teach me some lessons I’d never forget.

A few hours later the parking lot began to fill, and long lines began to form outside. The doors opened, and the stadium quickly began to come alive. Before too long every seat was filled. But there was a problem. There were hundreds of people lined up outside who couldn’t get inside. That’s when the main organizer went to the microphone. After a warm welcome, he shared that their prayer for weeks was that every seat would be filled with young people who needed to hear the gospel. Then he made a bold request. He asked every adult sitting in a seat to leave the building. This act of selflessness, he shared, would free up seats for young people waiting outside. 

The adults responded and began to leave. They were quickly replaced by young people from outside, and The Newsboys concert began. After the first music set, Josh took the stage and began to share the gospel. At the end of his talk he invited anyone who wanted to follow Jesus to get up out of their seats and make their way to meet our team of volunteers for prayer and follow-up. 

Hundreds and hundreds of young people got up. In fact, so many began to move from their seats that Josh asked them to stop. He wondered if they misunderstood the invitation, so he explained again. Rather than deter response, more young people rose to their feet. Our volunteer team of several hundred were so outnumbered that Josh had to intervene. As we prayed individually and in small groups with as many as we could, he guided the crowd in a group response and prayer time. The response was overwhelming. 

At the end of the night I was reminded again of Romans 1:16 and not to be ashamed of the gospel because “…it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”  

I also learned one more important piece to the story. Remember all the adults who left their seats to make room for young people earlier that night? When they left, most of them didn’t do what I likely would have done. I likely would have gone to a nearby coffee shop to visit with friends and kill time before driving kids home. Instead, these adults prayed. In fact, they formed a prayer ring around the outside of the stadium. Their prayers, though they couldn’t see the impact from their vantage point outside, were a key part of God’s amazing work inside. 

Simply retelling this story brings me goosebumps. It’s a profound reminder about the importance and ministry of prayer. It’s an encouragement to be intentional in prayer. It’s a call to be faithful in prayer even when you can’t see God’s amazing work from your vantage point.

So, on your own or with your team, I encourage you to take some time this week to wrestle with this question: How can we raise the bar on prayer in our context?

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)

Cheering you on!

Dr. Steve A. Brown

President, Arrow Leadership