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JIM CYMBALA: Prayer is the opening of the heart so we can receive all these good things that God has for us every day. It's like sitting down at a table that God has prepared for us. He says, 'I have everything you need today -- all the grace, all the wisdom, all the provision that you need -- but sit down at the table and eat. Don't be so rushed and so busy and try to live without My supply.'
ROSS: Is there anything we should not pray about? What should we pray about?
CYMBALA: Well, the Bible says if we ask anything according to His will, we know the Lord will hear us. So one of the things we have to check on is, are we praying in the spirit and the will of God as revealed in Scriptures? To go and pray, 'My boss insulted me yesterday. God, I pray that he comes down with a disease,' or something like that, this is not a thing to be praying about. We're to pray according to God's will. Then when we pray according to God's will, we don't have to be wondering, 'I wonder if God will hear this? I wonder if He's in sympathy with what I'm asking?' We are to pray according to God's will as revealed in Scripture.
ROSS: What do you do when you've been praying, you've got all the formulas down, if I can use that term, done everything right, still don't get an answer - I think the phrase you use in your book is 'when the mountain won't move'? What do you do when the mountain's not moving, and you're fasting, praying, binding, loosening, casting in, casting out, doing everything you know to, but it ain't happening?
CYMBALA: One of the things you have to do is pray for insight and discernment and spiritual understanding about what's happening while you're praying. Now, one of the things you have to remember is that when you pray, you don't automatically get that answer in the time frame you want. The hardest part of the prayer of faith is waiting. As my friend Dave Wilkerson and I were once saying - I think he's the one who told me - the hardest part of faith is the last half hour. In other words, you're praying and you're waiting and God says, 'Now, wait on.' That's why David says in the Psalms, 'Wait, my soul, upon the Lord.' Don't get discouraged. Don't give up because it hasn't come in your time, because many times in my life God has answered later than I wanted, but when He answered, I saw the wisdom in what He was accomplishing by waiting. God does all things well.
ROSS: What should we not do in prayer?
CYMBALA: One thing we can't do in prayer is have a spirit of anger or resentment or unforgiveness toward another person because the whole philosophy of prayer, the whole approach to the throne of grace, is that I'm only there, sinful as I am, I'm only there and can pray in Jesus' name because God has been so merciful to me and to you. The thing about prayer that reaches God's ear is that it comes from a sincere heart that wants to walk in the light and is looking to God in faith.
ROSS: Let me contextualize this a bit and put it in historical perspective. Recent history, September 11, you guys are right there in Brooklyn. You look across the river where two towers once stood. A number of your people were in those buildings. I know thousands of you folks prayed for your folks. Some lived; some died. Why?
CYMBALA: Because God is sovereign and there are mysteries that I won't understand until I get to see Jesus. We lost more, I think, than any church in New York City - four people we lost. Dozens of others just got out of the area in time. Why some perished and went to be with the Lord and why others escaped, until I see the Lord, I won't understand. But I'm still going to have faith in the fact that God does all things well, and His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts. There comes a point in life, as you know yourself, you just have to leave it with God and say, 'God, I don't understand this, but then again I'm living in a finite body and a finite mind. When I see You, You'll explain this whole thing to me.'
ROSS: Are we doing what we're supposed to be doing as the Church?
CYMBALA: In Acts 4, when Peter was released, the first persecution of the church, they prayed. Paul says in 1 Timothy, 'First of all, then, I want men and women in the church to pray.' I don't think it's our 'first of all' priority. I think we've pushed teaching and the music and worship to a place that it doesn't really hold in Scripture. Not that those things are not important. And we've lost the element of prayer. In other words, how many churches in the cities of the listeners and the viewers here today, how many churches in these cities have prayer meetings attended by the pastor, where corporately everyone comes together and says, 'Wait a minute. If these promises are true in the Bible - 'Call upon me and I'll answer you,' 'Ask and you shall receive' - well, let's do it.
ROSS (reporting): In May 2003, Jim Cymbala and his congregation did just that. A member's niece was kidnapped in Trinidad. She had been held prisoner for a week. They knew they needed a miraculous breakthrough.
CYMBALA: They were asking half a million dollars. This is a rampant thing now going on in Trinidad and Tobago. She brought it on a Tuesday night, with great faith and urgency, to the front of the church. I let her take the microphone and tell the story to the people who were gathered here to pray. When we found out that her niece was being held, and God knows what was going on there, and could die, could be sexually abused, we began to call on the Lord like Paul said, 'I travail like a mother giving birth till Christ be formed in you.' I mean, our church became like a labor room. It was incredible. People began to cry out to God in prayer and with faith. Out of nowhere, the next day the call comes from Trinidad. The kidnappers just looked at her, put her in a car, drove her down the road, tossed her out, unhurt, unharmed, no ransom paid. God still answers prayer, and nothing is too hard for Him. So viewers that are watching today, whatever the problem is you're facing and you say, 'God could never do that,' you're wrong. With God nothing is impossible.
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