The Most Important Person in the Operating Room

“The doctor just left the room. Van isn’t gonna make it.”

There was a lot more information, but his voice broke after that, choked back by a flood of emotion. Kirsten’s brother, Van, who also happens to be one of my closest friends (long story), had some chest pain he thought was heartburn a few days earlier. He’d had some spicy shrimp off a friend’s grill, and he assumed it wasn’t sitting quite right.

When he went to a walk-in clinic in search of an antacid, what he thought was heartburn turned out to be a torn aorta. His primary heart valve was gushing blood internally so fast they weren’t sure he’d even make it to the hospital. While the doctor was explaining all this to Van—just in his early thirties—an ambulance was speeding, sirens blaring, to the clinic to pick him up.

Forty-eight hours later, the leading surgeon at Vanderbilt, America’s top heart hospital by reputation, had just delivered the news: “He’s not gonna make it. Tell the family to get here as quickly as they can.”

We left the church right away. We rushed home and booked the next flight out. By the time we got to the hospital in Nashville the following morning, the medical team had more information. Van was scheduled for a surgery—a surgery that had a significantly greater chance of killing him than healing him. But he was dying, and this was quite literally the only option left.

I sat on the armrest of the chair at the foot of his bed and dropped my head into my hands, peering through my fingers at Van’s tattooed chest. They would slice his skin down the middle and peel open his rib cage in the next twenty-four hours. I was there to say goodbye to someone I was supposed to grow old next to. I brought all the crushing desperation and fear, all the measly hope I could muster, and talked to God about it. I prayed.

That was the beginning of the story. Here’s how it ended: a couple days later, Van woke up in that same hospital room after a successful surgery, the only patient in the hospital’s history to survive this particular combination of multiple open-heart surgeries.

The leading surgeon came in to speak to the family. He wept as he recounted the moment in the operating room when the surgical team gave up and informally declared Van deceased. Then a nursing student, whose only role was to hand the surgeon the scissors, began praying for him in the operating room. Immediately, the surgeon located the bleeding tear he had been unsuccessfully searching for over the last five hours, and Van survived.

Miraculous. That’s not my word. That’s what the non-Christian, non-praying doctor called it as he relayed the story, with tears threatening to overflow the banks of his eyelids.

Yes, prayer stills us, brings us peace, helps us come to terms with what is. Prayer changes the person praying from the inside out. But prayer also releases power. Prayer releases power to affect real change in the tangible world.

From Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools by Tyler Staton

How a 13 year old multiplies disciples

When I was thirteen years old, I wasn’t sure I was buying all the Jesus stuff. I was a curious kid, but I wasn’t an easy sell. Look, if this story is real, I want in. But if it’s a fairy tale, I’d prefer to find out sooner than later so I don’t waste so much time singing mediocre songs and sitting through all these meetings. That was my logic.

Naturally, when a mentor approached me with an experiment of sorts, it caught my attention.

“What do you think God would do in the lives of your unbelieving friends if you spent every day this summer walking a circle around your school in prayer for them?”

“I have no idea.”

“Why don’t you find out?”

I liked that idea. My older brother had just turned sixteen, meaning any reason to drive anywhere was a good one. Every single day that summer, he drove me to the one place I planned to avoid: school. I wore a dirt path into the thick summer grass walking the school grounds with a folded-up student directory in my right hand. This was back in the day when they gave everyone in the school everyone else’s phone number. What were they thinking? Never once did I use the school directory until that summer, when it became my personal “book of common prayer,” guiding the whispered words of my uncertain, pubescent voice while I paced around the outside of that familiar building, holding every last name in my soon-to-be eighth-grade class before the God I only half believed in.

Something happened to me that summer. I fell in love with the God I wasn’t sure was listening.

I discovered that I didn’t just “need” God in some ultimate sense; I liked God. I enjoyed his presence. I looked forward to his company. That’s all I knew for sure.

On the first day back to school, I asked to speak to the principal. I walked into the office I’d narrowly avoided the previous two years and came right out with it. I just asked him,

“Can I start a new extracurricular school program—one about Jesus?”

“Well, you’ll need a teacher to sponsor it. Every school club has to have a teacher sponsor.”

That’s how I ended up leading a Christian outreach meeting in a fluorescent-lit, white-tiled math classroom at Brentwood Middle School. We met at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday mornings, an obviously convenient time. What twelve- or thirteen-year-old doesn’t want to explore existential questions of origin and purpose before the sun comes up?

My entire strategy for hosting these meetings was simple. I’d sit in my bedroom on Tuesday evenings, open the Bible at random to a page somewhere in the middle, pick a paragraph on that page, read it with absolutely no other context or hint of biblical literacy, jot a few thoughts of my own interpretation on a sheet of loose-leaf paper, and then read and explain that passage to whomever showed up the following Wednesday morning. It was a recipe for disaster, not revival.

But I had one thing going for me.
I prayed.

I went to school an hour early on Wednesdays to lead that group, so I went to school an hour early on Tuesdays and Thursdays to keep thumbing through that now pocket-creased, heavily frayed, and worn-out school directory, praying name by name for my classmates. My mom, the believer who led me to faith, actually sat me down and asked me to chill out with all the prayer because she was losing too much sleep taking me to school so early—true story.

A couple months into these meetings, so many students were coming that we had to move from a math classroom into the school’s theater. By the end of that school year, approximately one-third of my eighth-grade class had come into relationship with Jesus in the darkness of the early morning, with all the atmosphere of hospital lighting, through the potentially heretical sermons of a thirteen-year-old skeptic.

It’s either completely ludicrous or utterly breathtaking to think that in the midst of all the insecurity of a thirteen-year-old boy—the nervousness of going out for the basketball team, the awkward (and slightly late) arrival of puberty, the sweaty palms of school dances—there was also the Spirit of the living God bending history in loving response to the prayed mumblings of a kid. And not because he finds that kid particularly brilliant or his suggestions on how to run the world innovative, but simply because he finds this kid in all of his insecurity, awkwardness, and adolescent nervousness to be irresistibly lovable.

That’s ludicrous, or it’s breathtaking.

taken from Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools by Tyler Staton

Getting The Zeros Right

In his book,

Jesus Continued: Why The Spirit Inside You Is Better than Jesus Beside You,

Pastor J. D. Greear describes the days of unceasing prayer leading up to Pentecost, the power of Peter’s preaching, and the results of the Gospel at Pentecost. He notes that they prayed for ten days, preached for ten minutes, and three thousand people were saved. Then he adds, “Today, we shuffle the zeroes around: we pray for ten minutes, preach for ten days … and only three people get saved. What a difference the placement of those zeroes can make!

Cited by Daniel Henderson in

Old Paths, New Power

Success that is Failure

“Some years ago I received a call from a pastor of a large church. He asked if he could host me for lunch when I came to speak at a conference in the area. He and a staff of three planned to attend, and they had collectively read my book Fresh Encounters. He indicated that he had some questions, so we locked in the date.

During our lunch, he recounted his journey at the church. He had served as senior pastor for more than a decade. The church had grown from a few hundred and was approaching two thousand in weekly attendance, with an impressive array of programs and facilities. He described the remarkable success of recent years and then stopped midsentence, overwhelmed with emotion. Through the tears he made a profound statement:

I don’t know if what I have accomplished had anything to do with the Holy Spirit. I have been a prayerless pastor.”

Once he regained his composure I asked,

Then how do you explain all that has happened over the last decade?

I worked the formulas,” he responded very matter-of-factly. “I knew the formulas for growth, land acquisition, relocation in a growing area, children’s programming, youth events, attractive worship services, staff development, and high-impact sermons.” He continued, “Yet, if I were to stand before Christ today, I don’t know if what I have done is gold, silver, and precious stones … or just wood, hay, and stubble.

Old Paths, New Power
by Daniel Henderson

much time….

“There can be no communion with a holy God, no fellowship between heaven and earth, no power for the salvation of souls, unless much time is set apart for it.”

—Andrew Murray
The Prayer Life

“Much time spent in prayer is the secret of all successful praying. Prayer that is felt as a mighty force is the mediate or immediate product of much time spent in prayer. Our short prayers owe their point and efficiency to the long ones that have preceded them.”

—E. M. Bounds
Preacher and Prayer

Why Some See Movements And Others Don’t

“We were leading our first ever conference with Ying and Grace Kai, the creators of Training 4 Trainers or T4T. I was excited to sit at their feet and learn from them. They had seen thousands of churches planted where they worked. Since then, they had trained and equipped many others to do the same. It was a great opportunity to rub shoulders with these legendary, modern-day apostles. I felt very privileged.

What would I learn? What key would I pick up from them that I could take to our own ministry among the unreached forward?

As is typical in the country we were in, there were last minute changes. Our prior plans for the day after their arrival had to be altered. I wondered how we could best bless and host our speakers well. Maybe we could take them sightseeing in our city? Or out to a nice restaurant? I didn’t want them to feel bad that we now had nothing specific for them to do that particular morning.

I explained the situation to them and offered some suggestions. “It’s no problem,” they said. We will pray.

They spent those hours and much of that day seeking the Father. This was much more productive and important to them than sightseeing, though they had never before visited our country. Hour after hour, they lifted the names of those they would be training before the Lord.

It was one of the greatest lessons I learned from being with them. People who want to see movements default to prayer as their most critical activity.”


C. Anderson in Why Some See Movements And Others Don’t, Mission Frontiers Nov / Dec 2018

Prayer and Window Shopping

When I was first married, my wife and a young lady friend insisted on going “window-shopping.” Since I was broke, I felt a great deal of unease about the proposal, until I learned that they did not plan to buy anything: they were merely going to “shop.” And gradually I learned that a woman can shop half of a day without really expecting to bring anything home!

And so it is that people often “pray.” They “pray” and “pray” but do not get anything; indeed, they do not expect to get anything. That is not the reason they “pray.” But though they call it praying, really it is not real prayer if it does not come with a definite petition, asking something from God.

John R. Rice
Prayer: Asking And Receiving

Prayer is for war

“Prayer is the communication by which the weapons of warfare are deployed according to the will of God. Prayer is for war.

Let me show you this more specifically from John 15:16-17:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.(ESV)

The logic is crucial. Why is the Father going to give the disciples what they ask in Jesus’ name? Answer: Because they have been sent to bear fruit. The reason the Father gives the disciples the gift of prayer is because Jesus has given them a mission. In fact, the grammar of John 15:16 implies that the reason Jesus gives them their mission is so that they will be able to enjoy the power of prayer. “I send you to bear fruit so that whatever you ask the Father…he may give you.

So I do not tire of saying to our church, “The number one reason why prayer malfunctions in the hands of a believer is that they try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom.

— John Piper

Dawson Trotman’s prayer life

One of the biographies that most impacted my life is the life story of Dawson Trotman (1906–1956), founder of the Navigators. He was a very ordinary man with an extraordinary passion for God and prayer who launched a worldwide organization that especially left a deep spiritual impact on the U.S. Navy in World War II. As a young man he often met God early in the morning in the hills of Southern California to pray. Once he covenanted to pray two hours early every morning before work for forty straight days. Near the end of the forty days, he and a prayer partner prayed over a map of the world.

Amazingly, before he died at the young age of fifty (while saving someone from drowning), Trotman saw the fruit of his labor spanning the globe in answer to those early prayers. His biographer writes, “Dawson held on to his consuming purpose to become a man of God, a man of prayer … in looking back later, he had little doubt that his disciplined practice of prayer during the first five years of his Christian life laid a foundation for all of his subsequent ministry.”

The Prayer life of John Wesley

“In all his journeyings John Wesley used to carry about with him a little note-book for jottings, the first crude draft of his Journals. On the front page of each successive copy of this memorandum book he always recorded a resolution to spend two hours daily in private prayer, no evasion or proviso being admitted.”

from The Hidden Life of Prayer
by David M’Intyre

Korean Revival of 1906

Jonathan Goforth, a missionary to China visited Korea to see firsthand the massive revival that was underway in 1906. He wrote:

I had not been in Korea very long before I was led back to the source from which this great movement sprang. Mr. Swallen, of Pingyang, told me how that the missionaries of his station, both Methodists and Presbyterians, upon hearing of the great Revival in the Kassia Hills of India, had decided to pray every day at the noon hour until a similar blessing was poured out upon them. “After we had prayed for about a month,” said Mr. Swallen, “a brother proposed that we stop the prayer‑meeting, saying, ‘We have been praying now for a month, and nothing unusual has come of it. We are spending a lot of time. I don’t think we are justified. Let us go on with our work as usual, and each pray at home is he finds it convenient.’ The proposal seemed plausible. The majority of us, however, decided that, instead of discontinuing the prayer meeting, we would give more time to prayer, not less. With that in view, we changed the hour from noon to four o’clock; we were then free to pray until supper‑time, if we wished. We kept to it, until at last, after months of waiting, the answer came.”

By My Spirit
By Jonathan Goforth