Harvesting: Culture of Prayer [Part 9]

[fa icon="calendar"] February 3, 2020 / by Ray Van Gilst

Wheat harvest in hands

 “The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”
-Andrew Murray

“You can’t get a thousand-dollar answer for a ten-cent prayer.”
-Armin Gesswein

Have you ever seen three thousand people choose to publicly follow Christ and get baptized at one time? Better question: Would you like to witness that?

What happened on that particular day of Pentecost when God poured out His conspicuous presence on the upper-room seekers in Jerusalem was only the beginning as His followers began ministering to Him. God no sooner had manifested His tangible presence to the believers inside the upper room when a crowd gathered to see what was happening. Devout Jews who had flooded Jerusalem from all over the Mediterranean had literally came from the north, south, east, and west.

The account is very explicit: “Parthians [east northeast] and Medes [northeast] and Elamites [east] and residents of Mesopotamia [north northeast], Judea and Cappadocia [north], Pontus [north northwest] and Asia [north northwest], Phrygia [north northwest] and Pamphylia [west northwest], Egypt [south] and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene [south southwest], and visitors from Rome [west], both Jews and proselytes, Cretans [west] and Arabians [east]—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:8-11).

Three thousand of them stopped and listened to the mighty works of God being declared in the upper room. They start asking questions: “What is going on here? These people look like they are schnockered on whiskey, and yet they are eloquently declaring God’s praise. Can you explain?”

Look closely. These upper-room disciples move seamlessly from the upper room to the nations. Peter steps into the street and into the supercharged, spiritual atmosphere, and he preaches a Christ-exalting message with pinpoint accuracy. When he finishes it says: “They were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the disciples, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37).

Then look at the overwhelming response: “Those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Incredible. We call this the fifth miracle, the miracle of harvest. This is power evangelism at its best.

This initial harvest of three thousand souls was only the beginning. The believers continued their devotion to upper-room prayer, and many Jewish people continued to put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, being water baptized and added to the church daily. This upper-room principle from the upper room to the nations is the most effective means of evangelism.

Why? Because Christ can accomplish more in a day than we can in a lifetime. We are not smart enough, nor wealthy enough, to know how to finish Christ’s mission on earth. All the greatest Christian leaders, missiologists, strategists, and fundraisers in the world don’t have the resources to reach the final unreached people on earth as effectively as the Lord of the Harvest. The best laid plans of people are nothing but straw and duct tape compared to the counter-intuitive upper-room strategy of heaven.

The upper room is God’s strategic initiative to reach the final unreached people on earth. The first three thousand new believers in Christ were reached from the upper room, and the final three million people will be reached from the upper room as well.

So what was it that created such a mass movement toward Christ on this particular Pentecost—was it the preaching, or was it the presence? Obviously, it was both.

What we see at Pentecost is that the presence of Christ provided the context for the preaching—it set the table and aroused the appetite in the seekers. It was the raging inferno of the tangible presence of Christ that attracted the attention of the Jewish pilgrims in the street below the upper room. Fire always draws a crowd, and in this case, fire does much more than that; fire prepared the people by supernaturally convicting them of sin and pointing them to their Savior.

Preaching without the manifest presence of Christ is limited; the presence without preaching leaves people confused. Preaching in the manifest presence of Christ is what draws in the strongest net and hauls in the biggest catch. There is no substitute for the conspicuous presence of Christ, and there is no harvest like an upper-room harvest.

I (Fred) was sitting in a jumbo jet taxiing on a tarmac in Africa following a fruitful Leadership Summit where we trained pastors and church network leaders from fourteen different African nations to build upper rooms of prayer. As I buckled my seat belt and prepared for a long flight home, God said to me clearly, “Ask me for the nations.” What? I thought. Ask for the nations—what does this mean? I had never even imagined asking for the nations. “Ask me for the nations,” God repeated, a bit more insistent this time. The thought went through my mind, Is this even biblical?  

Looking back on it now, I realize how comical it is to ask God if what He said was biblical.  The verse then came to my mind: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8). I immediately began to ask God for the nations: “Lord, give me Italy, France, Germany, China, Indonesia, Japan, Saudi Arabia.” The more I prayed, the more I sensed the pleasure and empowerment of God. God then told me, “When you get back home, I want you to assemble a Give Us the Nations Prayer Team.”

When I returned home, I did assemble a prayer team that now has thousands of intercessors who consistently pray for unreached people groups. I also did research into Psalm 2, and I discovered that it is a messianic psalm, which means it’s primarily about Jesus—the Father is exhorting His Son to ask Him for the nations. With this perspective, obviously when we ask for the nations, we ask somewhat differently from the way Jesus asks. When Jesus asked, He asked for Himself; when we ask for the nations, we ask in Jesus’ name and for His benefit. Nevertheless, we have a role to play in not only asking for the nations, but in reaching the nations.


Parts of this article have been developed with permission using material from Author and Rev. Fred Hartley, International College of Prayer.

Read more from our Culture of Prayer Series:

Listening Prayer: Culture of Prayer [Part 8]

Let Me Introduce You to Theo: Culture of Prayer [Part 10]


Topics: Culture of Prayer