This post is the most intimate in the whole site. In it I open my heart and show you what’s inside. I show you how I have often cried unto the Lord, and how He has met me right where I was at the time. I believe that the best Scripture I could use as a basis for these pages is one I have read, quoted, and believed more times than I can count. It is very, very true in my life, and, in all likelihood, is true in your life as well.
The words come from David, but they are universally true. “This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, / And saved him out of all his troubles” (Ps. 34:6).
My Mother Taught Me to Pray
My mother was a living example of prayer. She was a walking prayer, a veritable prayer in human flesh. I knelt before her knees when I was very small and she told me the words to pray, and I prayed them. She taught me my nighttime prayers: “Now I lay me down to sleep.” She taught me to say, “Thank You, Jesus, for the food.”
My mother lived eighty-seven years, and in all my life I never heard her curse or blaspheme. Her mouth, as well as her heart, was clean before the Lord. What a treasure my mother was! She started me out on the road to God and heaven by her words, by her example, and by her godly teaching. I can never thank God enough for the mother He gave to me.
My First Real Prayers
Like most boys I prayed when I got in trouble. I made God all sorts of promises. But when the difficulty was past, I often forgot the promises. So I really doubt the deep sincerity of some of those early prayers.
But there came a day when I got serious with my praying. As a young man I contracted tuberculosis. I was very ill. My weight dropped to ninety-three pounds. I was literally skin and bones, unable to walk. For five months I was confined to bed. I was spitting up blood and getting continually worse.
Though I had been prayed for, those prayers didn’t work, and it was clear to all that I was dying.
I realized my situation was desperate. So one night I got serious with God. I said, “Lord, if you will heal me of this terrible disease that’s taking my life, I will preach for You.” And God healed me that very night! I never spit blood anymore. I was healed. Praise the Lord, I was healed! From that dramatic moment, my life was changed. I knew that God would continue to answer my prayers. He had just brought me from death to life. “This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him” (Ps. 34:6).
My Search for Howard Carter
My sister and I were involved in evangelistic work when I had an opportunity to travel around the world with Howard Carter, an outstanding man of God. He was an Englishman, twice my age, but willing for me to go with him. But there was a problem: I had to catch up with him. By the time I had sold my car, obtained my passport, and made arrangements to go, he had gone
to another country. Now, he didn’t know how to reach me, and I didn’t know how to get in contact with him.
When I asked his friends where he was, I got a number of different answers. One said, “Howard is in the Orient. Japan, I think. Or maybe it’s China.”
Another said, “He’s in India.”
“I think he’s in Indonesia,” a third one told me.
All of this was totally baffling. What could I do? I went to the Lord in prayer. I said, “Lord, this man can’t be all over the world at one time. Where is he? Please help me to find him.”
The Lord spoke to my heart and impressed me with this idea, “Start from the bottom and work up.”
I said, “I’ll do it.” So I purchased a ticket to Australia and New Zealand, looking for a man who was reported to be in Japan or someplace else in the Orient.
Once when I told this story, my listener said, “I wouldn’t have done that.” “You would have if you had prayed,” I answered him.
So I got on the boat and we sailed. We went to Suva and Tonga, then on to New Zealand. I was praying every day, “Lord, if I am to have a companion to go around the world with, please help me to find him!”
When we landed in Wellington, New Zealand, I prayed, “Lord, what do I do now?” The Lord answered, “Go look for a certain church.”
When I found the church, the pastor met me at the door. I said, “Sir, my name is Lester Sumrall. I’m from America, and I’m looking for a man named Howard Carter. Have you heard about him?”
The man stared. “Lester Sumrall! Yes, I know Howard Carter. I spoke to him just this morning by telephone.”
“You did? Where is he?”
“Howard is in a prayer retreat way back in the mountains. But yesterday the most wonderful thing happened. The Holy Spirit told Howard that your ship was in the harbor, and that you would be looking for this church today.”
Now it was my turn to be amazed.
The pastor continued, “Howard told me to come right down to the church to meet you, and to tell you that he would meet you in Australia in about three or four weeks.”
You can see why I believe in prayer.
Howard Carter and I finally hooked up. Howard was a very precise, rigid Englishman, and we had agreed that we would never talk about finances. He never asked me how much money I had, and I never asked him how much money he had. Each of us always bought his own tickets and made his own travel arrangements. We had ministered together for a time when my money ran out. We were in Hong Kong at the time and were making plans to go to Tibet.
He said, “I think I’ll go get my ticket and make my travel arrangements.”
I said, “You go ahead. I’ll take care of mine a little later.” Howard may have wondered about my financial situation at the time, but he didn’t say anything. Before he went to the ticket office, however, he said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll book both of our tickets and tell them you’ll be in to pick yours up later.” I agreed.
So he went. I stayed in our room and prayed.
One night a short time later, while I was ministering there in Hong Kong, a Chinese lady came up for prayer. She looked and was dressed differently from the other Chinese ladies, but I didn’t think much about it. However, when she walked into the church the next night with three
servants, all of them carrying huge boxes of canned fruit from California, I knew there was definitely something different about her!
I said, “What’s all this?”
She smiled. “You are going to Tibet to minister, and you’re going to need lots of canned fruit when you get there or you’ll die. You couldn’t eat their food.”
“Thank you,” I said, “but I don’t have a ticket to go to Tibet yet.”
She said, “You don’t know me. I am the wife of a Chinese army general. I came all the way from China for an operation which was going to cost a lot of money. But last night when you prayed for me, the Lord healed me. Now I don’t need an operation. And the Lord told me to give you the operation money.” Then she thrust a package into my hands.
I thanked her, thinking she might have given me one or two hundred dollars at the most. But when I opened the package in my hotel room, I was aghast. The envelope was stuffed with American fifty-dollar bills and hundred-dollar bills. I had never seen so much money in my life!
The Lord spoke to me and said, “Now, go get your ticket to Tibet.” I did so hastily.
The money that Chinese woman gave me bought me a boat ticket into Indochina, clear down to Hanoi. Then it bought me a ticket on a French railroad into the Hunan Province. There it paid for a horse and a man to care for him. I rode that horse through the hills for three months while we preached and ministered in Tibet. Then that Chinese lady’s “operation money” paid my fare back to Hong Kong, with some left over. My friends, that’s what God does for His children when they pray!
Led by Prayer in China
The adventures we had in China would fill a book in themselves. Many of them stand out, but none more than the time we got lost. We were traveling by mule team to our appointed place of ministry. When we left a small village, we saw not one road, but several, leading away. We had no idea which one we were to take.
We were lost in the middle of a remote inland Chinese town. What should we do? You guessed it. We prayed. And God sent us an angel. (At least, I will always believe that that English-speaking Chinese young man was sent to us from the Lord.)
This young man saw us pondering which road to take, and he approached us. “May I be of service?” he asked.
We were startled at God’s quick response to our prayer. Here in the middle of China was a young Chinese man, addressing us in flawless English.
“Yes,” I said, “we’re lost. We don’t know which of these roads to take.”
After he had pointed us in the right direction, he told us, “Now I know why I came to this village. I had no reason for being here, but something led me here.”
I told him that that “something” was the Lord.
While I was in China I bought a pair of shoes. The Chinese salesman smiled and assured me, “The shoes will be a ninety-five percent fit.”
The man was right. But they were also a “five percent nonfit!” And that was horrible. I wore those shoes all the way through Japan, and Manchuria, and Mongolia. I wore them across Siberia and Russia, and Poland and Germany, and Sweden and Finland. By the time I got to England, my feet were in terrible condition. I knew I had to do something about those shoes.
I also knew I needed money to take me back home. So I did what I was accustomed to doing: I prayed.
Brother Carter and I had completed our tour and were no longer traveling together. By now
I was a celebrity—a returned missionary! I was preaching at a different church almost every night. When I arrived at one church to minister, a lady handed me a parcel. “It’s for you,” she said.
I said, “I wonder who knew I’d be coming here?” I hardly knew that myself. I thought somebody had sent me some fruit or some food. But when I opened the package, what do you think it was? A pair of shoes.
“I’ll try them on,” I said. When I slipped my foot into the left shoe, it fit perfectly. I didn’t even know my own shoe size; how could anybody else know it? “Praise the Lord!” I said. “I prayed for shoes, and here they are.” God had laid it on somebody’s heart to send me shoes—and in exactly the right size.
“Lord, that’s better than I could even imagine,” I said. Then I slipped my foot into the second shoe, but it wouldn’t go in. There was something in the way. When I reached in to pull it out, I discovered a bundle of English pound notes! There was enough money there to pay my way to Canada and from there all the way home.
Later, when I told Howard Carter about the incident, he said, “But who knew your shoe size?”
“I have no idea,” I said. I never did find out who sent those shoes. It was a strange, beautiful thing about the way those shoes fit me, because English shoes and American shoes are built on a different last. Despite that, they fit me. Are you beginning to see what kind of a miracle life I have lived?
Led to Win a Million Souls
When God brought me back from the Orient, He told me, “Lester Sumrall, I want you to win a million souls.”
I said, “Lord, how can I see that come to pass?”
He told me, “Get on television.”
I’ll admit I was fearful, so I started with a little radio station. It was successful. One day I met a man in Washington, D.C., who asked me, “Do you want a TV station?”
“Well, I’ve got one for sale in Indianapolis.”
“I’d buy it, but I don’t have even ten dollars to spare.”
In a total miracle transaction, he sold me the station for a million dollars, when I didn’t have any money. But I signed for it on faith. Within a week, through a number of extraordinary transactions, even the amount owed was cut in half. The purchase of our South Bend, Indiana, station was as miraculous as the first one. Through the miracle action of prayer, I went on the air to reach and win the million people for Christ that God desired of me.
Our church in South Bend was expanding and we needed a building lot. I found just what we needed, but the asking price was forty-five thousand dollars. After praying about the transaction, I offered to buy the lot for thirty-five thousand dollars, with ten thousand down. The offer was accepted. But the best part of the deal was yet to come. I was able to sell a hundred-foot strip of the property for twenty-nine thousand dollars. That transaction left us with a prime piece of land that was just what we needed. And it had cost us only six thousand dollars. The acquisition was certainly a tribute to answered prayer!
The Secrets of Answered Prayer
You can understand by now that there are no true “secrets” to answered prayer. There are only principles that have not been learned.
You can also understand that any child of God can discover those secrets and can see his prayers answered. My mother before me discovered those secrets and taught them to me. I have learned those secrets, and this chapter has delineated some of the miracles God has performed in response to my prayers.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses to the power of prayer, I urge you to learn and apply these principles in your life. In ways that you may not have done it before, place your trust in the One who is the Master of the universe. Discover what He says about His power in your life, your body, and your circumstances.
Then, “Pray without ceasing.” God will do the rest. He does everything well. Praise His name!