I was in high school and one day our big gym class was running a race. I wanted to win. There were a lot of guys out there that morning but I felt invincible. As soon as the starters pistol was fired, I ran. We were running 600 yards which means you have 2 options. You can run fast or you can lose the race. I was either near the front or close enough to sprint ahead most of the way. Then about 50 yards from the finish, I felt immediately queasy and uncontrollably sick. I had to run to the side of the track, too sick to do anything else. When I got back in the race it wasn’t much of a race. I jogged across the finish line near the back of the pack. I’ve thought about that day several times over the years. I was running my best race but I quit before the finish line. It’s an embarrassing thing to do when you are in high school in front of your friends, but quitting before the finish line is a deadly thing to do when you’re walking with God! That day in high school my enemy was physical. But the enemy in the Christian life is spiritual and relentless. Here are 5 ways to beat the devil before you meet the devil!



“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
(Romans 13:14)

You have to know Christ so you can have victory over the constant lure the flesh. Keeping off the casualty list is not about a formula for success it’s about a personal relationship with Jesus!

You have an enemy and he is no match for the Lord. When temptation calls let Jesus answer.


Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:13)

Jesus Himself advised His followers to develop a prayer life to overcome the temptations thrown our way. He even said prayer keeps many temptations at a distance. I would rather fight my battles “in the heavenly realms” than go toe to toe in hand to hand combat with the prince of darkness! No wonder some old saint once quipped, “The devil trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.”


Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
(John 17:17)

When I was in college the pastor’s wife at our church challenged us to invite friends to Sunday School. She would give the one who brought the most new people a new leather Bible. My friend brought the most guests and won the Bible. In the front of the Bible the pastor’s wife had written these words attributed to D L Moody: “Sin will keep you from this book or this book will keep you from sin!” Read the Bible everyday and you will grow strong in the things of the Lord.


And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one… I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.
(John 17:11,15)

Every believer needs a good church and Christian friends or you will be an easy target for the devil. He doesn’t play fair but he plays for keeps. He wants to separate us from the group and pick us off one by one. Members of the Body only remain healthy when they’re part of the Body!


“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
(Galatians 5:16)

The Christian life is not a play ground it’s a battleground. Ask God daily to fill you with the Holy Spirit and declare war on the devil! This war is spiritual and you’ve got the arsenal of God at your disposal- the Holy Spirit of God!







When Jim and Carol Cymbala went to Brooklyn Tabernacle in the early 1970’s, according to Jim Cymbala, “More people were turning to Crack than to Christ.” He described the dismal early days in his book, Fresh Wind Fresh Fire. They had no training for ministry, no money, and only a handful of members.

Before long, seeing few victories and feeling personally defeated, the discouraged Pastor decided he needed to quit. It was during that dark period he received a distinct and unexpected call from God to lead the people to pray. The next time he was before the church, he told them about his strange call from the Lord to focus on prayer.

The following Tuesday night, about a dozen members joined the pastor for prayer. They joined hands, stood in a circle, and prayed. Five minutes later, they were finished. They obviously weren’t sure yet how to conduct a prayer meeting but they had taken the first steps. Over the next few years, Brooklyn Tabernacle would become known around the country and around the world as a praying church.

IMG_3783Today, about 10,000 people every Sunday wait in line to attend Brooklyn Tabernacle. The attendance is a miracle but it doesn’t end there.

Carol Cymbala has led the Choir since soon after arriving at Brooklyn Tabernacle. Her original choir consisted of nine people. In spite of not reading music, Pastor Cymbala’s wife Carol has received 5 Dove Awards, 6 Grammy Awards and has written hundreds of songs for the now 270 voice Choir and for their 28 albums. IMG_3789

How has all of this occurred? Jim Cymbala traces it all to that call from the Lord so long ago to build a praying church, and to make the weekly prayer meeting the most important service of the week. He calls the prayer meeting  “the barometer of the church.”

It didn’t start big but it grew. The first Tuesday night prayer meeting of a few members gathered in a circle, is now 3000 people a week crowding into the church to call upon the Lord. The prayer meeting officially begins at 7pm but people start pouring in at 5pm to pray for the prayer meeting! IMG_3787

In my life, the most spiritual experiences I’ve ever had in church have been at Brooklyn Tabernacle- both at the Sunday Church services and at the Tuesday night prayer meetings. The book, Fresh Wind Fresh Fire, written the same year I came to Hyde Park Baptist Church as Senior Pastor, is the most influential book I’ve ever read.

Not everyone has had the privilege yet of attending the Tuesday night prayer meeting in Brooklyn, so we are bringing it to Austin. On Thursday, September 14, Jim Cymbala is coming to lead a City Wide Prayer Meeting at Hyde Park Baptist Church. This gift to the city is a ministry of the Unceasing Prayer Movement of Austin. Everyone is invited to attend. Doors open at 6:00pm for prayer before the service begins at 7:00pm.


God is moving in Austin, and around the country through a prayer movement. Brooklyn Tabernacle is nothing short of a miracle but God can do anywhere what He has done there. We are praying now that the prayer movement in Austin will be energized and pastors and churches will encouraged to pray as never before. God still hears and answers prayer!






I was born and raised in a “winter state.” I  jokingly say Fairbanks, Alaska has 4 seasons; Early winter, winter, late winter, and next winter! Actually, in Fairbanks, spring, summer, and fall are brief seasons and winter is long.

History demonstrates that spiritual revivals have seasons like an Alaskan summer- they are greatly desired but they are always too brief. The difference is, Alaskans can depend on the certainty of summer but revivals are never guaranteed. That makes a season for revival more necessary and even more urgent.

I believe we are in the early spring of such a season now. I believe revival is coming, but like summer in my hometown-the season for revival won’t last long.



A few years ago I was invited to participate on a panel discussion with some pastors from my denomination. The subject before us was, “Spiritual Awakening and Revival.” Each of us had plenty of opportunity to speak but one question left us all a little speechless. The moderator asked us about the principles for “maintaining” a revival. No one had a convincing answer to that serious question.

I couldn’t get the question out of my mind. A few days later it occurred to me that no revival in history has ever been maintained. Let me say that again. No revival has ever lasted. Every revival has had a season. Even the firey dynamics surrounding Pentecost eventually cooled. God is still the same, but the results of spiritual awakening- in every recorded instance- eventually become the recollections of an aging generation longing for “the good old days” until at last the eyewitnesses are gone,  and the revival is archived into our history books.

Review the history of awakenings and you will find they all had a starting point and then either suddenly declined or gradually disappeared. The seasons change.

I was saved during a season of Spiritual Awakening usually referred to as “The Jesus Movement.” It was as close to spontaneous combustion as anything I’ve ever seen. One day there were no “Jesus Freaks” in my town. Then, suddenly they were everywhere. No one in my large High School could ignore the Jesus People. Yet, a few years later, I returned to Fairbanks and the phenomenon had ended. The same was true across the nation.

I once asked Dr J. Edwin Orr what happened to all the Jesus Freaks. His answer was intentionally humorous but still somewhat true. He said, “They are all clothed and in their right minds and sitting in Chuck Smith’s church in Costa Mesa, California.” In other words, the Jesus Movement had a season. Numerous positive results remained but a page had turned. The seasons had changed.



The Great Awakening, The Second Great Awakening, The Prayer Revival of 1857-58, The Welsh Revival, The Shantung Revival, The Jesus Movement- they all ebbed away from the center stage of history. We know revivals do not last indefinitely. That is part of their character. That’s also why they are so desperately needed. God uses genuine revivals to awaken God’s people, sweep thousands into the Kingdom, change the way the church operates, and eventually affect the entire culture. Would you agree we need a spiritual awakening now?

To the glory of God, there are growing signs today of a coming revival. A few weeks ago, Greg Laurie, commenting on the sense that revival is possible in our times said, “I think the times in which we are living are similar to the ’60’s. And what happened at the end of the ’60’s was a revival called the Jesus Movement-the Jesus Revolution. And this is what I’m praying for. I’m seeing seeds of it-I’m seeing potential- I’m seeing more people talking about it. It seems like people in the church are collectively starting to get the memo- we need divine intervention and we need it now!” (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ronnie-floyd-on-life-and-leadership-today/id1211279930?mt=2&i=1000385952046) Yes. We need Revival and we need it now.


I live in Austin. It’s hot in the summer. Two days ago it was 107 degrees! No matter how hot the Texas summer gets, however, eventually we wake up one morning to the wind blowing in cooler temperatures. We can feel the changing seasons in the wind. The same is true in spiritual matters. We sometimes sense the winds are shifting and something fresh is in the air. We begin to see the seasons changing.

One such indication-and a highly significant one- is the evidence of an unprecedented prayer movement gaining momentum around the world. The prayer movement is one clear sign God is mobilizing His Church for Awakening. For example, In my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, several of our leaders are relentlessly calling for repentance, prayer for Spiritual Awakening, and a renewed emphasis on evangelism. Our immediate past President, for instance, Dr Ronnie Floyd has labored tirelessly for revival in our day, even long before he served as our leader. His pursuit for a national spiritual awakening, equally shared by many others, continues today. One more example is our current President, Dr. Steve Gaines, who has made the call to prayer for revival a chief pillar of his tenure as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. There are many others with a similar passion reaching across all denominational lines. IMG_3614


There are numerous other examples of the growing prayer movement and they all point in the same direction. The winds are shifting. Are we entering a new season of spiritual awakening and revival? I certainly believe we are.

The lessons of history, however, offer us both a hope and a warning. Remember, every revival eventually ended. But I wonder how many never quite got started? How many times have we been close to a new beginning only to lapse back into spiritual drought? Is that even possible? I believe it is. In fact, I believe we could miss a move of God completely. How is that possible? It has happened before. Jesus once cried out to a stubborn and prayer-less people about their incredible missed opportunity. He said with a broken heart, “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:43-44)

Did you hear that tragic pronouncement? “You did not know the time of your visitation.” You can miss a work of the Spirit! An entire generation once missed the presence of God among them. And judgment followed.


How can we miss the coming Revival? Is it even possible? Yes. You can miss it! One example from history ought to terrify all of us. Prior to the Great Awakening, the Quakers were among the most influential citizens in Colonial America. They were a leading denomination. But when God began to move in the colonies, the Quakers opposed the revival on theological grounds. By the time the Great Awakening had fully matured, and had dramatically reshaped the colonies into what would soon become the United States of America, the Quakers were on their way to becoming what they are today-a minor footnote in our history. Remember, God doesn’t need us in revival- we desperately need Him! And when His Spirit begins to bring “seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord” we need to move with Him not in opposition to Him.

The next time you drive by an empty church parking lot on a Sunday morning, or hear about a denomination rapidly declining, don’t ask about a new church growth method. Ask yourself how everything would be different if Revival comes. And pray.

For several reasons, I believe Revival is coming, but this opportunity will not last forever. Revivals come in seasons and I for one am ready for our long national winter of doubt and rebellion to end and for a season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord to come. Will you pray with me about a season of revival? IMG_3601






Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, invented dynamite and was an immensely successful arms dealer. He made a fortune selling heavy artillery to countries at war. When his less well known brother Ludvig died, a French newspaper mistakenly published the obituary of Alfred instead under the headline: “The Merchant of Death is Dead.” When Alfred Nobel read his own obituary, he decided he did not want to be remembered for dynamite or war, so he donated his vast wealth to create The Nobel Prize. IMG_2945

It’s true power can be destructive, but the right power operates CT Scanners in Children’s Hospitals, Fire Alarms in Retirement Centers, and a thousand other life giving necessities. Jesus said the Christian witness is dependent upon power. “You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:48-49) In fact, the Greek word for power, used by the Lord, is “dunamis.” God’s “dynamite” is constructive not destructive! Jesus said we need the dynamic power from “on high” to be effective witnesses.

When the early church had prayed for 10 days the power from on high came in the form and presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1ff). If the eyewitnesses needed the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit, what does that suggest to you about us?

Since so many people around us need the Lord, and since we are called to be His witnesses, isn’t it also true that we need the power of the Holy Spirit? Of course it is. Right now, ask the Lord to fill you and empower you with the Holy Spirit so you too can be a powerful witness for Jesus.

Living a Spirit-filled life won’t earn you a Nobel Prize, but it will give you dynamic spiritual power to share the gospel with someone this week! Ask Him for the Holy Spirit’s power, then go in that power and make a dynamic difference in someone else’s life.






Every follower of Christ who seeks God with fasting and prayer can experience sudden and surprising open doors of spiritual opportunity, even if those open doors were never apparent before. It has happened in Scripture and it has happened to me. I am certain it will happen for many others as well.


A prayer summit, involving a handful of key leaders, opened unexpected doors as the leaders were worshipping, fasting, and praying. Paul and Barnabas, and 3 other gifted and significant leaders had been in the midst of a genuine city-wide spiritual awakening in Antioch for well over a year. Hungry to know the steps they were to take next, they pulled away from the day to day ministry to hear from God.

The Holy Spirit spoke to them clearly and gave them a vision and a direction they had apparently never considered before. At least 10-15 years had passed since the Resurrection had occurred, and since the Great Commission had been issued, but no one had made any substantial efforts to reach the Gentile world yet. While the devoted team fasted and prayed, however, a new door suddenly opened. The Spirit clearly directed them to spread the gospel to Gentiles.


That unexpected open door led to what we commonly call Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-4). The world was permanently changed out of that prayer meeting when a new door opened as God’s people fasted.


Open doors always swing wide to reveal God’s continuing plan to save more people. It happens when we fast and pray. Recently it happened to me as I was participating in a city-wide call to 40 Days of fasting and prayer. While the open door I experienced obviously cannot compare to Paul’s call to world evangelism and missions, it was, nevertheless, an exhilarating and eye opening opportunity for ministry I never saw coming. The more I considered what God was doing in my life, the more my mind raced with faith, fresh ideas, and vision for our church and our city. There is no doubt in my mind this door burst open because several of us were fasting and praying. As this new door of ministry was unexpectedly opening before me I felt, and described it to others, as if I had stepped through a previously unnoticed door, into the blessing of God. 

That’s the way God works. We fast and pray, committing our time and disciplining our bodies, and God blesses us with amazing opportunities for His work which we find to be richly and unpredictably satisfying. When you are in the center of His activity, it seems to be the nearest thing to heaven you ever find on earth.


How can you experience the blessing of open doors? God is sovereign and frequently resists our simple and sometimes self serving formulas-especially if they are an attempt to manipulate how or when He will act. However, since His character never changes, it is possible to glean from Scripture what God expects of us when we desire to walk through open doors of unexpected blessing. Here are three principles to remember.


1) The Holy Spirit can speak to us individually – and He does-but in the New Testament it is far more common to witness a fresh burst of God’s unfolding plan when God’s people were fasting and praying together. So, as you fast and pray, join with other like minded and devoted believers and fast and pray as a group. It’s amazing what God does when we unite.

2) Rick Warren said it best-“it’s not about you!” The unexpected open doors that ultimately bring you the most satisfaction are those which bring the most glory to God. That’s what you want isn’t it? Aren’t you tired of the false promises of a “me centered” faith? Expect and “pray into” the open doors which further the gospel of Jesus and accelerate His mission through you. You will experience far more of God’s best when you focus on His agenda.

3) Always take action-no matter how small the step may be-in the direction God is leading. Paul’s first trip was not really that far from his ancestral home in Tarsus. But that first trip expanded his capacity for more. When the door opens-go through it. Leave the extent of the blessing to Jesus. Just be obedient in the small steps and He will likely broaden your path in the future.


When we fast and pray we put more spiritual “octane” on our service and ministry to the Lord. Fasting and prayer boosts the intensity of everything we do for Jesus. In addition, fasting and prayer helps us recognize the open doors God places before us. Why wouldn’t we want all of this?

If you have rarely or never fasted before, seek some practical guidance, start from where you are, then pray and believe.  Ask God to use you as never before as the doors begin to open!




The miracles accomplished in Scripture were often directly related to fasting. One of the most remarkable examples is found in the biblical story of Esther. When the entire Jewish race was facing genocide, Esther called the Jewish people to a 3 day fast (Esther 4:16).

The results were incredible and the Jewish people were saved from extinction almost 500 years before the birth of Jesus. Every year the Jewish people still celebrate the miracle of deliverance described in the book of Esther. The festival is called Purim which involves gift giving, parties, and good food preceded by a day of fasting. Purim is March 11-12 this year. This is a great time to be reminded that God-through fasting and prayer- can change our problems into praises.

While Christians do not traditionally celebrate Purim, the miracle detailed in Esther is part of our spiritual history too, and we should recognize the power of fasting and prayer to change the direction of problems that appear insurmountable. When life looks out of control it’s time to fast and pray.

Actions in the story of Esther saved the Jewish people. How? There are two principles taught in Esther’s story that can still be true in your story.

1) The first principle almost has to be practiced to be believed. Fasting creates a culture of change. In Esther 4:14-17, Esther had become the Queen while keeping her Jewish religion confidential. Meanwhile, a law had been passsed to kill every Jew. One of her relatives-Mordecai- gets Word to her secretly to do whatever she can to stop the killing of her people. Although she was the Queen, she had no real power or authority. She needed a miracle because the law was out of her hands and circumstances were out of her control. So what did she do? She called a 3 day fast. “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)

Scripture is clear. It was the fast that triggered the change in circumstances that eventually led to the reversal of the evil planned against God’s people. Fasting always creates a climate for change.

Are there circumstances in your personal life or in your family that appear to be out of your control? Perhaps they are out of your control but nothing is outside of God’s control. He still changes things that seem to be unchangeable. Individuals, families, cities and nations can still be changed by the power of God when His people fast and pray.


I have also noticed when I fast and pray the will of God seems clearer and God often surprises me with the unexpected. Perhaps it’s because my faith is more acute during a fast, and my spirit is more receptive to what God is already doing all the time. Lisa Bevere insightfully recognized this phenomenon when she said, “A diet changes the way you look. A fast changes the way you see.” Is it time for you to see your problems differently? Try fasting and prayer.


God can change your problems or He can change the way you recognize His solutions, but either way fasting and prayer always creates change.

2) The second principle found in the miracle of Esther is needed as much today as it was back then. Fasting creates the courage for change.

Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)

Some problems back us into a corner where we see no way out unless God intervenes. Esther was in that kind of dilemma. She had one option and if it failed she could have been executed. It was the 3 day fast that emboldened her to take the risk. She said, “…hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)

The culture of fasting always activates the courage for change. A few years ago I did a long fast in order to deepen my walk with God. During those days the Lord did a strong work in my life in which He challenged me. Honestly, at times I didn’t understand why the Lord was dealing with me in a way which at the time seemed severe. But the next few years required a spiritual resolve on my part that was developed as I had persevered through that difficult time of testing and correction, during the long fast. I have always believed since that I could not have faced the challenges of some hard years had I not gone through “the refiners fire” of the fast. God knows what we need before we need it and before we know it! Fasting develops spiritual courage and motivates us to take action even when there is risk involved.

Do you need a burst of spiritual courage to take action on your convictions? If so, fast and pray and watch God work in your life.

As we fast and pray for 40 days there’s still plenty of time for you to join us. Sign up for a day or more and expect God to take action in your personal life, in your family, and in the world around you. Expect the unexpected because when you do, change is on the way!

Sign up at hpbc.org/40days




A group of pastors in Austin, Texas believe God can change one of America’s most secular cities. They are calling for 40 days of prayer and fasting for the Greater Austin area.

How would it happen? What difference would it make? Why now? Who else is doing it?

The Unceasing Prayer Movement in Austin, Texas was meeting for prayer and planning when Will Davis, Jr announced he thought calling a 40 day fast would be the right thing to do. Immediately everyone wasn’t so sure, but after praying about it, the rest of us agreed. Therefore, we are calling on Christians everywhere in the Austin area to join us.

Fasting and prayer always precedes breakthrough. Consider the biblical examples.

Moses experienced breakthrough on Mt Sinai during a 40 day fast when God suddenly and personally engraved the 10 Commandments onto two stone tablets.

Elijah was defeated, discouraged, disillusioned, and ready to die. But, near the end of a 40 day fast, God appeared to him, spoke to him, and recommissioned the prophet for some of his most effective ministry yet.

Daniel fasted 21 days and received a vision of the coming Messiah and the end of time.

Ezra called an entire people group to a 3 day fast to seek God’s physical protection for a long journey across a dangerous desert. It was granted. God heard their prayer and kept them safe.

Jesus began His public ministry in a 40 day fast gaining victory over the enemy. Nothing about Jesus’ life was ever the same again.

The early church was fasting and praying when the Holy Spirit intervened and sent Paul and Barnabas on the first mission trip to win Gentiles to Christ. That single action changed history.

In biblical examples and in personal experiences we note that big breakthroughs follow periods of fasting and prayer. What breakthrough have you been hoping for? img_1400

We do not expect everyone to personally fast for 40 days (although some may choose to do so). We are encouraging a “relay fast” where Churches sign up as many as possible to fast and pray for spiritual breakthrough in our families, our churches, and especially our city. This fast is for spiritual awakening in our hearts, in our homes, and for our City.

Some may fast only 1 day per week. Some may block out a few days or week for fasting and prayer. Whatever we do we want to do it together so that someone is fasting and praying everyday and night during the 40 days. You can sign up for a day- or as many days as you want- at hpbc.org/40days. You will find practical guidelines there too!

Fasting is refraining from food for a period of time to feed your soul on God’s Word and prayer. The Greek word for fast would be translated literally “no eat.” In Hebrew, the word fast translates the ancient word meaning literally, “shut mouth.” That’s pretty clear!

If you’ve never fasted before you might start with half a day by fasting through breakfast and lunch eating nothing until the evening meal. Or, you may fast 24 hours. Either way, avoid any solid food or dairy, and all sugary drinks. Instead, drink water and 100 % fruit juice. (If you’re a coffee drinker you might drink a cup to avoid headaches associated with suddenly stopping coffee.)

If you take a medication that requires you to eat, but you want to fast, eat only the minimum needed to take the meds and spend more time worshipping God through prayer. You can do this.

Throughout the 40 days, keep your focus on God, being obedient to His Word, and especially pray, pray, and pray some more. You’re not alone. I will be writing frequently to encourage you on the journey.

Hundreds of other Christians are fasting with you. Don’t lose hope- this is how breakthroughs happen!