It was 1872, and D. L. Moody decided to go to England for a time of learning from the great English preachers of that day. He had decided to merely sit and listen, and not do any ministry of his own.
One pastor named John Lessey, upon hearing that Moody was in town, begged him to preach in his pulpit on both Sunday morning and Sunday night. Reluctantly, Moody accepted the request of this pastor of a medium-sized congregation in London.
The morning sermon did not go well.
The people were not responsive. They were bored and didn’t want to be there.
Moody, although disinclined to preach in the evening because of the incredible apathy he witnessed in the morning, decided to go ahead and keep his word.
This time it was a whole different story. He said that when he began to preach for the evening service there was a different vibe entirely. People were on the edge of their seats. They were listening carefully, and some were even getting emotional.
At the end of the service he decided to ask those who wanted to commit their lives to Christ and to join the Church to stand up so he could pray for them. Many stood up. Shocked, and confused, Moody told them to sit back down. He started preaching the Gospel again thinking that the first time he must have kept something out. Boldly, he called them to repentance and trust in Christ and Him alone, with more clarity than before. So again he asked for anyone interested. Stunningly, even more than before stood up.
Moody, still incredulous, based on the fact that these same people seemed to want to throw tomatoes at him only hours earlier, closed the service and told the crowd that if anyone wanted to come to Christ, he and the pastor would meet them in a different room after the service.
When he walked in, the room was full. After asking the people to sit he went on to preach for a few minutes, explaining the Gospel yet again. He closed out the time by telling them that the pastor would hold a prayer meeting the next night, and if they wanted to join the Church to return the next day.
Moody left London to get on a boat to go to Ireland, and on the Tuesday he arrived he was given an urgent telegram. In it Pastor Lessey told Moody that several more people showed up to the prayer meeting and urged him to return to London. After 10 days of incredible ministry in London where upwards of 400 people joined the church in membership, Moody was convinced that something unusual happened there.
He started to play detective, convinced that someone had prayed for him, and began trying to find out what happened that Sunday.
His investigation led him to a little hospital where Marianne Adlard was staying. She was a member of the Church where Moody had preached. She had missed that Sunday morning because of her condition and one of her fellow members was visiting her in the hospital. While the lady was telling her about the service, she mentioned that Moody had preached that morning.
Marianne had known about Moody for a couple of years. She had read about his incredible work with children in Chicago. So, she started praying for him. In fact, she had often prayed that one day he would come to preach in London.
After finding out that he had preached in her church, instead of eating her lunch she fasted and prayed all afternoon that the Lord would use Moody that evening in her old place of worship. The Lord listened to the faithful prayers of a young, sick lady, and answered in a big way.
Moody went on to preach to millions of people and the Lord used him mightily to save and add many to the church. But his confidence in ministry only grew through that experience as he had a perseverant, little lady who had vowed to continue praying for him until the day one of them died.
It’s easy to go through ministry without thinking about prayer, and the way God uses it to accomplish His will. Sometimes we preach several times a month, sharing the gospel with dozens of people and yet we do it on our own strength without people praying for us.
I pray that this story would serve as a reminder that it doesn’t matter how famous or how talented a preacher may be unless the Lord works.
I pray that if you feel insignificant, or not respected, that you would like Marianne, have an audience of One, and that you would pray fervently, expecting the Lord to use your prayers to bring many to the Lord.
And I encourage you to not only be praying fervently for yourself to be used by God, but for your pastor, who works hard to preach the truth, but who is powerless unless the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of those to whom he ministers.
[HT: The main source for this story A Passion For Souls, Lyle Dorsett]