Sermon Illustrations

God Answers the Persistent Prayers of a Father and a Congregation for a Wayward Daughter

You never know what effect your prayers are having or what catastrophe you are preventing in the lives you are accountable for. In his book, “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire”, Jim Cymbala tells the story of his wayward daughter, Chrissy. I want to read you an edited portion of that story.

[O]ne November, I was alone in Florida when I received a call from a minister whom I had persuaded Chrissy to talk to. “ Jim,” he said, “ I love you and your wife, but the truth of the matter is , Chrissy’s going to do what Chrissy’s going to do. You don’t really have much choice, now that she’s eighteen. She’s determined. You’re going to have to accept whatever she decides.”

I hung up the phone. Something very deep within me began to cry out. “Never! I will never accept Chrissy being away from you, Lord!” I knew that if she continued on the present path, there would be nothing but destruction awaiting her.

… God strongly impressed me to stop crying, screaming, or talking to anyone else about Chrissy. I was to converse with no one but God. In fact, I knew I should have no further contact with Chrissy- until God acted! I was just to believe and obey what I had preached so often “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will answer you.”

… I began to pray with an intensity and growing faith as never before. Whatever bad news I would receive about Chrissy, I kept interceding and actually began praising God for what I knew he would do soon. I made no attempts to see her. ...

February came. One cold Tuesday night during the prayer meeting, I talked from Acts 4 about the church boldly calling on God in the face of persecution. We entered into a time of prayer, everyone reaching out to the Lord simultaneously.

An usher handed me a note. A young woman whom I felt to be spiritually sensitive had written: “Pastor Cymbala, I feel impressed that we should stop the meeting and all pray for your daughter.”

I hesitated. Was it right to change the flow of the service and focus on my personal need?

Yet something in the note seemed to ring true. In a few minutes I picked up a microphone and told the congregation what had just happened. “The truth of the matter, although I haven’t talked much about it, is that my daughter is very far from God these days. She thinks up is down, and down is up; dark is light, and light is dark. But I know God can break through to her, and so I’m going to ask Pastor Boekstaaf to lead us in praying for Chrissy. Let’s all join hands across the sanctuary.” As my associate began to lead the people, I stood behind him with my hand on his back. My tear ducts had ran dry, but I prayed as best I knew.

… Thirty-two hours later, on Thursday morning as I was shaving, Carol suddenly burst through the door, her eyes wide. “Go downstairs!” she blurted. “Chrissy’s here.”

“Chrissy’s here?”

“Yes! Go down!”

“But Carol-I”

“Just go down,” She urged. “It’s you she wants to see.”

I wiped off the shaving foam and headed down the stairs, my heart pounding. As I came around the corner, I saw my daughter on the kitchen floor, rocking on her hands and knees, sobbing. Cautiously I spoke her name:


She grabbed my pant leg and began pouring out her anguish. “Daddy-Daddy-I’ve sinned against God. I’ve sinned against myself. I’ve sinned against you and Mommy. Please forgive me.”

My vision was as clouded by tears as hers. I pulled her up from the floor and held her close as we cried together.

Suddenly she drew back. “Daddy,” she said with a start, “who was praying for me? …

“What do you mean, Chrissy?”

“On Tuesday night, Daddy, who was praying for me?” I didn’t say anything, so she continued: “In the middle of the night, God woke me and showed me I was heading toward this abyss. There was no bottom to it-it scared me to death. I was so frightened. I realized how hard I’ve been, how wrong, how rebellious. But at the same time, it was like God wrapped his arms around me and held me tight. He kept me from sliding any further as he said, ‘I still love you.’” …

I looked into her bloodshot eyes, and once again I recognized the daughter we had raised. (pp. 62-65)

From a sermon by Ken Pell, A Kingdom of Priests (Part 2): Standing in the Gap, 6/21/2010

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