Collection 176 [April 17, 2001]
National Prayer Congress, Dallas, Texas; 1976
Tapes of Addresses; 1976
16 Reels of Audio Tape
There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.
The National Prayer Congress was a call to Christians in America to "turn to God in repentance and prayer for our nation." The Congress convened in Dallas, Texas, October 26-29, 1976, to hear addresses from thirty-two prominent Evangelical leaders. (See Scope and Content Note.)
Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ was the active force in bringing the Congress to fruition. As he put it, "As far as I have any knowledge, there has been no great prayer Congress of this kind since Pentecost." It was perhaps not an accident that this Congress convened in the nation's bicentennial year, when patriotic fervor was high. It was also not unique in equating patriotism with Christian commitment. Six weeks earlier, on September 17, 1976, 700-Club host Pat Robertson emceed the Christian Broadcasting Network television special "It's Time to Pray, America." This program called for Christians in America to unite for forty days in intercessory prayer that God would bring a spiritual and moral rebirth "to our beloved land." The fortieth day of this vigil fell on the opening day of the National Prayer Congress at Dallas.
The closing day of the Dallas Congress was also the first day of a twenty-four-hour "Call to Prayer and Fasting," spanning the night of October 29-30. This was sponsored by "Food for the Hungry" and urged America to pray and fast for the impoverished of the world. Like the Dallas Congress, it took as its theme II Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, which are called by me name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
The thirty-two speakers were each assigned a topic--a facet of prayer. Their addresses ranged in length from twenty to forty-five minutes; each message was followed by a time for prayer. The overriding theme of the Congress was to seek God's favor on America. To this end, the addresses were to speak to a concern for the well-being of the church, and to the concept of church unity (not to say ecumenism), and were also to fan the fires of "revival sweeping the country."
The Congress was viewed not as an end, but rather as a beginning. It was hoped that films, videotapes, and audiotapes of the addresses would be used across America to foster local prayer efforts. Attendance at the Congress itself fell far short of the anticipated number.
Scope and Content
This collection consists of a radio documentary on the National Prayer Congress, and tapes of thirty addresses presented at the Congress. There were thirty-two scheduled speakers; this collection does not include speeches by participants Charles L. Allen, pastor of First Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, or Thomas F. Zimmerman, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God denomination, as neither of these men were able to attend the Congress.
Tape 1 is the half-hour radio documentary, prepared some time after the Congress. It reports that videotapes and films of addresses were being edited for release to local areas; however, the tapes of addresses in this collection appear to be the complete texts. Tapes 2 through 16 contain the thirty speeches, two per tape, both on the same side. Introductions to the speakers are lacking, and there is no verbal indication per se as to who is speaking. Most of the addresses, in fact, seem to have been a minute or two underway when the recorder was turned on.
These tapes were transferred to the Center in August, 1980, from the Wheaton College Archives.
May 20, 1981
Galen R. Wilson
Type of material: Audio Tapes
The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE. Request by the T# at the beginning of each entry below.
T1 - Reel-to-reel, 7-1/2 ips speed, approximately 30 minutes. One side.
This tape includes a 60-second radio promotional spot advertisement for the half-hour radio program documenting the Congress. The rest of the tape is the documentary, produced for radio by World Religious News, and narrated by Cathy Osbeck. The program gave the reasons why the Congress was held, including the overriding theme: "To call all Christians to pray for America." It featured a recording of Congress participant Jimmy Owens' musical setting of II Chronicles 7:14, and spots in which many of the speakers at the Congress told about it. Some of these spots were excerpts from their addresses, others were from interviews recording their reflections on the Congress. The spots follow in this order: Harold Fickett, Ed Hill, Jimmy Owens, Billy Graham, Willie Richardson, Bill Bright, Robert Bowman, Frank Barker, Corrie ten Boom, Lloyd Ogilvie, Harold Fickett, Louis Evans Sr., Willie Richardson, Howard Hendricks, Pat Robertson, Frank Barker, Paul Eshelman, Charles Colson, J. Edwin Orr, Rex Humbard, Vonette Bright, Pat Boone, W. A. Criswell, Paul Toms, Howard Hendricks, Bill Bright, Corrie ten Boom.
T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 47 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by Harold L. Fickett (President, Barrington College, Rhode Island) entitled "You Have Not Because..." (22:19 minutes). The thrust of this address was that unconfessed sin in our lives blocks out God's hearing our prayers. We must examine our own lives and rid ourselves of sin and guilt--then God will listen. Introspection produces confession which produces forgiveness and spiritual renewal: this was the formula he advocated. America, Fickett said, was not going to experience spiritual renewal until it got on its knees and confessed with a contrite heart.
Side B: Message by Paul Toms (pastor of Park Street Church, Boston) entitled "Church Prayer Meeting" (24:25 minutes). Toms claimed, "Spiritual exaltation does not take place in a vacuum of any sort," especially where prayer is concerned. He emphasized the importance of united prayer as well as personal prayer. He cited prayerlessness as a great Christian failure, which produced a lack of impressiveness in our witness--powerful but impotent, reasonable yet unconvincing. He quoted poet/musician Sidney Lanier on this subject of our "split personality" which could be corrected by plugging in to God's power via prayer.
T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 51 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by Rex Humbard (pastor of the Cathedral of Tomorrow, Akron, Ohio) entitled "Prayer Without Ceasing" (22:34 minutes). "Prayer puts God to work for you," stated Humbard. He urged listeners to pray "in this crucial day." The majority of his message was spent in describing the urgency of the present day where "the fields are white for harvest"; pray for the harvest and for the workers who will do the harvesting. At heart, this was a plea for world missions and evangelism. In this address, Humbard revealed his belief in a literal reckoning of year in the Genesis timetable, arriving at creation ca. 4000 B.C. Humbard closed by urging listeners to make their entire lives into prayers, after which they could truly "pray without ceasing."
Side B: Message by Jack McAlister (World Literature Crusade) entitled "Prayer and World Evangelism" (28:26 minutes). McAlister described the usual church response to the urgent message of Matthew 9:37, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few": take up an offering! He suggested, rather, mobilization for world evangelism by prayer. He quoted Winston Churchill's definition of a fanatic as someone who "cannot change his mind and will not change the subject," and challenged listeners to become prayer fanatics. McAlister shared his burden for China, and its generation of unevangelized people. He quoted Isaiah's "Their walls are ever before me" as being a reference to China, and used this as his theme to request prayer for China, claiming that prayer is of more impact than dollars in world evangelization.
T4 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 49 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by W. A. Criswell (pastor, First Baptist, Dallas; author) entitled "Spiritual Warfare" (19:31 minutes). This might possibly have been the keynote address to the Congress. It was an emotionally-charged, passionate message, citing the Congress as the first national convocation of prayer in the U. S. history, and asking God to aid America in this time of "desperate trials." Criswell paralleled U. S. history with that of Great Britain, pointing out the decay of the latter and ascribing it to a "secular, materialistic and pagan" populace. He described New York's Times Square as it was a generation ago and as it was in 1976, and called for a great revival in America. He said "America cannot live in drunkenness and debauchery and desecration. It is still in that holy and heavenly book, 'The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.'"
Side B: Message by Cliff Barrows and Billy Graham (28:52 minutes). Graham had permitted his name to be used in the Congress publicity, promising to be there if able. As it happened, he could not be there, but sent a taped message. Barrows was present, introduced Graham's tape, and spoke for a few minutes at the conclusion of Graham's address. Graham's message centered on the primary importance of prayer conferences to revivals, briefly sketching out the history of American revivalism to illustrate this point. He discussed the rise of Evangelicalism and the resurgence of Christianity in U. S. life, quoting from a Gallup poll in Time magazine October 4, 1976. (This resurgence was touched off by the Presidential candidacy in 1976 of Jimmy Carter, who had early in the campaign witnessed for his faith in Christ.) Graham pointed out that a rise in Christian interest had also ignited a Satan-powered backlash of sin, scandal and corruption, and quoted deceased Evangelical pastors V. Raymond Edman and Clarence McCartney on this issue. Satan, Graham asserted, wants above all to sow discord among Christians. He alluded to recent problems between the BGEA and Campus Crusade for Christ, admitting that there had been misunderstandings, but claimed there was no "split" in the secular sense. Misunderstandings rise from the diversity of the Spirit's gifts. He pledged his support to Campus Crusade with, "I love Bill Bright." Graham stressed the need for unity, so that corporate prayer could have power. Looking ahead to the presidential election, he warned against the potential divisiveness of a situation where Evangelicals were being called into the public arena to be quoted, misquoted, etc. He urged Christians to stay united in the common mission of saving souls, and to let unimportant differences go.
T5 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 48 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by Willie Richardson (pastor, Christian Stronghold Baptist Church, Philadelphia) entitled "Intercessory Prayer" (23:16 minutes). Richardson claimed that two things are necessary for intercessory prayer: the love of God and love for our fellow men--even enemies. He used examples of Christ's praying for others, Stephen's prayers for his murderers, and William Tyndale's prayers for King Henry VIII who was sending him to his death. Aside from the topic of intercessory prayer, Richardson spent some time preaching on the value of children.
Side B: Message by Bruce Cook ("Here's Life America") entitled "Community Prayer Groups" (24:07 minutes). Cook pointed out the difference between the "prayer of hope" and the "prayer of faith": the former is paralyzed by doubt, while the latter expects to be answered. In this message, he talked about Campus Crusade's program, Here's Life America, and how it had managed through prayers of faith to foster indigenously-led prayer crusades in 145 U. S. cities. He told a personal episode of some years earlier trying to sell Here's Life America to a man also a speaker at the Congress, Charles Stanley. The three characteristics of a prayer of faith are an excitement about the things not yet seen, visualization of the task completed, and action on the basis that God is doing His part.
T6 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 46 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by James Kennedy (pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian, Fort Lauderdale, Florida) entitled "Prayer and the World Crisis" (23:26 minutes). Kennedy based his thoughts on the words of a modern day "secular prophet," Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who had recently escaped from the Soviet Union in 1976. Solzhenitsyn inferred that the West was on the verge of collapse at its own hands. Kennedy's question to this was, will this catapult America into prayer? He quoted Ruth Bell Graham, "If God does not chasten America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah...unless there is a repentance...." Kennedy gave a short recap of sixty years of Soviet history, spelling dire warnings for the U. S., especially criticizing the current policy of detente. He ended with a four-fold way of averting crisis: (1) recognize the extent and seriousness of the national problem; (2) recognize that it is the result of forgetting God's commandments; (3) pray for selves and enemies, (4) repent of failure to witness, and change actions accordingly.
Side B: Message by B. Clayton Bell (pastor, Highland Park Presbyterian, Dallas, brother of Ruth Bell Graham) entitled "The Man Who Prays" (22:28 minutes). The central figure of this address was King David and the text, Psalm 25. In what was essentially a Bible study, Bell made the points that the man of prayer knows (1) in which direction to seek help in crisis, (2) that obedience is the purpose of prayer, (3) that God's grace, not works, is the basis of prayer, and (4) that there are both hope and a future inherent in prayer. Looking to current politics, he stressed that it is more important that America as a nation be right with God than that she have the "right" men in public office.
T7 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 70 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by Corrie ten Boom (evangelist and survivor of concentration camps) entitled "Lonely Place" (44:32 minutes). This speech concerned personal prayer, during which time Christians can talk to God about others. Prayer, pursued in a right relationship to God, is artillery against the enemy. Miss ten Boom spent a good portion of this address on her experiences in the concentration camps of World War II Germany, experiences in which prayer offered for others played significant roles.
Side B: Message by Paul Eshelman (Field Director, Campus Crusade for Christ) entitled "Praying Scripture" (25:20 minutes). This address did not concern Christians' incorporating Scripture passages into their prayers, as might be supposed, but rather Christians' claiming of Scripture promises about prayer. Eshelman quoted missionaries Adoniram Judson and Hudson Taylor and World Vision Magazine editor Frank Farrell, all on the topic of prayer. He stressed the importance of praying specifically, because specific prayers are specifically answered.
T8 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 61 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by J. Edwin Orr (professor, School of World Missions, Pasadena) entitled "Rule of Prayer" (25:28 minutes). Orr's message was in large part a history lecture illustrating the importance of "concerted, united sustained prayer." Citing times in America's history from the Great Awakening and the Revolution Era, to the era of Moody's evangelism to Kenneth Scott Latourette and others' work for revival in the twentieth century, Orr traced the input of prayer into revival. Unlike most other participants at the Congress, Orr believed that in 1976 the U. S. had not yet approached a level of earnest seeking in prayer to bring about a large-scale revival. But he pointed out that the process of prayer culminating in a real revival was as viable in 1976 as it ever had been.
Side B: Message by Bill Bright (founder and president, Campus Crusade for Christ) entitled "Prayer Can Save America" (35:21 minutes). Bright opened with a recap of all the agony in America's history that might have been averted had those involved known to pray, and how to pray. Prayer is the most important thing a person can do...and yet it is nearly the last resource to which they turn. He gave the history of twenty-five years of Campus Crusade, and the role of prayer in it. His address was primarily case studies, proving the efficacy of prayer. He stressed that, as in the past, prayer would do more to save "this nation" than anything else.
T9 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 47 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by Ben Armstrong (Executive Secretary, National Religious Broadcasters) entitled "Praying for the Media" (23:15 minutes). Armstrong argued the importance of praying for the media, both sacred and secular, even though the latter may seem to be the Christian's enemy at times. He quoted Billy Graham's comment made at the 1970 International Congress on World Evangelization, that after watching a newscast, he and his family prayed for the individuals on the news and for those reporting it. Armstrong stressed the necessity of prayer in the high-pressured life of a religious broadcaster, commenting that some claimed a Christian could not survive in secular broadcasting at all. He gave a capsule history of the "Electric Church" from 1921 when KDKA radio in Pittsburgh broadcast a church service, and pointed to this "Electric Church" as God's agent for twentieth century evangelism.
Side B: Message by Billy Melvin (Executive Director, National Association of Evangelicals) entitled "Praying in One Accord" (23:11 minutes). In this address on the unity of a church body being prerequisite to successful public prayer, Melvin drew his text from Ephesians 4. He gave a synopsis of the church at Ephesus, and discussed the relationship of believers as seen in this congregation. He arrived at three major truths: the oneness of the body, the diversity of gifts within the body for purposes of strengthening it, and the priority of love within the body.
T10 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 48 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by Pat Boone (entertainer) entitled "Singing and Speaking" (26:58 minutes). In this rambling series of anecdotes and personal remembrances of answered prayer, Boone sought to illustrate the fact that when Christians pray, God listens. He examined the Lord's Prayer; played a tape of Frank Borman of the Apollo 8 astronaut crew reading Genesis 1 from space on Christmas, 1968, and ended in leading congregational singing of "God Bless America."
Side B: Message by Pat Robertson (host of the 700 Club) entitled "Benefits of Mass Prayer" (20:47 minutes). Robertson claimed that the men theoretically in power by worldly standards are not really so powerful as the intercessory pray-er. He looked ahead to necessary judgment that must fall on America for its sins, but pointed out that God could and would be moved by corporate prayer--in the family unit, in the classic "two or three gathered together," in any Christian prayer group. Christian prayer added to Christian prayer multiplies the results.
T11 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 49 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by Vonette Bright (Director of Great Commission Prayer Crusade and wife of Bill Bright) entitled "Praying Strategically" (20:35 minutes). Mrs. Bright's address was mainly personal reminiscences of times when prayer had significant consequences, especially during a flash flood in Colorado. She stressed the importance of praying about everything, for trusting in small matters makes it possible to trust God in large matters. Praying strategically implied praying specifically--that Christians name in prayer particular persons, decisions, etc. She advised keeping notes on prayer requests and the answers, citing a Rolodex file as an ideal medium.
Side B: Message by Charles Colson (former Special Council to President Nixon, worker with Prison Fellowship) entitled "Prayers for Those in Authority" (27:57 minutes). Colson did not discuss "praying for those in authority" until his closing remarks, in which he added a quick plea to his listeners for those prayers. The text of his address was concerned with reflections on his role in the Richard Nixon administration, on the secular media's assumption that the National Prayer Conference had political overtones, on the alleged Billy Graham-Bill Bright rift, and on the history of revivalism in America. Included in his anecdotes were Iowa Senator Harold Hughes, ex-radical Eldridge Cleaver, and a Mississippi Ku Klux Klan leader.
T12 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 50 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by Lloyd Ogilvie (pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood) entitled "Prayer Builds Fellowship" (24:57 minutes). Ogilvie described the purpose of fellowship as preparation for spiritual battle with the world. He cited the lessons of the Exodus, when God tried to teach Israel his adequacy for their needs against the world, and to teach not only their dependence upon him, but their interdependence upon each other. The relationship of this to prayer is that intercession is God's gift whereby Christians unlock blessings in prayers to God about each other. God seeks to draw them together into Him. Ogilvie stressed the importance of the "implosion" of intercessory prayer within a church or any praying body.
Side B: Message by Howard Hendricks (professor of Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary) entitled "The Family that Prays Together" (24:37 minutes). Hendricks began his talk by discussing the concept of the "seeking God" in quest of souls. Christianity does not fit into the definition of religion, "man's search for God," because Christianity is God's search for man. Christians grieve the Holy Spirit when they do not answer that seeking by their prayers. Hendricks ended encouraging parents to show their convictions through family prayer.
T13 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 50 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by E. V. Hill (pastor, Mt. Zion Church, Los Angeles) entitled "Priority of Prayer" (24:39 minutes). This address centered on keeping in touch with the fulcrum of a Christian's existence: Christ. Through an analogy, Hill exhibited how to keep one's attention tuned to Christ, who will guide constantly through prayer.
Side B: Message by Robert Bowman (president, Far East Christian Broadcasting) entitled "Prayer of Praise" (25:00 minutes). Bowman's emphasis was on the Psalter, where believers see a triple key of trust, praise, and thanksgiving. He examined figures of history who have managed to praise in plenty and in want, mainly want. It is especially difficult to be sincere in praising God in plenty, not to be trite and ritualistic. Bowman reflected on FECB's struggle to establish two powerful radio stations in Asia in the early 1970s and the role prayer played in that struggle.
T14 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 49 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by Samuel Coker (pastor, Grace United Methodist Church, Atlanta) entitled "Hindrances to Prayer" (22:55 minutes). Coker discussed prayer as one of the most powerful pieces of equipment Christians have, which also is one of the least used because people pray amiss. He pointed out that Christians must be ready to be used in implementing the answers to their prayers. Do they have the gall to say "God Bless America" and then do nothing about it?
Side B: Message by Harold J. Ockenga (president, Gordon-Conwell Seminary) entitled "Promises of Prayer" (25:20 minutes). This message focused its attention on the unique character of God's promises about prayer, which rest on the base of God's unfailing character, and of the unique claim that Christians have on these promises. Unlike human promises, God's depend on his perfect immutability and integrity, and therefore are wholly viable to and claimable by those who call upon Him rightly.
T15 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 50 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by Louis H. Evans (writer, lecturer, and retired Presbyterian clergyman) entitled "Listening to God" (24:27 minutes). Evans capitalized on the concept of prayer as dialogue between God and man, rather than a monologue by man to God. It is "impolite" to do all the talking. The pauses in our prayers might be the most important both in private and public; we should not be nervous about silence, but see it as God's opportunity to talk to us.
Side B: Message by Jimmy Owens (composer of "If My People Will Pray") entitled "Unity with Christ" (24:55 minutes). Owens addressed the topic of unity with specific regard to the church, and within congregations. He pointed out that Christ's prayer "that they all may be one" had a reason appended to it" "that the world may believe." Perhaps the church's worst sin is its inclination to fragment. He quoted "the late great Presbyterian Bible teacher," Donald Gray Barnhouse and others, on the topic of unity of Christians. He warned against Christians allowing themselves to be used as tools of Satan by spreading rumors and doing other things contrary to church unity.
T16 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 44 minutes. One side.
Side A: Message by Charles Stanley ("Here's Life America") entitled "Prayer that Moves Mountains" (23:45 minutes). Stanley defined a mountain as any circumstance, event, or tangible item that hinders Christians doing, being, accomplishing, or possessing the will of God. Mountains can be removed by God, but often remain because Christians despair, do not seek His aid, and continue to trust their earthly resources. It is a problem of unbelief in supernatural ability. Stanley's description of the mountain-moving prayer included four essentials: it is a prayer (1) of faith, (2) that is focused on God, not the mountain, (3) that does not lose heart, but is tenacious, and (4) that is fearless in approaching God with boldness, and in expecting an answer. He gave practical examples of the Here's Life America ministry and how it used prayer to dissolve obstacles.
Side B: Message by Frank M. Barker, Jr. (pastor, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Alabama) entitled "Prayers of Paul" (20:09 minutes). This address did not center so much on principles the apostle Paul laid down for prayer, as on what Paul prayed for and the elements of his praying. One major focus was Paul's prayer for his fellow Christians.