When I prayed to win 100,000 people to God before I die
"So Cornelius said, 'Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.' So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God" (Acts 10:30–33).
This was the beginning of a phenomenal moment in history. God used one man with a deep reverence for God, a gentile named Cornelius, to become the open door to the Gentile world. Up until this point, the Gospel was only for the Jew. Yet, suddenly, the door opened through one hungry heart. Cornelius could not take the Gospel to the Gentile world—it would have been foolish for him to try—but God could do it through him.
In the same way, when you are willing to open your heart to God's will, beginning with your own household, and then to your friends, neighbors, and even people in places you have never been, you will discover that there is no limit to what God can do through a hungry heart.
When I was young, I was very fearful, especially afraid of people in crowded rooms. I felt I had little to offer the kingdom of God, but I did have a hungry heart. I was walking the beat one day as a young cop, and I just started praying, "Lord, I want to win 100,000 people to You before I die." Then I began to be very specific in my prayer. "I don't want them to just be people who raise their hand in a service somewhere. I want them to be people who actually live for You and end up at Your throne. You will be able to look them in the eye and say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"
Now at this point, I had never preached a sermon. I had no ability to speak in public whatsoever. But I had a hungry heart, and I was willing to embrace the impossible. I said, "God, I am asking You to do something so far beyond me."
Fast-forward many years later to when I was standing in the fields of Nigeria, in the midst of a civil war. By local estimates, there were somewhere between 400,000 to 700,000 people gathered. You could not see an end to the crowd in any direction. I remember that first night preaching to nominal Christians and Muslims, and talking about the worthlessness of all religion that has no compassion for its neighbor. I asked people if they were willing to open their hearts to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and about 100,000 people raised their hands to receive Christ!
I went back to my hotel room, and it suddenly dawned on me that in one hour, God had answered a prayer I had prayed years ago when all I had was a hungry heart. I got down on my knees beside my bed to give God thanks, and the first thing He spoke to my heart was, "Carter, don't limit Me. Don't put boundaries around Me. There is no limit to what can be accomplished through a hungry heart!"
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus spoke to a particular church in Philadelphia, saying, "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name" (Revelation 3:8). In other words, "I know your heart hungers for Me; I know you want My presence in your life, and I have set before you an open door that no one can shut."
I feel God is speaking the same thing to somebody reading this today. "You only have a little strength, but you have kept My Word the best you knew how. You have tried to walk with Me, and you have not denied My name by allowing unbelief to grip your heart. You still believe that I can do what I say I will do. You still believe that all things are possible with Me. And so I have set before you an open door, and as you go through it, I will do something so powerful in and through you that people will have to acknowledge that I have loved you."
I encourage you to yield to God's plan for your life. You have no idea what He is willing to do through you. He has something in mind that is so much bigger than anything you ever thought your life could amount to. But it starts with a hungry heart, and then one little step of faith, and then another step. Just keep going through every door He opens, and He will give you His Word, His plan, and His Spirit. He will fill you with courage, and you will be amazed at the difference your life will make in this generation!
Carter Conlon is the General Overseer of Times Square Church, Inc. in Manhattan, and a speaker at the 2021 Promise Keepers Men’s Conference at AT&T Stadium.