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Here’s a great story about the power of prayer, taken from John Ortberg’s book:  “If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” (p. 91-93).  I thought it was too good not to share.

One of my favorite adventures in prayer involves Doug Coe, who has a ministry in Washington, D.C., that mostly involves people in politics and statecraft. Doug because acquainted with Bob, an insurance salesman who was completely unconnected with any government circles. Bob became a Christian and began to meet with Doug to learn about his new faith.

One day, Bob came in all excited about a statement in the Bible where Jesus says, “Ask whatever you will in my name, and you shall receive it.”

“Is that really true?” Bob demanded.

Doug explained, “Well, it’s not a blank check. You have to take it in context of the teachings of the whole Scripture on prayer. But yes—it really is true. Jesus really does answer prayer.”

“Great!” Bob said. “Then I gotta start praying for something. I think I’ll pray for Africa.”

“That’s kind of a broad target. Why don’t you narrow it down to one country?” Doug advised.

“All right. I’ll pray for Kenya.”

“Do you know anyone in Kenya?” Doug asked.


“Ever been to Kenya?”

“No.”   Bob just wanted to pray for Kenya.  So Doug made an unusual arrangement. He challenged Bob to pray every day for six months for Kenya. If Bob would do that and nothing extraordinary happened, Doug would pay him five hundred dollars. But if something remarkable did happen, Bob would pay Doug five hundred dollars. And if Bob did not pray every day, the whole deal was off. It was a pretty unusual prayer program, but then Doug is a creative guy.

Bob began to pray, and for a long while nothing happened. Then one night he was at a dinner in Washington. The people around the table explained what they did for a living. One woman said she helped run an orphanage in Kenya—the largest of its kind.  Bob saw five hundred dollars suddenly sprout wings and begin to fly away. But he could not keep quiet. Bob roared to life. He had not said much up to this point, and now he pounded her relentlessly with question after question.

“You’re obviously very interested in my country,” the woman said to Bob, overwhelmed by his sudden barrage of questions. “You’ve been to Kenya before?”


“You know someone in Kenya?”


“Then how do you happen to be so curious?”

“Well, someone is kind of paying me five hundred dollars to pray…”

She asked Bob if he would like to come visit Kenya and tour the orphanage. Bob was so eager to go, he would have left that very night if he could.  When Bob arrived in Kenya, he was appalled by the poverty and the lack of basic health care. Upon returning to Washington, he couldn’t get this place out of his mind. He began to write to large pharmaceutical companies, describing to them the vast need he had seen. He reminded them that every year they would throw away large amounts of medical supplies that went unsold.

“Why not send them to this place in Kenya?” he asked.   And some of them did. This orphanage received more than a million dollars’ worth of medical supplies.

The woman called Bob up and said, “Bob, this is amazing! We’ve had the most phenomenal gifts because of the letters you wrote. We would like to fly you back over and have a big party. Will you come?”

So Bob flew back to Kenya. While he was there, the president of Kenya came to the celebration, because it was the largest orphanage in the country, and offered to take Bob on a tour of Nairobi, the Capital city. In the course of the tour they saw a prison. Bob asked about a group of prisoners there.

“They’re political prisoners,” he was told.

“That’s a bad idea,” Bob said brightly. “You should let them out.”

Bob finished the tour and flew back home. Sometime later, Bob received a phone call from the State Department of the United States government:

“Is this Bob?”


“Were you recently in Kenya?”


“Did you make any statements to the president about political prisoners?”


“What did you say?”

“I told him he should let them out.”

The State Department official explained that the department had been working for years to get the release of these prisoners, to no avail. Normal diplomatic channels and political maneuverings had led to a dead end. But now the prisoners had been released, and the State Department was told it had been largely because of…Bob. So the government was calling to say thanks.

Several months later, the president of Kenya made a phone call to Bob. He was going to rearrange his government and select a new cabinet. Would Bob be willing to fly over and pray for him for three days while he worked on this very important task?

So Bob—who was not politically connected at all—boarded a plane once more and flew back to Kenya, where he prayed and asked God to give wisdom for the leader of the nation as he selected his government. All this happened because one man got out of the boat.

How about you? What are you praying for? Give it six months. I’ll make you a deal—I’ll give you the Bob Challenge. If you pray every day for six months and nothing extraordinary happens, write me. I won’t promise you five hundred dollars, but I will give you a refund on the cost of this book. To the contrary, if something extraordinary does happen, you have to write and tell me about it.

Walking on the water is not about some great thing you will do. In fact, by yourself you can do nothing of lasting value. It is about what God longs to do with you by his power and grace. But first you have to get your feet wet.

Now that I’ve been inspired by this story,  I will be praying for my compilation on Violence and Abuse, and my blog to make a difference in the world.

What will you be praying for?  To post your comments, click on the title (above), then scroll down to the end of the page.