The Exchanged-Life Prayer
People satisfied with where they are in life seldom aspire to
anything more. This is the reason why spiritual breakthroughs, when
traced back to their beginnings, characteristically start with a
deep-seated sense of dissatisfaction. So discontent can be a good thing
if channeled properly.
have spent a lifetime studying the topic of revivals—individual
revival, church revivals, national revivals. These amazing times of new
life, whether personal or corporate, begin with one person, or a
handful, saying, “If our God is as great as we say He is, how come
we’re living such a lowly existence?” It’s the barren-wife
syndrome—“God, I want children. Give me children or I die!”
you feel your spiritual life is less fruitful than it should be, I
believe the prayer I will talk about next has the potential of turning
things around for you.
I first read about this kind of
request or petition in the writings of Dr. V. Raymond Edman, who was
the president of Wheaton College back in my student days. For a long
time, what he was describing intimidated me. It doesn’t nearly as much
now. Prexy Edman called it “The Exchanged Life Prayer.”
I’d like to quote directly from a chapter in Edman’s book They Found the Secret,
where he describes the experience of Dr. Walter Wilson. I recall Wilson
speaking at college chapel in the late 1950s. Walter Wilson was a
medical doctor, and at the time he was also the president emeritus of
the Kansas City Bible College.
I pick up his story when Wilson was struggling in his Christian walk.
came January 14, 1914. Dr. James M. Gray, at that time a clergyman of
the Reformed Episcopal Church, and later the beloved and revered
president of Moody Bible Institute, was speaking in Kansas City on
Romans 12:1. [That text, as you probably know, reads:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your
bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your
spiritual act of worship.”]
over the pulpit, Dr. Gray said, "Have you noticed that this verse does
not tell us to whom we should give our bodies? It is not the Lord Jesus
who asks for it. He has His own body. It is not the Father who asks for
it. He remains upon His throne. Another has come to earth without a
body. God could have made a body for Him as He did for Jesus, but He
did not do so. God gives you the privilege and the indescribable honor
of presenting your bodies to the Holy Spirit, to be His dwelling place
on earth. If you have been washed in the blood of the Lamb then yours
is a holy body, washed whiter than snow, and will be accepted by the
Spirit when you give it. Will you do so now?”
the end of the service, Dr. Wilson … went to his own room. Utterly
heartbroken over his fruitless life, yet filled with a great hope
because of the message he had heard from a teacher in whom he had all
confidence, Dr. Wilson lay upon the carpet of his study, prostrate in
God’s presence. This is his testimony:
in the quiet of that late hour, I said to the Holy Spirit, ‘My Lord, I
have mistreated You all my Christian life. I have treated You like a
servant. When I wanted You I called for You; when I was about to engage
in some work I beckoned You to come and help me perform my task. I have
kept You in the place of a servant. I have sought to use You only as a
willing servant to help me in my self-appointed and chosen work. I
shall do so no more. Just now I give you this body of mine; from my
head to my feet, I give it to You. I give You my hands, my limbs, my
eyes and lips, my brain; all that I am within and without, I hand over
to You for You to live in it the life that You please. You may send
this body to Africa, or lay it on a bed with cancer. You may blind the
eyes, or send me with Your message to Tibet. You may take this body to
the Eskimos, or send it to a hospital with pneumonia. It is Your body
from this moment on. Help Yourself to it. Thank You, my Lord, I believe
you have accepted it, for in Romans twelve and one You said,
“acceptable unto God.” Thank You again, my Lord, for taking me. We now
belong to each other.’”
And what were the results of that surrender of body and appropriation of the fullness of the Holy Spirit?
very next morning two young ladies came to the office to sell
advertising, as they had done previously. Up to that time the doctor
had never spoken to them about the Lord Jesus because his lips had been
his own and he had used them for business purposes. Now that his lips
had been given away, the Holy Spirit was to use them; and He did so at
once. Out of a brief conversation and testimony to his visitors, Dr.
Wilson led both of them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. They
were the first fruits of a great harvest of souls that Dr. Wilson has
won for the Savior.
In another illustration Dr. Wilson tells of his being alone in the great city of New York.
he went out for a business appointment he had a prayer in his hotel
room, and requested: “My Lord, this is a large city of seven million
people, and I am just a weak, unknown servant of Thine with no
knowledge of the city and no acquaintance with the hungry hearts that
may be there. Thou alone dost know whom Thou has been dealing with.
Here is my body—my feet and my lips. Wilt Thou take them today to some
troubled heart and speak through me Thy Words of light and life? Thank
You, Lord, I believe you will do it.”
he walked eastward on Thirty-second Street he passed a stationery shop
and noticed a small leather-covered notebook in the window. This
brought to mind his need of a book in which to keep his prayer list.
Upon entering the shop he inquired of the little German owner about the
notebook. The size and the price were satisfactory; and the shopkeeper
began to wrap it up. Just then Dr. Wilson said, “Do you know what I
expect to do with this little book?”
storekeeper did not know, and was astonished to learn that it was to be
used as a prayer book. Thereupon he began to unwrap the package saying,
“I am sorry, my friend, but this is a blank book; it is not a prayer
was just the opening Dr. Wilson needed. He explained that he made his
own prayer book, using the left-hand pages for petitions and the
right-hand ones for the answers. Then he added his testimony of knowing
the Lord Jesus as his Savior, and invited the shopkeeper to do the same.
reply was not surprising. “Mister, I have tried to find God for many
years. I have gone about Manhattan and Brooklyn and the Bronx, night
after night, attending many services, but failed always to find God.
Can you tell me how to get to Him?”
explanation of the Scripture that the Lord Jesus is the Way, the Truth,
and the Life, Dr. Wilson led his new friend to the Savior. The quest of
the years had come to an end, for now the shopkeeper knew the Lord
Jesus for himself.
for the soul-winner only twenty minutes had elapsed from the prayer in
the hotel room to the winning of another soul to Christ, because the
life and lips of the servant belonged to the Holy Spirit.
you get the idea of what the exchanged-life is about. The exchange is
moving from treating God as our servant to help us perform our given tasks, to
giving the Holy Spirit full reign of our bodies to live in them the
life He pleases.
years I found this to be a scary prayer. I thought often about the
“exchanged-life,” but I wasn’t ready to make that kind of commitment.
The truth is, I was not sure God could be trusted.
I would go back and reread parts of Edman’s book, but for the longest
time I put off making that kind of prayer request. One of the reasons I
was hesitant was because of the very Walter Wilson’s soul-winning
illustrations I quoted. That kind of witnessing to strangers, or
friends, for that matter, was not something with which I was
Eventually I came up with the idea of seeing if
God would go for a one-day trial. To be on the safe side, I picked a
Sunday when I knew I would be around Christians for most of the day.
on a Saturday evening I prayed, “Tomorrow, Holy Spirit, I give You this
body to live in as You please—my lips, my hands, my legs and so on, are
Yours to use in whatever way You want. Of course, I’m trusting You not
to take advantage of this one-day offer to inform me that I now have
cancer, and there will be no available treatment because You’re also
sending me immediately to Zambia!” Hey, I readily admit it wasn’t all
that bold a prayer on my part.
did Sunday go? It turned out to be a rather good day. The only real
difference I noticed was that I felt more sensitive than normal to the
needs of others. At one point I was led to pray with a person at church
who talked about an immediate family need. I confess to an abnormal
nervousness through the day, but I also had this great peace that I was
living on a different plane than normal.
significant. As the day unfolded, I believe the Lord made it clear that
how He would use my offer would be markedly different from how He used
Walter Wilson’s. That was helpful.
When the day ended, I
talked to God during my normal prayer time and told Him I was open to
the exchange again on Monday. That second day I found more than normal
clarity regarding priorities. It was like there was a prompting saying
“deal with this first” and so on. Interruptions didn’t seem to annoy me
as much as usual. There were also what I would define as clear nudges
regarding phone calls to make, the proper attitude to be assumed,
routines to alter, words to say AND temptations to be instantly
shunned. These were not huge changes, but more like noticeable
fine-tunings, and I felt good about them.
time, now I would report that a great peace can be found through
praying daily the exchanged-life prayer. That great peace and
contentment is the exact opposite of where I began this talk. You
recall I referred to feeling spiritually discontented, falling short of
where we aspire to be spiritually, sensing you are missing out on
something better, but not being sure of what that is. That’s gone by
the wayside, and what’s replaced it is a noticeable calm, a greater
desire for quiet and more frequent times throughout the day to check
with God as to how I as His servant am doing, and an acceptance that He
is in charge of what’s going on in my life more than I am.
I know I have opened a large subject and not covered it adequately. For this I apologize. My key sentence states: A great peace can be found through praying daily the exchanged-life prayer. (Incidentally, the prayer is no longer intimidating to me.)
the Holy Spirit to live Christ’s life in us and through us does not
mean we will be perfect, only that we will come daily closer to
Christ-likeness. This prayer and its impact are a sure cure for
spiritual dryness. It can lead to an amazing state of spiritual renewal.
A great peace can be found through praying daily the exchanged-life prayer.
Dr. David R. Mains
Dr. David R. Mains
Since Karen is heading into a heavy writing schedule, she is gratefully sharing writing space in the Soulish Food
e-newsletter with her husband, David Mains. An inner-city church
planter, David was awarded an honorary doctorate from Roberts Wesleyan
for “his contributions to the life of the local church.” For 20 years,
David was the host on the radio show The Chapel of the Air, which broadcasted over 500 outlets daily. He also hosted the daily television show You Need to Know,
was the publisher for Mainstay Church Resources, and conducted some 137
yearly pastors’ conferences, training them in the use of the 50-Day
Spiritual Adventure, an all-church spiritual-growth tool he designed in
collaboration with pastors from across the country.
Good News for the Global Bag Project
have been given a gift of $650 to refresh the Global Bag Project Web
site in order to iron out some of the glitches that slow it down. This
is a direct answer to prayer! Mary Ogalo, our Global Bag Project
Manager in Kenya, e-mails that Salome, one of our bag-makers who came
down with malaria, is now doing better. This also is an answer to
So now we need help in the following ways...
Charity Plant Sale
Mains will be holding a charity plant sale at her home in West Chicago
on September 10, Saturday. ANY VOLUNTEER HELP this week will be greatly appreciated. If you
garden, you know this is work, but Karen’s garden has become prolific
and she has plenty to share. Proceeds will go toward defraying some of
the above costs to underwrite the Global Bag Project. Contact Karen
at email@example.com. Or leave a message on the office phone: 630-293-4500 (also for our address).
you would like to buy plants at bargain prices, this is the small
window in time where you can still transplant them and give them a
couple months to root before winter and freezing temperatures arrive.
Will You Hold a Pre-Christmas House Party?
year a house party with about 24 guests sold an average of $1200 of
bags. In the Chicago area, one of our team will conduct the party,
which takes about 1.5 hours from the short presentation through the
purchase of cotton, kanga-cloth reusable shopping bags made by artisan
seamstresses in Kenya. If you live elsewhere, we will ship a “Party in
a Box” with instructions for hosting, with a DVD that tells the story
of one of the bag-makers (every bag has a story) and that, with a
television screen and a remote, will guide your guests through the
event. As a way of thanks, a beautiful kanga-cloth apron will be given
to you for making the effort. Contact Carla Boelkens in the Global Bag
Project office at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are praying that we will be able to set up 12 parties.
Annual Advent Retreat of Silence
notice comes from Tiffany Stamen, the Director of Breathing Spaces, who
will be leading the Annual Advent Retreat of Silence.
summer winds to a close and fall is upon us, the Advent Season will be
here before we know it. We are already thinking and praying and working
on the ADVENT RETREAT OF SILENCE and want to invite you to pray about participating once again this year. Sibyl Towner (author, Listen to Your Life)
and I will be facilitating, and we look forward to entering into this
time of corporate silence as a powerful way to begin the Advent Season.
There are only 50 spaces available, and this retreat does fill up, so
please let me know (by e-mail or phone is lovely) if you would like to
attend. I have also included a link to a simple registration form. Here
are the details:
Date/Time: December 1, 4:00 p.m. – December 2, 3:00 p.m.
Location: Bishop Lane Retreat House, Rockford, IL
Theme: Flesh and Blood: The Incarnation
Regular Fee: $130 (after October 15)
Early Registration: $110 (by October 15)
Newbies/Friends: $100 (for both the newbie and the friend)
Shared Room: $90
fee includes your room, three meals and all retreat materials.
Registration forms (download link below) and checks may be made out to
Bridge Ministries (now the parent organization to Breathing Space) and
Tiffany Staman / 10810 Keokuk Trail / Roscoe, IL 61073
If you are on Facebook, you can also view this event at:
We look forward to seeing many of you again this year! Blessings on each of you this day—
The link to the registration form is:
oneLife Mapping Retreat
'LISTEN TO MY LIFE' Workshop/Retreat
Friday, Sept. 23 at 5 p.m. - Sunday, Sept. 25 at 2 p.m.
Marytown Retreat Center, Libertyville, IL
with Sibyl Towner & Sharon Swing
Listen to My Life
is a journey that helps you invite God into the process of reviewing
your past, assessing your present and continue walking with God into
THIS EXPERIENCE IS FOR YOU IF:
• you want to discover who you are through God’s eyes.
• you are seeking new, grace-filled ways to walk with God.
• you have thought, “I don’t know myself anymore.”
• you wonder, “Is there something more?”
• you stand at a crossroads in life and ask, “Which way will lead me toward expressing more of who I am made to be?”
• you are looking for a way to understand the restlessness you feel inside.
For more information, click here:
The Soulish Food e-mails are
posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web
site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to
register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might
want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
Dr. David R. Mains
“Allowing the Holy
Spirit to live Christ’s life in us and through us does not mean we will
be perfect, only that we will come daily closer to Christ-likeness.
This prayer and its impact are a sure cure for spiritual dryness. It
can lead to an amazing state of spiritual renewal.”
They Found the Secret
by V. Raymond Edman
Let me return to the writings of Dr. Edman, where
he chronicles the experience of J. Hudson Taylor, the well-known early
missionary to China.
way to heart satisfaction and rest of spirit for Hudson Taylor was
learned from a fellow missionary, John McCarthy. In a letter to Mr.
Taylor he wrote:
“To let my loving Saviour work in me His
will … is what I would live for by His grace. Abiding, not striving nor
struggling; trusting Him to subdue all inward corruption; resting in
the love of an almighty Savior; willing that His will should truly be
supreme—this is not new, and yet ’tis new to me. I feel as though the
first dawning of a glorious day had risen upon me. I hail it with
trembling, yet with trust. I seem to have got to the edge only, but of
a sea which is boundless; to have sipped only, but of that which fully
The Lord used this letter literally to lead Mr.
Taylor “into the realization of His unfathomable fullness.” It was read
in the little mission station at Chin-kiang on Saturday, September 4,
1869. The missionary was always reticent about telling details of his
transforming experience; but he did say, “As I read, I saw it all. I
looked to Jesus; and when I saw, oh how the joy flowed!”
Let the man of God speak for himself regarding the life that is Christ. Writing to his sister in England, Hudson Taylor said:
to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult;
but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month or more has been
perhaps, the happiest of my life…
“When my agony of soul was
at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to
remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the
truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before.
McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but
saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory): ‘But how to
get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on
the Faithful One.’
“As I read I saw it all! … I thought. ‘I
have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has He
not promised to abide with me—never to leave me, never to fail me?’”
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