Breakthrough in Prayer. The Secret of Receiving What You Need From God

By Jim Cymbala
Grand Rapids : Zondervan (2003). 236 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
15.2 (Fall 2004) : 252-253

This is in many ways a sane, balanced approach, a readable survey, and highly refreshing. It is strong on praying in faith, repentance, obedience, humility, and joy. Vigorous remarks warn against misleading ideas by current spiritual leaders, and also the folly of solid Bible teaching not saturated with prayer. Cymbala emphasizes God’s desire to answer, and His great power to change lives when a church prays vitally and loves people of all races, colors, and backgrounds.

Cymbala, with Dean Merrill, wrote the widely read Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. For more than 25 years he has pastored the Brooklyn Tabernacle, New York City, seeing many down and outers saved and transformed. In the present book, 13 chapters sum up what to do and what not to do, so as to avoid “you do not have because you do not ask God” as in Jas 4:2 (8).

Some key points are to ask for God to pour out blessing, plead for great things, absorb God’s Word daily, take a holy stand against sin, be quick to confess sin and seek mercy, give God the life’s reins, give selflessly in compassion, praise God for answers, and use the armor God gives. Vivid stories describe people freed from seemingly hopeless bondage by breakthroughs linked with prayer. One is a dope addict. Christian ladies kept showing love and praying (chap. 2; also cf. 101-8). As in Luke 1:37, the writer relates that “nothing is impossible with God.”

One comment (60) concerns a group that helps ministers who have moral lapses or other losses. Interviews in hundreds of cases showed that not one minister had lived in daily, vital prayer. They bypassed contact with God on a road to ruin (cf. Matt 6:13; 26:41). In contrast, Cymbala presses for believers to act on God’s promises, saturate with His Word, and let God’s overflow bless them (81).

He denounces commanding God through some “word of faith,” acting contrary to His will (92), falsely “claiming” things (92), and “seed faith” teachers who misuse verses to promise greater reaping to those who give to their ministry (163). He is also against chanting, praying, and “imaging” money into coffers (163), “giving” unto one’s new level of anointing (so different from Jesus, Paul, Peter, John) (164). He is bold against looking the other way when sin occurs in the churches, preachers divorcing, remarrying, and claiming greater power as a result, as people clap approval (165). He comes down hard on sensuality that some socalled Christians condone— in the form of approving scantily dressed performers— and call this freedom from rigid, old-fashioned ways (166). “Christ sent us to convert the world, not be conformed to it” (167).

Those who really want to pray with power need a breakthrough with greater holiness. Cymbala stresses purity and simplicity, as opposed to carnality, hype, and hardness (173-75). The book speaks in no uncertain terms to urge seeking to be clear of sin, not extending one hand to snatch answers while the other hand tightly clutches sin.

Cymbala also stresses intercession for strengthening other Christians, as in Eph 3:16-17 (187). He seeks to remedy “a critical shortage” of those devoted to prayer. Chapter 12 on the joy of the Lord is very moving, especially its example of Lynette who prayed for her husband when he fell away, joined others in praying him back, and saw him live many years to honor Christ.

This is a rather balanced, often winsome and challenging book that strikes good notes on prayer for laypeople, students, and also pastors and teachers needing new fire. Though it does not cover everything on prayer, it is a catalyst for drawing closer to God.