Lessons on Prayer from Brother Andrew
On September 27, a “super saint” went to be with the Lord. Anne van der Bijl, better known around the world as “Brother Andrew,” passed away at age 94. Along with Corrie ten Boom he is one of the greatest and most influential Christians my little home country of The Netherlands has produced.
I had the privilege of meeting him a couple of times while I was still living there, and remember him for his extraordinary courage, unwavering faith in the power of God to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and his engaging and approachable personality.
According to a press release published by Religion News Service, Brother Andrew was an ordinary man who chose to go to hard places and do amazing things for one reason: He was following Jesus. Born in 1928, he grew up in the Netherlands. After enduring the German occupation during World War II, he went to Poland with a suitcase full of Christian material. There Brother Andrew discovered that churches behind the Iron Curtain were isolated, sparking his passion to serve them and ultimately leading him to form the ministry that became Open Doors.
His 1957 border crossing into Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe in a bright, blue Volkswagen Beetle stuffed with illegal Bibles is memorialized in his 1967 autobiography, God’s Smuggler, the the first of 16 books he wrote.
“Our very mission is called ‘Open Doors’ because we believe that all doors are open, anytime and anywhere,” Brother Andrew often explained. “I literally believe that every door is open to go in and proclaim Christ, as long as you are willing to go and are not worried about coming back.”
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew turned his attention to the Islamic World, believing the rapid spread of radical, militant expressions of Islam posed the greatest challenge yet to religious freedom worldwide. Since then, Brother Andrew and the ministry he founded have committed themselves to serving the needs of persecuted Christians throughout the world. His travels logged an estimated one million miles through 125 countries.
The legacy he leaves is an example of uncompromising obedience, courageous faith, and devotion to prayer. Open Doors shares an example on their website dedicated to his life:
“When I pulled up to the checkpoint on the other side of the Danube, I said to myself, ‘Well, I’m in luck. Only half a dozen cars. This Romanian border crossing should go swiftly.’ But when it took 40 minutes to inspect the first car, I began to worry…literally everything that family was carrying had to be taken out and spread on the ground.” Brother Andrew waited. Every car ahead of him went through the same routine. ‘Dear Lord,’ I said, as at last there was just one car ahead of me, ‘What am I going to do? Any serious inspection will show up these Romanian Bibles right away. I know that no amount of cleverness on my part can get me through this border search. Dare I ask for a miracle? Let me take some of the Bibles out and leave them in the open where they will be seen. Then, Lord, I cannot possibly be depending on my own stratagems, can I? I will be depending utterly upon You.’ Brother Andrew uncovered several Bibles from their hiding places and piled them on the seat beside him as he pulled up to the checkpoint. He stopped and handed the officer his papers and his passport. The officer looked at me, my photograph in my passport, scribbled something down, shoved the papers back under my nose and abruptly waved me on. Brother Andrew was shocked as he slowly pulled forward. “My heart was racing. Not with excitement of the crossing, but with the excitement of having caught such a spectacular glimpse of God at work!”
Four lessons that he lived by are of particular significance to intercessors. “One man with God is always a majority,” he used to say. That is a good thing to remember when we feel alone in carrying burdens of intercession, especially when we pray about issues that seem overwhelming, or against trends in which we appear to be a tiny minority with our Christian views. We may pray in the knowledge that in God’s Presence and praying according to His will, we are in the majority.
The second lesson is that Christians should always pray with their hands open, ready to receive everything the Father wants to pour out in answer to our prayers. “Too many Christians pray with their hands closed, not really expecting anything in answer to their prayers,” he’d say. He lived that principle every time he drove East with a trunk load of Bibles in plain view. “Lord, make seeing eyes blind,” he’d pray and find that border guards would open his trunk, see the Bibles in plain view, close the trunk as if they had seen nothing and waive him on!
We followed his example when in 1982 we headed to Poland to lead a Bible camp for young adults with a vanload of stuff including Bibles, literature, and every-day basic needs we’d plan to leave behind because they couldn’t get them there. We prayed Brother Andrew’s prayer as we watched the border guards take apart car after car until they came to us. By then they were sweating in the summer sun. We greeted them with a warm smile, upon which the lead guard asked if we had beer, which was prohibited. When we answered in the negative, he said “what a pity, I’m dying of thirst.” Instead, we offered him cold lemonade. He drank it gratefully, never investigated our car and waved us on.
The third lesson is that praying with unwavering faith must go hand in hand with uncompromising obedience to God’s will. Not just His moral will, but His specific assignments for us, even if that puts us in danger of losing our freedom or even our lives. The Open Doors Youth website highlights several quotes of Brother Andrew, the first one being the words he said when the Lord called him to serve Him back in 1952:
“Whenever, wherever, however you want me, I’ll go… I’ll begin this very minute. Lord as I stand up from this place, and as I take my first step forward, will you consider this a step towards complete obedience to you? I’ll call it the step of yes”. He learned from experience that he’d have to be obedient to his call and drive up to the Iron Curtain at risk of getting arrested before he could pray that God would make seeing eyes blind and give him access.
That, too, is relevant for us as intercessors. How can we hear from the Holy Spirit what we are to pray about a given person or situation when we ignore or even push away His call to stand in the gap and pray for it? And how can we expect Him to be pleased with our priestly prayers when we ignore the call to be holy and give sin free reign in our bodies?
The fourth lesson is to pray faithfully for persecuted Christians around the world. Brother Andrew would often quote Hebrews 13:3 in his talks: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (NIV) We enjoy tremendous legal protection and constitutional freedom to worship, own Bibles, practice and express our faith in Christ, but that is not the case in many other parts of the world. According to a report published by Open Doors, some 360 million believers around the world are experiencing high levels of persecution, 5,898 Christians have been killed because of their faith in Christ, 4,765 have been arrested and imprisoned without trial, and 5,110 churches have been attacked (2022 World Watch List reporting period). The Voice of the Martyrs provides an app that helps you pray for persecuted believers by country. It is an act of obedience in our Christian life to pray for them and do what we can to support them.
As intercessors, we must be obedient to His prayer assignments, pray with open hands expecting to receive God-sized answers to man-sized prayers, have faith in our prayer partnership with Him through His promises (Romans 8:26, 1 John 5:14), and remember those who are being persecuted for their faith. We may not have the spectacularly visible ministry impact Brother Andrew had, but the impact we have through our prayers worldwide if we pray this way will be unmeasurable!
Father, we thank you for the life and legacy of Brother Andrew, and the example of obedience, faith, and prayer You have made of His life. May we walk and pray according to the same principles that drove Him for the advance of Your Kingdom, and for the increase of Your glory. Strengthen our resolve to obey You in all you command us to do, deepen our faith in Your promises, heighten our readiness to receive, and help us bind ourselves to persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, even as we enjoy our freedom and legal protection to worship. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”
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Remco Brommet is a pastor, spiritual-growth teacher, and prayer leader with over 40 years of experience in Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the U.S. Born and raised in the Netherlands and having pastored his first church in Amsterdam, he moved to the U.S. in 1986. He and his wife, Jennifer, live north of Atlanta. When not writing books, he blogs and assists his wife as a content developer and prayer coordinator for True Identity Ministries. Jennifer and Remco are passionate about bringing people into a deeper relationship with Christ. Photo Credit: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.
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