Interceding for Your City
"Why would you want to live in Cleveland?"
I have heard these words over and over again through the years. The sneering is not without basis. Cleveland, Ohio rates as one of the cloudiest cities in the United States. The region was known as the “rust belt” during the 70’s and 80’s, and was the only major city in America to default since the Great Depression!
In 1969, our Cuyahoga River was so polluted it caught on fire! We have been the butt of many jokes on late night TV and have become known as the “mistake on the lake.” Our tallest building for many years is the “Terminal Tower.” Consequently, we have a tower that is “terminal” and a lake that is “Erie”. Wow! No wonder I have to call my own voice mails and leave messages just to encourage myself!
RECOVERING YOUR CITY’S SPIRITUAL HISTORY
We in Cleveland also have another history. The twelve spies that went into the Promised Land came back with two reports. Ten of the spies saw the negative, and two saw the possibilities. The two with eyes of faith were permitted to enter the prophetic fulfillment of God’s destiny for their region.
Throughout Biblical history, many have not seen the “spiritual obvious.”
Elisha’s servant could not see the armies of God; instead he was bound by a negative vision. (See 2 kings 6:17) Elisha’s prayer released him to see with the eyes of the Lord. The men with Jesus on the “road to Emmaus,” failed to “see” what was later confirmed in their hearts...God was with them. (Luke 24:32)
A closer look at our city of Cleveland revealed an interesting history including spiritual figures and secular indicators of a prophetic destiny. Charles Finney, A.W. Tozer, Rex Humbard, the Moravians and others had ministered throughout our area. Rex Humbard was touted as having won over a million souls to the Lord in the 60’s and 70’s. The Moravians sent missionaries all over the world in the 1800’s. Ten of their thirty-two North American communities were in Ohio. One of them was on a bicycle trail near where I live.
I began to become more interested and started searching out details assisted by a young history lover, Timothy Karas, (now my son-in-law) and many in our local church. My view and excitement over Cleveland grew daily, as we researched together. We actually decided to pull together a book regarding our spiritual history, based on a prophetic word from Graham Cooke of Southampton, England. The book was to be titled, CLEVELAND: CITY OF GOD’S DREAMS.
We started by studying Cleveland’s natural history. Our region and our state had many interesting “fingerprints of God” on it. Our state motto was “with God all things are possible.” Only four states in the United States have “God” in their motto, and we are the only one with a Bible verse. Not bad for a prophetic proclamation over our state.
Our state also had a unique history with “flight.” The Wright brothers (first to fly), John Glenn (first to orbit the planet) and Neil Armstrong (first on the moon), all came from Ohio. Ohio is a Native American word meaning “something great.” Great men and women come from Ohio including Thomas Edison (inventor of the light bulb), and Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of “UNCLE TOM’S CABIN”- the book believed to have started the American Civil War).
We found strength of character in people who had either been born in Ohio or found their success here. Our region was established as a “place of restoration” for Revolutionary War veterans. A place for those who were burned out, broken and looking for a fresh start. Our region was known as the “western reserve” and the “firelands.” Historically, we had a good history regarding treatment of slaves. We helped them escape to Canada as part of the Underground Railroad and established schools to educate and favor African Americans. As a result, we were one of the first American major cities to elect an African American mayor. We included in our book maps and photos that would inspire the reader to look at our area with “different eyes,” with eyes of faith looking toward prophetic fulfillment.
Our city also had a great history for music. The term “rock and roll” was actually first used in Cleveland. It is now the site of the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” Many would see this as a negative, but we saw it with redemptive vision for youth, music and cultural change. Rather than a “rust belt,” we started seeing an industrious, entrepreneurial, hard-working, inventive history that has made an impact on the rest of the nation.
John D. Rockefeller had his roots in Cleveland and became the wealthiest man in the world in his time. Known as a philanthropist, Rockefeller’s foundation continues to give in the 21st century. Cleveland took on a philanthropic anointing, founding the United Way and being a key ministry point for the Salvation Army in America. Giving emerged as a key.
The second chapter included many of the prophetic words over our state and our city. Fortunately, we had collected many of the words over the years and had them readily available. Prophetic words from Rick Joyner, Bob Jones, Jim Goll, and Graham Cooke peppered our history. Themes emerged revealing the challenges and the potential for a great revival. There was something energizing about seeing all of these words in one place. It was as if pieces of the puzzle were laid out before us, and our understanding began to grow. God was truly speaking to us that He was about to do great things with us in Cleveland!
FIGHTING WITH PROPHECY
We need to know what has been said in order to fight accordingly. (See 1 Tim. 1:18). Graham Cooke had given a “keynote” prophetic word spelling out much of our “prophetic plan” for the future. Graham’s word included themes that were familiar to us from our historical studies and served as a further encouragement to press on. Several of the themes emerged including spiritual fathers, new wineskin government, place of habitation, springboard for the arts and others.
In another chapter we attempted to whet the reader’s appetite with prophetic interpretations of buildings, art, and sports in our area. We tried not to present it as conclusive, but to open the eyes of Clevelanders to begin to see God working all around us. We brought attention to several memorials, statues and unusual art with a special focus on our major league baseball playing field, “Jacob’s Field.” Can you imagine some of the “prophetic spin” put on its name?
We also noted that Cleveland has the number one heart hospital in the world, The Cleveland Clinic. People come from all over the world to Cleveland for healing. This has frequently appeared as a prophetic theme, thus our Healing Rooms of Greater Cleveland are some of the more successful in the nation, not by accident but by God’s design.
We concluded the book with a chapter entitled, “What Now?” Our desire was to raise the morale of a battered city and give its intercessors guidelines to pray its prophetic destiny into fulfillment. I came up with four prayer focuses and 10 fruits that we would see, if we responded in faith. My cry was for our leaders to find their callings, work and play together, and not give up. So I believe that if we pray, fruit will come in the following areas:
10.Presence and Power of God
Daniel recognized the need to know his history and respond appropriately (Daniel 9:2). He set his face toward the Lord, to make request by prayer and supplication, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. He then reminded the Lord of His promises. It is time to remind God of what He has called us to and what He has spoken over us.
“FATHER, YOU PROMISED..!”
Seven years ago while planting our church in Cleveland, God showed me a lesson through my two youngest children, Ashley and Joshua. The three of us were on our way to the Sunday meeting, when they asked if we could go to Taco Bell after church. Taco Bell is a chain of Mexican fast-food restaurants in America. I actually like Taco Bell because it seems you can feed an entire family for just a few dollars. Anyway, I made a casual promise that we would go to Taco Bell after the service. Later, after hours of set up, worship, preaching and take down, I was exhausted. I had totally forgotten the Taco Bell promise.
My children had been thinking about tacos for hours. When they came up to me to ask me if I was ready to go to Taco Bell, I began to make excuses. Looking at one another, they began to whine, “You promised. You said, Taco Bell.” Within minutes they were chanting loudly, "Taco Bell! Taco Bell!” What else could I do but acquiesce? We were off to Taco Bell. On my way there, I heard the Lord speak to me.
“Why don’t you ever ask me that?”
I got it. I needed to hold God to His promises, too.
“Lord, You said, “Taco Bell!”
God is waiting for people who will humble themselves and cry out to Him, reminding Him of His promises to our cities.
It will take leaders who will set aside personal agendas and ambitions and see things from a kingdom perspective. It will take Christians that are knowledgeable in the Bible, familiar with His presence, and willing to follow trusted leaders. It will take givers of time, energy and money. It will take people sold out to the purposes of God in a city. Who knows, maybe the next time a River catches on fire in Cleveland it will be the River of God!