Monday, February 20, 2017

Frank Lauback: Missionary, Apostle of Prayer and Literacy

 Unlike many people, I never fret when I am caught in a long line, as a grocery line, or waiting for a security scan at the airport. Rather I turn such occasions into the prayer “game with minutes’ that I learned thirty years ago when I first encountered the Camps Furthers Out CFO) and its rich heritage of prayer.[1]

In this “game” I first ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten me and empower my prayers, and then I do quick “spot prayers” for those in the line, or passersby. For instance, last week while at a grocery line I prayed for  a half dozen people. One was a woman in her thirties who was obese. Her shopping cart was full of unhealthy and fattening foods, such as white bread, cakes, “mac and cheese” boxes, etc. I prayed, “Lord help her find a better way to eat, change her appetites towards the healthy things. Let her next shopping cart have fruits and veggies…”  I spotted a young man with an demonic type T-shirt, with devils and skulls all over it, and demonic tattoos on his arms. I prayed, “Lord deliver him from the clutches of the Evil One. Let some prayer group make him a special prayer poject unil he is completely set free in Jesus.”

The “game with minutes” was the title of a pamphlet written by Frank Laubach, one of the star teachers and presents of the CFO summer camps.[2] He urged these ‘spot prayers’ as we go about our daily business to be way of imitating Brother Lawrence and his famous “practicing the presence “ of the Lord, and, to get to the biblical root, fulling Paul’s command to:
Rejoice always,  pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5: 16-18)

The Game With Minuits is stioll in print and cam be purchased HERE

The Game With Minutes became a best-seller back in the 1950s, because it was so useful and succinct. But its rapid spread was helped by the fact that the Rev. Lauback was a well-known and respected missionary, and developer of a major and effective literacy campaign.  His name and work are not well known to this generation of Christians, and that is a shame for he was truly one of the great Christian saints of the Twentieth Century. [3]

The Rev. Frank Lauback’s life and work:

Image result for frank laubachIn 1942 the Rev. Frank Laubach (1884-1970), escaped to the U.S. from the war ravaged Philippines and joined the CFO leadership.  He was one of the most important and influential Christian missionaries of the Twentieth Century.[4] As a young man he received a classic Protestant education at Princeton University and Union Theological Seminary in New York. His first overseas assignment was to the Philippines, then as seminary instructor in Manila. But he had an arid spiritual life until he surrendered his ambitions for academic fame. He followed the Lord’s guidance and became a humble Christian witness to the Moros, a Moslem group in, the  southern islands. 

Image result for frank laubachAmong the Moros, and while proclaiming the Gospel, he devised a brilliant literacy campaign called “each one, teach one.” He established an international agency to carry on this method of literacy instruction. Eventually it functioned in over one hundred nations and brought literacy to over 60 million persons.[5] 

The Rev. Laubach was especially sensitive to the poverty of Third World nations and warned the American people about the dire consequences of the world imbalance in wealth. He also attempted to remold his “each one, teach one” method of literacy education into a method of personal Christian witness. [6]  Alas, with less success – perhaps because evangelization is a gift that cannot be presumed as universal (Eph. 4:11).

Besides all of this, the Rev. Laubach was, like Prof. Clark, founder of the CFO, a master of prayer, and a person who experienced the miraculous through prayer. In his Channels of Spiritual Poser, Laubach described going through life, like Brother Lawrence, using mundane or routine activities for prayer:

It is a wonderful thing to shoot silent flash prayers at people whom we meet. If we are sitting in a church or railroad station, it is good to pray for the people around us.[7]

The Rev. Laubach loved experimenting with prayers’ power to bless others. He also understood that accountability in spiritual experiments were difficult:

            In the realm of the spirit it is not easy to determine what is truth and what is superstition, because spiritual facts are more difficult to count and hold steady than most physical phenomenon. …Each of us must go into the laboratory of his own soul, try most of his experiments alone, and exchange notes with other men who are trying similar experiments.[8]

Can be purchased HERE

It is important to note that he did have a love, and joy about prayer experiments. Unlike mixing chemicals, such prayer experiments can do no harm – at worst, spot prayers might be ineffective on the intended person, but no harm would result. Laubach recounted his own experiments:

            Some of us who travel much have hundreds of days when we can sit behind people in street cars, trains, stations, restaurants, concerts or lectures, and pray at the backs of their heads with eyes open to see how many of them show signs of being aware.
            Some time ago, I was looking at a man sitting by an open window half a block away. I shot a rapid fire of prayer at him, saying three or four times a second “Jesus, friend- Jesus is coming to you.” In thirty seconds that man put his head in his hands and bent down over his desk, as though in prayer.[9]

The Rev. Laubach loved how the CFO camps encouraged and conducted its prayer experiments and exercises, as in its “broadcast” of prayers. On one such broadcast prayer occasion Laubach saw Pro. Clark form up the campers in a circle, and in faith and imagination, they “saw” the President of the United Stated at the center of the circle. They then prayed for God’s goodness and wisdom to come into him.[10] (We need to do that for our present controversial president, regardless of how we feel about him and his policies).


The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.

The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE

Just released is my first book of  plays. Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts). It includes two plays and their postscripts.

The play, “One Day at St. John’s” depicts what everyday life can be like in a church that practices the gifts of the Spirit and the healing/exorcism ministry as normal. Among the events that occur in the course of the play are the healing of a waitress who was scalded with hot coffee, an exorcism (led by a layman) and the “laying of a ghost” to rest.

Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts) can be purchased HERE at Amazon.

The second play, “Joseph ben Jacob,” explores Joseph, husband of Mary, as the dream interpreter, master carpenter, and father of Mary’s other children. It helps explain why Joseph was able to discern correctly his dream about Mary’s first-born.

The postscripts examine the controversial aspects of the plays and focus on two false early gospels which distorted the meaning of the true Gospels. The “Proto-Gospel of James” claimed that Mary was “every virgin” and never had other children, and the “Gospel of Nicodemus” cancelled the true meaning of Jesus’ “descent into Hell” and his ministry there as described in 1 Peter 3 & 4

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]

My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.

[1]I have written about the CFO in various places, most accessable in in my most recent book, Agnes Sanfordand Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2015) chapter 14.     
[2] Frank Laubach, The Game With Minutes (Syracuse: New Readers Press, 1953).
[3] Here the Catholic tradition of calling certain people “saints” has an advantage, it keeps their memory before the public, although at considerable cost, since it is biblically confusing, and may lead to the erroneous belief that only a few people are called to intense  holiness.
[4]Peter G. Gowing, “The Legacy of Frank Charles Laubach,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 7 #2 (April 1983), 58-42. And a book length study of his life and ministry: David Mason’s, Apostle to the Illiterates (Grand Raids: Zondervan, 1966). 
[5] See the website for Pro Literacy Worldwide
[6] Frank Laubach, How to Teach One and Win One for Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1964).
[7] Frank Laubach, Channels of Spiritual Power (Westwood: Fleming H. Revell, 1954), 95.
[8] Franck Laubach, Prayer, The Mightiest Force in the World  (Old Tappen: Fleming H. Revell, 1946, 1959)
[9]Laubach, Prayer, 74.
[10] Laubach  Prayer, 70.