The Story of Just Pray NO!
How a heartfelt prayer went around the world.
“One boy’s courageous stance against drugs and the power of effectual fervent prayer is still impacting lives for time and eternity around the world.”
by Steven L. Sherman, Founder of “Just Pray NO!” Ltd.
The weekend of April 18 – April 19, 2020 has been designated as the 30th Annual Worldwide Weekend of Prayer and Fasting organized by the “Just Pray NO!” nonprofit corporation. Over the past thirty years we have had intercessors praying to break bondages and to pull down the strongholds of addiction from every state in the United States and from six continents. Although the news of our annual weekend prayer event has been carried by CBN, Family News in Focus, Plus Magazine, Decision Today, Charisma Magazine, as well as several major radio networks, few people know how God used a young boy’s tragedy and a heartfelt prayer to touch lives around the world.
In 1990, if I were asked, I probably would have answered, “No, I don’t really believe in miracles.” At the age of forty-two, father of three children and having taught junior high school for twenty-three years, my outlook on life was becoming grim in the wake of drug-related violence that plagued New York City.
Each school year was becoming harder to face. When I first started teaching, my main discipline concerns were gum-chewing and students who would call out answers to questions without raising their hands. Two decades later, public schools were patrolled by security guards, weapons were confiscated, fights, robberies and even murder became routine.
One evening, I was reading the newspaper at the dining room table. My heart ached with each story I read. They were all connected with illicit drugs. The first story concerned a police officer who was ambushed by drug dealers. The second headline story concerned a grandfather who was dealing cocaine. But the last story I read that evening caused me to break out sobbing.
A young boy, just one day before his twelfth birthday, refused to smoke crack with the neighborhood bully. He just said, “No!” It was winter. The bully hit his friend over the head with a snow shovel and dragged him into a basement. He tied the boy up to a radiator with his socks, placed the boy’s schoolbooks on his chest and then set him on fire. When the boy’s socks burned through, he was able to escape and roll in the snow. His life was spared, but he sustained burns on 80% of his body.
I cried and cried. I said to the Lord, “How can we just say, `No?’ It’s not working. All the educational programs and even the First Lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign were not helping to stem the tide of addiction. The Lord, in the still quiet voice of the Spirit, spoke to me audibly. He said, “Just Pray NO!” This message burned in my bones. I shared this divine inspirational message with friends at church. Everyone was enthusiastic and supportive.
I wanted Christians to unite in spiritual warfare to battle addiction. The task was ambitious. Although I was advised to start locally and allow the concept to grow over the course of years, I had a vision for a worldwide day of prayer and concern. I believed that the Great Commission authorized believers to be witnesses of Christ to the ends of the earth. I believed that God would honor my simple prayer asked in faith. I prayed that the message of “Just Pray NO!” to drugs would be heard around the world. I took a step of faith and declared that there would be a worldwide day of prayer one year later on April 7, 1991.
My life drastically changes as I devoted all my spare time to spreading the news of the upcoming event. Often I would go to bed long after the rest of the family was sleeping, spending many hours at my typewriter writing personal messages encouraging churches and other Christian organizations to commit to pray with us.
Many national and international organizations started to endorse the “Just Pray NO!” day of prayer on behalf of the addicted and their families. Although the vision was international in scope, the emphasis was upon local, neighborhood action and commitment.
I knew that God answered my prayer that “Just Pray NO!” would be a worldwide event when I received a letter from Plus Magazine promising to publish an article that would publicize our event globally. Plus Magazine published the story of the first annual worldwide prayer event in 23 languages to 2 ½ million people around the world in 118 countries. In addition to letters from Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, letters from every state in the United States including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands came in from people wishing to join in intercessory prayer on behalf of the addicted and their families.
One young boy’s courageous stance against drugs and the power of effectual fervent prayer is still impacting lives for time and eternity around the world.