His first music teacher told him to quit after one lesson. Then 15, Benny Prasad just couldn’t carry a tune or keep rhythm. Now he has performed instrumental guitar in 250 countries, before kings, at the Olympics and before the United Nations. On Saturday night, he gave his moving testimony and played a guitar solo at the Hyderabad Festival with Franklin Graham.
Born with severe asthma, Prasad’s doctors gave him strong cortisone steroids that quickly led to rheumatoid arthritis, 60 percent lung damage, and a weakened immune system. “By the age of 16,” he told the audience, “I wanted to commit suicide. I felt worthless and depressed.”
Instead of killing himself, Prasad listened to his mother and—albeit reluctantly—went to a youth retreat. There he accepted the life-changing power of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Fast forward three years. Prasad continued to love music and believed God could use him to minister to others. He enrolled in Bible College and then traveled to a Maranatha music conference in the United States in 1999.
That is where he had his second life-changing encounter, this time with long-time Festival team member Tommy Coomes.
In an interview after his set on Saturday, Prasad admitted he was at first afraid to talk to Coomes: “I knew I could not sing and I didn’t even have a decent guitar. I used to weave together broken guitar strings.”
Somehow Prasad mustered up the necessary courage and approached Coomes, who was moved by the young man’s story. “Tommy told me I could still minister through music with my guitar and was the first person who said I didn’t have to sing to be in music. His words brought light into my life. He told me to go for it.”
Prasad began pursuing his music career in earnest after that day, although he still used a beat-up, second-hand instrument: “I had a broken guitar, broken strings and broken fingers.” But on Christmas of that year, Prasad received an unexpected gift—a brand new Taylor guitar—courtesy of Tommy Coomes.
“Now I am the only Christian who has performed before presidents and kings, and traveled to 250 countries in a little over seven years,” Prasad said. “I can go where it is too dangerous for others to go. My heart is that everyone will find Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the light.”
Prasad even thanks God for his ongoing physical challenges. “I can show people that His power is made perfect in weakness. Everyone has a role in His Kingdom.”
From the stage on Youth Night in Hyderabad, Prasad encouraged young people to never give up. “God can use broken vessels. I tried to commit suicide at 16 and I can tell you that is not the answer. Too many young people in India consider suicide. You need to consider a relationship with Jesus. Only He can truly heal your life. God will use a broken life and a broken vessel.”
Coomes later shared his part of the story: “It was obvious to me that Benny had the talent and the drive to be a good guitarist, but he was using a borrowed guitar. He did not have a decent one of his own. I went home and called my friends at Taylor Guitars and visited the factory and hand picked a guitar that I felt would work for Benny.
“Little did I know that this humble young man from India would use his guitars to witness to princes, kings and the common people of every country in the world,” Coomes said. “He continues to inspire me with his love of Jesus Christ and his desire to live completely for Him.”