TRAVAILING PRAYER: A SPIRITUAL MANIFESTATION
"He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:6).
"Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?" (Joel 2:17)
"Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning" (Joel 2:12).
"While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites, men, women and children, gathered around him. They too wept bitterly" (Ezra 10:1).
"So Hannah rose up … And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore" (1 Sam 1:9-10).
"When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven" (Nehemiah 1:4).
"When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly" (Esther 4:10).
"Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping" (Psalms 6:8).
"When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn" (Psalms 69:10).
"Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people... and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord" (2 King 22:19).
"Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee..." (2 King 20:1-6).
"Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared" (Heb. 5:7).
On Travailing Prayer (PT. 1)
By James Goll
In scripture, seven barren women were specifically named who were healed from barrenness! They had several things in common. They were desperate. They cried out to the Lord. And each brought forth either a prophet or a deliverer of the nation. Let me list these seven women for you:
1. Sarah, who brought forth Isaac (Genesis 11:30, 16:1, 18:1-15, 21:1-8)
2. Rebekah, who brought forth Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:21-26)
3. Rachel, who brought forth Joseph and Benjamin (Genesis 29:31, 30:1,22-24, 35:16- 18)
4. Manoah's wife, who brought forth Samson (Judges 13:2-24)
5. Hannah, who brought forth Samuel (1 Samuel 1:2-20)
6. Elizabeth, who brought forth John the Baptist (Luke 1:7-13,57)
I have listed only six barren women thus far, while I told you I found seven examples. Who is the seventh? Isaiah 66:8 portrays her vividly:
"Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons."
Zion is the seventh barren woman. She will bring forth her precious fruit in the earth as soon as – when? As soon as Zion travails, she will bring forth sons. I have often heard it stated that if the Church would cry out like a barren woman longing for children, then we would have a breakthrough – a revival. I believe this!
WHAT IS TRAVAIL? DEFINING OUR TERMS
"What is travail?" This prayer approach has been a "Lost Art" in the body of Christ, but in the current move of God, old ways are being made new. Let me try to explain it. As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual. Travail is a form of intense intercession given by the Holy Spirit whereby an individual or group is gripped by something that grips God's heart. The individual or group labors with Him for an opening to be created so that the new life can come forth. The definition of travail from Webster's New World Dictionary is simple:
"n. 1. very hard work. 2. the pains of childbirth. 3. intense pain; agony. v. 1. to toil. 2. to suffer the pains of childbirth."
I have found this definition describing physical travail to be correct in the spiritual realm as well. Travail takes place after you have carried something in your heart for a period of time, but it comes on you suddenly. Travail can be associated with the prayer of tears, but does not require it. It is preceded by nurturing the promise; later the strategic time comes to push that promise forth through the prayer canal. Finally you realize that the promise has been born, and you are greatly relieved when the delivery is over!
The prayer of travail is God desiring to create an "opening" to bring forth a measure of life or growth. If the "opening" was already in place, there would not be the need for travail. Just as the "opening" of the natural womb is enlarged to bring forth the baby, so travail creates an "opening" or "way," whereas before the opening or way was closed. With travail, there is always a way opened for life, newness, change, or growth.
ACCOUNTS OF AGONIZING AND WRESTLING IN PRAYER
Different portions of the Body of Christ use different terminology to describe similar or overlapping experiences. Associated with the prayer of travail, throughout church history, have often been accounts of "agonizing and wrestling" in prayer. Where are these holy wrestlers for our generation?
Perhaps one reason that few wrestle in prayer today is that few have the understanding needed and the perseverance required for its strenuous demands. By revelation, you recognize what is at stake: the eternal destiny of an unsaved loved one; the success of an urgent endeavor; the life of a sick one; the honor of the name of God; the welfare of the Kingdom of God.
Wrestling in prayer enlists all the capacities of your soul, marshals your deepest holy desire, and by the grace of God uses all the perseverance of your holy determination.
You push through a host of difficulties. You push back the heavy, threatening clouds of darkness. You reach beyond the visible and natural to the very throne of God. With all your strength and tenacity, you lay hold of God's grace and power as it becomes a passion of your soul. Remember Jacob wrestling with the angel until he received the blessing? Let's look at that passage again:
"Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. And when he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, 'Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.' But he said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'" Genesis 32:24-26
As Jacob found out, tenacious, persevering prayer eventually pays off.
ADDITIONAL SCRIPTURAL ACCOUNTS OF WRESTLING
We do not know for certain what Paul meant, but ponder the following passage from Colossians:
"Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis." Colossians 4:12-13 (NASB)
The NIV says Epaphras was "always wrestling in prayer." Wow! I wonder what his "deep concern," which was expressed through laboring prayer, looked like. One thing we are assured of: it was intense!
When Paul wrote that our struggle, or wrestling match, is against the forces of darkness, he had in mind the backdrop of the Olympic-style games in ancient Greece. Each wrestler sought to throw his opponent onto the ground and put his own foot on his opponent's neck. The Amplified Version renders the passage like this:
"Put on God's whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier, which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil. For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere." Ephesians 6:11-12 (AMP)
Clearly, we are given pictures here of pinning or wrestling with the enemy, as well as with our heavenly Father in the divine interplay of prayer. One common thread is for certain in both accounts: Don't give up! Continue in your wrestling match. It's not over till it's over! Continue in persevering, prevailing intercession.
THE EPITOME OF TRAVAIL
The God of the universe is speaking, declaring that rain is coming to end the drought. Is anyone listening? Before a development ever appears in the natural, it must exist first in the heart of God. As recorded from the life of Elijah in 1 Kings 18, before the rain came to end the drought, Elijah heard the rain with his spiritual ears. Even today God speaks first. This creates a spark of faith within a man or woman. Remember, faith comes by "hearing . . . the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).
But Elijah did not just go out and declare all he had heard. He prayed the promise into being. He literally knelt on the promise. He crouched on Mount Carmel as he put his face between his knees. He birthed the end of one season and the beginning of another! The drought ended and the rain poured down!
There are many lessons to grasp here – but let's keep it simple. God speaks. Man hears. Faith is created. Man responds to the spark of faith and prays the promise into being. Tenacity and endurance are required when the desired result seems to be delayed. Even when breakthrough starts to come, it takes eyes of discernment to recognize the day of visitation. We are not to "[despise] the day of small things" (Zechariah 4:10), as a cloud the size of a man's hand grows and consumes the sky in a downpour of mercy, and the drought comes to an end.
Yes, as we see in the encounter with Elijah, travail brings birth. Travail is the posture of desperation. It expresses the urgent prayer of the heart. Could this be one of the missing keys to an authentic apostolic worldwide awakening?
Join us and many other tenacious intercessors. May we truly go forth kneeling on the promises – birthing God's purposes through the power of prophetic intercession.
What is Travailing Prayer? (PT. 2)
By Betty Miller
What is travailing prayer? It is crying in the Spirit which can take on several different manifestations. Before discussing this let us look at the Bible definition found in John 16:20-22.
“Verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” John 16:20-22
Jesus, speaking here to his disciples, leaves them with a beautiful promise. He tells them He is going away, but He is not going to leave them comfortless as He plans to send the Holy Spirit. They later will cry at His departure, yet when they experience the new birth and the infilling of the Holy Spirit, they will rejoice.
Travailing prayer is a manifestation of the grief of the heart of God. This also has a parallel meaning when applied to prayer that cries out unto God. Perhaps we can understand this better if we realize that we now have the Holy Spirit living in us, and He has chosen to use our mouths to speak for Him. Since He has chosen to use us in His great plan to spread the gospel, He uses our mouths to witness to others and our hands to help people. Another beautiful truth that is often overlooked is that He also uses our hearts and emotions to weep and “cry through.” The Spirit of God expresses His grief in this manner.
Most Christians have experienced this without ever realizing it was a work of the Holy Spirit. At their conversion they sometimes wept and cried, grieved over their sins. Then later they got a burden for the salvation and deliverance of others, and cried over them also. This is known as travailing prayer. When we have a burden for others and become sorrowful over them, it is usually the Holy Spirit crying through us over the situation.
There is another kind of weeping and crying, but it is in the flesh and stems from our own selfishness as it is from self-pity. Fleshly crying is always concerned over self. Crying in the Spirit is Godly sorrow for others. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). If we cry in self-pity it brings depression and fear; but crying in the Spirit brings life and joy after it is finished. (Just as a woman cries to bring forth a child during labor, yet she is rejoicing as soon as the child is born.)
We do the same as we yield to the Spirit and take prayer burdens for others. God’s heart is burdened for people, and He is looking for hearts that He can cry and weep through, hearts that are concerned for a lost and dying world. So, in essence, travailing prayer is when we weep and cry over something the Holy Spirit is grieved about. Jesus said they would weep and cry for a little while, but then their sorrow would be turned into joy.
Travailing prayer works on the same principle. We do not understand all the principles in God’s word, nor why they work, but because they are a part of His plan, they work. This neglected principle and key is of vital importance in order to see things “born” in the Spirit. When we weep and cry over others while we petition God on their behalf, it breaks something in the Spirit so that the answer for their lives can come forth. If they need salvation, healing, a miracle, deliverance or whatever, grieving in the Spirit releases them to be able to receive their need. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6).
Sometimes this spirit of travail does not manifest with visible tears or crying, but it occurs deep within us and it cannot be uttered. We just hurt on the inside for others.
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27
The Lord is searching for hearts that will intercede and He will use them many times to travail. We also travail for our own infirmities (moral and physical weaknesses). Many people after receiving the Holy Spirit have a siege of crying and grieving. This is the Holy Spirit cleansing their spirits and souls with the water of tears. We are so full of the things of this world and the sins of the past that we need this cleansing. We should not resist this, but yield to it until all is washed away and we come into the place of joy and peace.
We have not been taught much in this area, so many times the Lord tries to give us a burden for someone or something and we do not recognize it as such, but think that something is wrong with us. We pray to have a burden for lost souls and when we get one, we rebuke the Holy Spirit (thinking He is the enemy) because we do not understand the form of burden that travail takes. Often, we become depressed for no logical reason and, not recognizing it as travail, endure it or ignore it rather than praying until it lifts. The Lord tries to get us to pray; and when we do, not only does that depressed feeling leave, but we can break through spiritual barriers for someone else. The Lord also brings people to our hearts or our minds, and we need to be sensitive in the Spirit as to what the Lord speaks to us about them. They may be in need of prayer and the Spirit could be trying to get us to pray by bringing them to our remembrance. This is especially true if they remain in our thoughts for awhile. Praying in the Spirit like this is an invaluable tool.
We may have a burden for someone but not know his need. We should keep praying until we are released from that burden. Sometimes, we get the prayer victory in a matter of minutes; in other cases it may be longer. As we are led by the Spirit, He directs our prayer lives. He never puts a burden on us that is so heavy that we are unable to get freedom from it as we pray. The Lord knows we have earthly chores that must be attended to, so many times He gives us a burden that comes and goes so we can pray at those times when it is intense, and still attend to our earthly duties at other times. There is a time for travail, for work and for praise. The Spirit of God will balance us in all if we are sensitive to Him. “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
What is the purpose of travail? Travail produces spiritual children. Isaiah 66:8 says, “…for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” Christians are spiritually referred to in the Word of God as Zion (God’s people). As we travail, things are birthed in the Spirit. Many souls become “born again” through someone’s travail. Things happen as we pray and travail.
Paul was a man who travailed. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). Paul had already travailed for them to be born into the kingdom of God, and now he was travailing for the remainder of the work to be done, Christ being formed in them. Paul knew that the destiny of baby Christians was to ultimately come into the fullness of Christ. Those little children were not to remain “babes,” but were to be brought into maturity becoming sons of God. Travail produces sons.
Travail is also a form of suffering for Christ because we choose to endure the pain in our hearts in order that others may be set free. Our flesh suffers, yet it produces life in others. Paul was willing to do this for Christ. “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).
There are many different forms that travail may take and varying depths of pain involved. Some of these are mild sensations of heaviness or depression, or just the general feeling of a burden. Some people weep, cry, moan or groan. Others even experience symptoms like birth pains or heart pains while in deep travail. One can experience any of these feelings separately or in combination.
Examples of these same experiences can be found in the lives of Bible saints. Daniel was a saint who experienced travail. In Daniel 7:15, he is seen grieving in the spirit. “I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.” Also in Daniel 8:27 and Daniel 10:8, we find him feeling faint, sick, and weak during the time he was in prayer. He was fine, though, after he finished praying. Hannah is another example of a travailing saint. We find her story in 1 Samuel 1:5-18. It shows her weeping and in such agony that the priest accuses her of being drunk.
And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore…Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:10, 13-15
Hannah’s travail produced a son in her life. Our travail will produce spiritual sons. Most travailing is done privately because people who are not walking in the Spirit do not understand this type of prayer. Just as babies are born in private, most birthing of spiritual things are also done in the privacy of an individual's prayer closet or in a small group setting. However, as our understanding opens up to this truth in God’s Word, more and more groups of believers will intercede with the spirit of travail upon them all, thus sharing the burden corporately.
The degrees and depths of travail span the mild forms to the very, very deep forms. One deep form incorporates the actual feeling of birth pains (the same pains that accompany the labor of a woman giving birth to a child). These “birth pains” are experienced by men as well as by women. (In the spirit there is neither male nor female.) Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” We must have Scripture to support all spiritual experiences, so where is this to be found in the Word of God? In Jeremiah 30:5-6, we find an account of men travailing as women: “For thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?” Here we find that after travail, they were released from their bonds, the yokes were taken off their necks and they were free to serve the Lord. Travail brought freedom to these men!
If we have a question as to whether it is the Lord presenting us with a burden that needs travailing prayer, or whether it is the enemy seeking to put depression on us, we can simply seek Him for the answer. Prayer is the way to rid ourselves of all kinds of depression. As we begin to pray, the Lord will show us if the depression is in us or if we are carrying a prayer burden for someone else. As we yield to God and resist the devil, we will get the victory.
One account that shows Jesus in travail is found in John 11:32-44. We are all familiar with this account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. However, many of us have not noticed the travail that preceded this miracle. Beginning in Verse 32, we read:
“Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.” John 11:32-34
We see that the Lord had such a burden that He not only wept, but also groaned in the Spirit. He certainly was not crying because Lazarus was dead, for He knew that He was about to be brought back to life. He was crying in the Spirit, breaking the bonds of Satan, so that this miracle would come forth and bring life back to Lazarus. Verse 38 says, “Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?”
He was still in travail when he approached the grave. He then spoke the words for Lazarus to come forth, and the miracle took place as he was raised from the dead.
The greatest travail of all time was the Lord’s travail of soul in the Garden of Gethsemane before He went to the cross for the sins of the world:
“And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:41-44
This travail was so agonizing and painful that it caused Him to sweat blood. The Lord knew what awaited Him on the cross of Calvary. He could never have faced the crucifixion without first praying through and getting the victory in the spirit. This great travail gave Him the serenity and courage to face the traumatic events of the next day. He had won the victory in the spirit before He ever faced the enemy in the flesh.
We too can learn from this to fight our battles in the spirit. Then we will not have to resort to fleshly means of dealing with problems. Changes occur when we pray and travail. We find that when Zion travails, children are brought forth. The Lord wants us to take His burdens as our burdens. By doing this we are identifying with Him in His sufferings. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12). We know that as we are willing to suffer with Him and travail for others, we also will reign with Him, reaping the reward of joy by seeing the travail of our souls come forth even as Jesus did.
“He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:11-12
True intercessors will have the spirit of travail come upon them, for truly this is one of the keys that will bring the kingdom of God to the earth. The overcomers will be men and women who experience the same sorrows that our Lord experienced and who also will inherit the same things Jesus did.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” Revelation 21:4-7
In Ezekiel 9, we see the Lord calls for a mark to be placed upon all who sigh and cry in prayer because they are burdened about the condition of God’s people. These intercessors are given the “mark of God” and thus are protected when judgment comes upon sin. “And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:4). We too can experience deliverance as we cry and travail for others. Travailing is yielding to the sorrow of God’s heart over a situation. Travailing prayer is a mighty spiritual weapon.