Travailing Prayer - To the Glory of God Alone!
“At least 12 people healed last night! Some as soon as they came forward! Prayed with a man that could not walk yesterday in his home, just got a phone call from his wife, today he is walking!” This is a Face Book message that we recently received from a good friend who was conducting a series of meetings with a local congregation in Canada.
Before he left for the meetings he told us of receiving this invitation to come - and the pastor of the congregation did not even know him. Yet, the congregation had been praying for revival - and God sent a man of prayer. Now most of us would be quick to commend that congregation for their persistence in prayer as if they initiated and sustained the process. I have to believe our Faithful Father had set them to praying and then He supplied the answer to their prayer.
My essential point here is that it is impossible to travail in prayer without the seed of the Divine initiative of God alone. It has been said, “Tell God what He has told you to tell Him and kingdoms will fall.”
Pray with prayer
Elijah is used as an example of travailing or fervent prayer in the New Testament. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” James 5:17-18 ESV The word fervently used here or earnestly in other translations has its root in a Greek word that literally means to “pray with prayer” or to continue in prayer. Our English word “importunate” has similar connotations - to be persistent.
Some previous Jewish writers had held that Elijah was more than just a human being - that he was an angel. James is quick to counter this foolish notion stressing the reality that the prophet was flesh and blood just like our own - or with a like nature.
As we look back to this account in I Kings we see that Elijah took an interesting physical position as he entered into this period of fervent or travailing prayer for relief from the drought that also was of God. “So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees.” I Kings 18:42 ESV I have Pastor Tony Evans to thank for the following insight - a mother in Israel would have understood immediately what this was about for Elijah had assumed the position of a woman about to give birth. (With her face down between her knees in expectancy she would be sure to see the new life issue forth.)
A woman gives birth to a child as a result of being impregnated by the seed of her husband. The congregation in Canada awaiting expectantly had been impregnated by the seed of faith. Elijah had been impregnated by the Word of the Lord. At the beginning of the drought it is recorded: “Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah:” I Kings 17:2 NIV and as the time of refreshing was about to come the prophet heard the word of the Lord again yet in a different manner: “And Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.’” I Kings 18:41 ESV
The natural mind was completely unable to comprehend what was happening for Ahab the king had heard nothing - “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” But Elijah the prophet had heard the sound of the Lord - he was impregnated.
A woman can strain and groan all she wants - but if she has not received the seed of the father there will be no birth. This futility is what Elijah encountered with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. I Kings 18:29b NAS) and which Christ instructed his disciples not to pray in that way - “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Matthew 6:7 NIV
The time of travail is preceded by the harbinger of expectancy for although there is a process of birthing the child will be born - push! Is the mother able to choose otherwise - decidedly not! Paul spoke of this same concept in this way: “For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” Colossians 1:29 NAS
I was engaged in a conversation recently and one to the persons said that God had told him, “If you will do this or that - then the results will be...” He then went on to say, “I was compelled.” God’s “ifs” become our compellings. “For Christ's love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died.” 2 Corinthians 5:14 CSV
"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.” Isaiah 66:8 NAS (For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children. ESV)
The Lord Himself has declared through the prophet: "For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.” Isaiah 48:11NAS In one of his messages from the revival in Canada our friend closed, “Oh how I love the Lord of Glory!”
Soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone")