Learning To Pray: Travailing Prayer


Two small boys walked into the dentist’s office. One of them said bravely, “I want a tooth taken out and I don’t want any gas, and I don’t want it deadened . . . because we’re in a hurry!” The dentist said, “You’re quite a brave young man. Which tooth is it?” The boy turned to his smaller friend and said, “Show him your tooth, Albert.” The world is full of volunteers like that. We’re anxious to have something happen — to someone else! We don’t mind God changing the world — as long as He doesn’t bring any pain into our lives.

Remember that old poem, “I walked a mile with pleasure; she chatted all the way; but left me none the wiser for all she had to say. I walked a mile with sorrow, and ne’er a word said she; but, oh! the things I learned from her,when sorrow walked with me.

Travailing prayer is prayer that comes in the time of crisis. C. S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures . . . but shouts in our pains.” Our last three sermons on prayer have come from Jesus’ prayer in the Garden which is in crisis. Luke describes it this way, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Now, the crisis heightens and the trauma is very real at the crucifixion. Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Paul writes to the young Hebrew Church and says (5:7), During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. That is Travailing pray!

The question is, “Is a prayer in crisis more powerful that any other prayer?”
God hears all prayers! The prayer of the sinner. The prayer of the unbeliever, if there is such a thing. Furthermore, God knows our need before we even ask. So, why are travailing prayers so different and so powerful?

(Gen 21:8-19) The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

God does permit us pain but then he gives us also the strength to bear it. God does allow us problems but then he gives us also the wit to solve them. God never allows us darkness but that he gives us faiths that there will also be a morning. And when he gives us mud he also gives us children to play in it.

Severe trials come at a cost, but they also have great rewards. Take away my capacity for pain and you rob me of the possibility for joy. Take away my ability to fail and I would not know the meaning of success. Let me be immune to rejection and heartbreak and I could not know the glory of living.

I believe that God has a heart for those who are in trouble. King David said of God, “…for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Prayer is not a matter of getting what we want the most. Prayer is a matter of giving ourselves to God and learning his laws, so that he can do through us what he wants the most.

Think of the last thing you prayed about–were you devoted to your desire or to God? Determined to get some gift of the Spirit or to get at God? “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” The point of asking is that you may get to know God better. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Keep praying in order to get a perfect understanding of God Himself. The reason travailing prayer is so powerful; it is so pure!

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