“My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you.” (Gal 4:19 – ASV)
It is sad and painful for me to say this, but this younger generation knows very little to nothing about this kind of praying. I’m a little biased and in some ways spoiled, because I came up under the tutelage of one of the greatest men of prayer of this past century named Kenneth E. Hagin, also affectionately known as Dad Hagin. I’ve referred to him before in these blogs. I attended his Bible training center in the early 1980’s when there was a depth of the move of the Spirit unlike anything we see in most circles today. Much of what I write here today will be from the wisdom I received from Dad Hagin and his life.
I am not personally given to a lot of travail and intercessory prayer in the same way my wife is. Over the years I’ve had moments of intensifying and agonizing prayer, and I recognize the Spirit of God in this kind of praying, but I don’t live there like some of the old timers I’ve read about. The first time Dad Hagin travailed in prayer he didn’t understand it, but he knew it was the Holy Spirit leading him. He had prayed this way before a service and had barely preached the introduction of his message when sinners made a run for the altar. He then realized what he had been doing before.
Do we understand the impact and the fruit of what this kind of praying produces? It is immense! There is a place for church growth conferences and the training and tools that are provided at these conferences, but often prayer and the Holy Spirit are hardly ever mentioned. Without Holy Spirit-wrought prayer much of our labor can be in vain.
The Bible talks about travail but it also makes reference to groanings. Both of these elements of prayer are extensions of praying in other tongues. I would not feel safe in saying that one is greater than the other. I will say that one is more intense than the other.
“And in like manner the Spirit also helps our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:26-27)
Groanings are a part of making spiritual intercession. Sometimes the yearnings in prayer that are inspired by the Holy Spirit are unspeakable and they come forth in groanings that are too deep to utter in common speech. Concerning travail, this element is part of the same family and calls up an image of a pregnant woman laboring to bring forth her child. This is the kind of praying these verses speak of. The apostle Paul travailed twice for the Galatian Christians – once for salvation and again to grow in Christ (Gal 4:19). You can pray for sinners or for saints this way.
As much as I am a strong proponent of the Word of God, sometimes preaching and teaching the Word alone will not get the job done when it comes to salvation, or spiritual growth and transformation, or even healing. Some sinners will get saved just by hearing and believing the gospel. Others will not unless travail and spiritual intercession is made for them. And the reason many conversions or decisions for Christ don’t amount to anything is because a confession was made or a prayer was recited, but there was no birth. Salvation is a supernatural birth. God doesn’t want decisions but births.
The same truth applies to spiritual growth. Some Christians will grow from hearing the Word of God and being doers of it, but others will not grow until spiritual intercession and travail is made for them. Why is that? Because until Christ is formed in the new believer he will naturally continue to do things that are wrong and sinful even though he is born again. There are strongholds in his life. Ministers must teach new believers, but prayer and travail must also be made on their behalf. Paul must have taught the Galatians the Word of God, but notice he had to travail and labor for them in prayer in order for Christ to be formed in them, and for them to grow in grace.
This same principle of travailing for lost souls and for Christ to be formed in new believers applies to other areas as well. Very often before a church or ministry can come into fullness, spiritual travail and intercession have to be made to give birth to it. I’ve come to this place in my own ministry where I felt held back and knew that a new dimension of ministry needed to be birthed. Sometimes it requires help from others in prayer to bring it forth.
We need to understand that it’s not just one man’s prayers that’s going to get the job done, but it’s going to take help and perseverance from the body of Christ to give birth to what God wants to do on the earth. I heard Dad Hagin say that sometimes it’s like there’s a huge body of water above the USA, and if someone would pull a lever that water would come flowing down on us all. Saints, there’s a great body of blessing above us, but we must pray this way and give birth to it before it is poured it out. It’s not that God is holding it back, but there are forces of darkness and demonic strongholds that do.
Many Christians talk about another big revival, a national awakening, a spiritual revolution, or another Jesus movement, but it’s going to take more prayer, travail, and real spiritual intercession to give birth to it.
Will you enlist in this increasing army of pray-ers? Will you sacrifice even the legitimate pleasures of life to enter into this prayer life? Will you be a willing volunteer in the day of God’s power?