When you are seeking to find out how to pray about very big problems, consider travailing in prayer. Travailing in prayer is a very intense form of prayer for you or for others. Travailing in prayer involves expending a great deal of time and emotional energy. Here are some ways to engage in this type of intense prayer.
How to do this prayer practice
A woman who was a hospital chaplain told me about her experiences helping a woman whose husband was extremely ill. The woman was so overwrought and stressed out that the chaplain told the woman that she would take on the woman’s prayer burdens. The chaplain didn’t take this duty lightly, and it was a huge struggle and sacrifice for her to engage in daily prayer. The chaplain was quite thankful when the woman’s husband improved and was able to leave the hospital.
This sort of intensive prayer work is difficult even for chaplains. Therefore, we absolutely cannot take them on without the help of the Holy Spirit. Often the burdens right in your own family will be all you are called to do, especially if you have wayward, addicted or dysfunctional family members.
2. Immerse yourself in prayer and the Scriptures.
This type of prayer can be very draining. Be sure to continually engage in filling spiritual disciplines, such as adoration, worship and meditation.
3. See your intensity and pain as productive.
In the Bible, Jesus talked about travail in the sense of childbirth – a scary and painful process of labor. However when we compare it to the pains of childbirth, Jesus didn’t leave us there but told us that we forget the pains of childbirth for joy that a child has come into the world.
John 16:21 says, “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.”
Paul felt the same way about those under his care in the faith. (Galatians 4:19) “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…”
4. Join Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Bible describes the most intensive time of prayer in the life of Jesus this way: “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) Jesus did not take his prayer burden lightly. He expended the strength of his physical body as well as the strength of his faith and willpower so that He might be prepared to face his death on the cross.
5. Rely on unseen spiritual strength.
The Bible says, “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:43) Ask the Holy Spirit to send all means possible to your aid.
6. Try not to give up, even when others do.
In Gethsemane, Jesus asked his disciples to watch and pray with him. He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38) The disciples wanted to support Jesus, but they fell asleep. Jesus observed, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) Resolve to keep praying. And also allow yourself to be forgiven if you find yourself unable to sustain the prayer work.
7. Leave the results to God.
Often when we expend this sort of prayer energy on a single issue, we have a personal sense of urgency and a great emotional investment in seeing a quick and definitive resolution. We must remember that travail is a mysterious form of prayer. It is not a way of earning a specific outcome. Instead it is a strong and definite stand against inner and outer forces of darkness. We cannot combat these on our own. We must rely totally on the blood and grace of Jesus.
Jesus is the one who is interceding through us. Isaiah 53:11 says, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life, and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many and he will bear their iniquities.” And John 10:14,15 says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
My personal experiences and tips
I have met people who are called and gifted in this sort of prayer. People at your church might refer to them as “Prayer Warriors” because of their ability to pray with intensity. I have observed that there are a number of different intensity levels of intercessory prayer that range from prayers of quiet blessing to these prayers of travail. I believe that God can show us what level of intensity is suited for each individual prayer time.
Copyright Karen Barber 2011