January 21, 2005
BARREN, DESPERATE WOMEN
In scripture, eight 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 eight 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,
4. Manoah's wife, who brought forth Samson (Judges 13:2-24)
5. Ruth, who brought forth Obed (Ruth 4:13)
6. Hannah, who brought forth Samuel (1 Samuel 1:2-20)
7. Elizabeth, who brought forth John the Baptist (Luke 1:7-13,57)
I have listed only seven barren women thus
far, while I told you I found eight examples. Who is the eighth? Isaiah 66:8 portrays
"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 eighth 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
WHAT IS TRAVAIL? DEFINING OUR TERMS
"What is travail?" These prayer approaches have 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.'"
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
"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
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
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 Michal Ann and I and many other tenacious intercessors. May we truly go forth
kneeling on the promises -- birthing God's purposes through the power of prophetic
James W. Goll
James and Michal Ann Goll's Itinerary:
January 14 and 15, 2005
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