Enduring In The Struggle Of Prayer
Many Herald readers will identify readily with the phrase David Bryant uses in the front-page article – "the struggle of prayer." For many of us, the clamor of the world, the weakness of the flesh and the outright opposition of Satan make prayer a struggle at times. Do not miss the good help available through David Bryant’s article in this regard.
The spiritual giant, the Apostle Paul, speaks of "wrestling" – that is, of struggling, fighting, exerting great effort to come out on top of something or someone. Paul referred especially to wrestling "against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12). And Paul tells that the one so struggling must call on many resources in order to win in the struggle. These are not human resources but God-given resources, an armor God has provided for us. We must co-operate with Him in availing ourselves of His provisions. Let us review them briefly, for they are important if we are to prevail.
God has given us the truths of His Word to know and to obey. The winner faithfully walks in this obedience. God has provided our righteousness through Jesus Christ, as we take our place crucified and risen together with Him, and then yielding ourselves and the members of our body to obey Him, by the Spirit putting off the sins of the old man, and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah 59:1-2 tells us that if we harbor sin in our lives, it separates us from God and causes Him to hide His face from us.
In our struggling, we must employ our faith, which is based firmly on the promises of God’s Word and which must endure trials if it is to grow strong. Faith is likened to the essential weapon of a shield. And we must pray always. "Pray without ceasing," the Apostle again urges us ( 1 Thes. 5:17).
Every bit of the character that God by the Holy Spirit has developed in us in cooperation with us, is called for if we are to prevail in the struggle of prayer.
An Eminent Example
An outstanding example of one who struggled and prevailed in prayer is David Brainerd (1718–1747). Many Herald readers will recognize him as the young American preacher who, in his brief ministry among the American Indians (1743 to 1747), was passionate in his unceasing pursuit of a holy life conformed to the image of his beloved Christ Jesus. A second passion was his intense desire to advance Christ’s Kingdom in the hearts of mankind everywhere. David Brainerd was a close friend of Jonathan Edwards. Brainerd spent the last days of his life in the home of Jonathan Edwards. It was Edwards who preserved for us the story of Brainerd’s life and the accounts from his journals that reveal the passionate love for the Lord and dedication to His service that consumed Brainerd. His prayer life is hardly equaled.
Edwards felt it was a special providence of God that allowed Brainerd to spend his last days with him and his family, to have spiritual conversations with him, and to hear his prayers. It was about this time that the book of Jonathan Edwards spoken of by David Bryant, was published. Can you not imagine that there were conversations along the line of what David Bryant terms a "Christ Awakening" and "the supremacy of Christ"?
For the encouragement of those who practice secret fasting, Edwards writes that Brainerd frequently engaged in it and recommended it to others. It was also obvious, says Edwards, how much he was blessed in it and of what great benefit it evidently was to his soul. Writes Edwards: "Among all the many days he spent in secret fasting and prayer, of which he gives an account in his diary, there is scarcely an instance of one which was not either attended or soon followed with apparent success, and a remarkable blessing…But it must be observed, that when he set about this duty [of fasting] he did it in good earnest; stirring up himself ‘to take hold of God,’ and ‘continuing instant in prayer,’ with much of the spirit of Jacob, who said to the angel, ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.’"
As Brainerd prayed earnestly about the advancement and enlargement of the kingdom of Christ in the world, the first fruit of these prayers came in a remarkable move of God’s Spirit among the Indians to whom he ministered. Lives which were totally changed from their former pagan ways gave evidence to the mighty work of God in the souls of the Indians. Afterward Brainerd could report that whereas a year previously, the Indians to whom he ministered were engaged in heathen ceremonies and feasts, now they gathered in worship around the table of the Lord Jesus Christ, with evident love for Him and for one another, and they were eager and attentive to teachings from God’s Word. Altogether gone was their savagery.
The writings in Brainerd’s diary which tell how he often wrestled with God about the advancement and enlargement of the kingdom of Christ in the world, were great encouragement to Edwards to seek God much for an outpouring of the Spirit of God, and worldwide revival. Since God gave such an extraordinary spirit of prayer to David Brainerd, leading him to agonize in prayer for the increase of His kingdom, Edwards felt that God intended to do something very extraordinary before long. Even as he lay dying, Brainerd prayed fervently for the "flourishing of Christ’s kingdom on earth" and held hope that it would soon begin to be fulfilled.
God’s Far-Reaching Answer
As remarkable as was the answer to Brainerd’s prayers displayed in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Indians, who can say how much farther the impact of his prayers has reached, nor how great has been their effect on the whole worldwide missionary endeavor in the past two or more centuries? The well-known and widely read Andrew Murray (1828–1917), whose ministry followed Brainerd’s and Edwards’ by about one hundred years, writes from his perspective: "God has no more precious gift to give to a church or an age than a man who lives as the embodiment of His will, and inspires those around him with the faith of what grace can do. We speak of the nineteenth century as one of missionary revival. It is remarkable how, in the previous century, God gave His Church two men, whose biographies not only testify to intense life-sacrificing devotion to mission work, but specially help those who followed them to believe in the power of prayer as the essential element of service in the kingdom. David Brainerd and Henry Martyn (1781–1812) were both powerful witnesses to faith in God’s promise and the confident assurance that prayer would hasten the coming of the kingdom. Many a missionary who came after them owed the deepening of his faith in prayer to their example."
One mightily influenced was William Carey (1761–1834), called the "Apostle to India." Soon after his conversion to Christ as a young man, Carey came in contact with the writings of Captain Cook, telling of his travels to many parts of the world and of the uncivilized people he had seen in these distant lands. Cook speculated in one of his writings that missionaries would never visit any of these people. Carey became obsessed with the conviction that it was the solemn responsibility and task of the Church to carry the Gospel to this heathen world, and he determined to be one who would do so. At first he met with opposition, being told that when God became ready to convert the heathen, He would do so without the aid of mankind. But in time Carey became a pioneer in the "missionary revival" of which Murray spoke, accomplishing an astounding work for God in India.
Jonathan Edwards’ book, "An Humble Attempt…" was circulating among readers in England in Carey’s time, urging to prayer and effort to promote revival and the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on earth. Who can say how much this opened the hearts of God’s people to catch the vision with Carey of taking the Gospel to the far places of the earth? And William Carey was so greatly influenced by the account of David Brainerd, that he urged his co-workers to "continually think of Brainerd wrestling in prayer among the solitudes of the backwoods of America."
E. M. Bounds, (1835–1913), whose books on prayer are found in many a preacher’s library, writes of Brainerd that his whole life was a life of prayer. And in Brainerd, Bounds found mighty inspiration for the life of prayer he lived.
Are not God’s sovereign workings seen in a remarkable way as these men and others of like vision and dedication, prevailed until there was a stream of missionaries moving forward to carry out Christ’s commission to: "Go…and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20)?
Reader friend, are we not struck with a sense of the grand opportunity God gives – yes, and more – the urgent call He gives us to endure in the struggle of prayer and help pray into being the consummation of all things toward which He is working? Can we doubt that God has bestowed on us grace upon grace that we might prove faithful in this hour which is ours? Might we lift our eyes from the ordinary to the supremacy of Christ and the advancement of His Kingdom.
Many have died and may yet die "in faith" – not seeing with their eyes the fulfillment of that for which they prayed, the revival for which they believed and devoted their lives. I think of W. C. and Sarah Foulkes Moore, founders of Herald of His Coming, and the many other Herald workers of bygone days who were faithful among the saints of the world who endeavored to endure in the struggle of prayer in order that His Kingdom be greatly advanced. Surely their prayers will yet be answered. And if we endure in the struggle, our prayers will count, too.
So let us take fresh hope, courage, faith and determination – in the midst of today’s busyness and hecticness – to press on for victory in the prayer struggle, to prevail for the glorious fulfillment of what God purposes. If Jesus tarries and we are called to leave a legacy for those who come behind us, might it be like Brainerd’s – faith and prayer for the advance of Christ’s Kingdom and His coming in great glory and power to reign for ever and ever!
To read more about David Brainerd’s remarkable life of prayer, you may write to Herald of His Coming and ask for Classic Book #196, The Hour Series, which contains a chapter entitled, "An Hour With David Brainerd." Address your request to:
Herald of His Coming
P.O. Box 279
Seelyville IN 47878 U.S.A.