A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
AMY CARMICHAEL (1867-1951): Spiritual children mean travail of soul—spiritual agony. I wonder who among those who read this will realize what I mean. Some will, I think; so I write it. It is a solemn thing to find oneself drawn out in prayer which knows no relief till the soul it is burdened with is born.
R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): Every child of God prays, but not all know what it is to labour in prayer.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Epaphras laboured in prayer, laboured fervently, Colossians 4:12. Those who would succeed in prayer must take pains in prayer.
J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): This is the lesson that is taught us by the expressions used in Scripture about prayer. It is called, “crying, knocking, wrestling, labouring, striving.” This is the lesson taught us by Scripture examples. Jacob is one. He said to the angel at Penuel, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”
JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): O the heat, strength, life vigour, and affection, that is in right prayer! “I have longed after thy precepts,” Psalm 119:40; “I have longed for thy salvation,” verse 174. “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God,” Psalm 84:2. “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times,” Psalm 119:20. Mark here―“My soul longeth,” it longeth, it longeth, etc. O what affection is here discovered in prayer! The like you have in Daniel: “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God,” Daniel 9:19. Every syllable carrieth a mighty vehemency in it. This is called the fervent, or the working prayer, by James.
J. C. RYLE: Our Lord Jesus Christ is another [example]. It is written of Him, “In the days of His flesh He offered up prayer and supplication, with strong crying and tears.”
JOHN BUNYAN: And so again, And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly, Luke 22:44…O how wide are the most of men with their prayers from this prayer, that is, prayer in God’s account!
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Can’t you see the complete contrast between this, and cold, mechanical, so-called “beautiful” prayers, which neither move you, nor are fervent?
JOHN BUNYAN: Jesus Christ put a difference betwixt the form and the spirit that is in prayer, and intimates the soul of prayer is in the desires of a man; “Therefore,” saith He, “I say unto you, What things so ever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them,” Mark 11:24. If a man prays never so long, and has never so many brave expressions in prayer, yet God counts it prayer no further than there are warm and fervent desires in it, after those things the mouth maketh mention of. David saith, “LORD, all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee,” Psalm 38:9. Can you say you desire, when you pray? Or that your prayers come from the braying, panting, and longing of your hearts? If not, they shall not be granted: for God looks, when men are at prayer, to see if their heart and spirit is in their prayers; for He counts all other but vain speaking.
THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): God looks for fervency of spirit in prayer, which alone carries all with God. Feeble prayers, like weak pangs, go over, and never bring a mercy to the birth. Cold prayers are still-born children, in whom the Father of spirits can take no pleasure. Look, as a painted man is no man, and as painted fire is no fire; so a cold prayer is no prayer. Such prayers never win upon the heart of God that do not first warm our own hearts.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Cold prayers ask the Lord not to hear them. Those who do not plead with fervency, plead not at all. As well speak of lukewarm fire as of lukewarm prayer—it is essential that it be red hot.
J. C. RYLE: It is the “effectual fervent” prayer that “availeth much,” and not the cold, sleepy, lazy, listless one.
THOMAS BROOKS: Lazy prayers never procure noble answers. Well, friends, remember this, God no more respects lukewarm prayers than He does lukewarm persons, and they are such that He has threatened to spue out His mouth. Those prayers that are but lip-labour are lost labour; and therefore, in all your prayers, look to the fervency of your spirits.
JOHN BUNYAN: It is to be feared that many content themselves with a little lip-labour—mumbling over a few imaginary prayers.
J. C. RYLE: How truly might God say to many of us, “You do not really want what you pray for!” Let us try to amend this fault.
C. H. SPURGEON: “When Zion travails she brings forth children,” Isaiah 66:8…I long to hear my brethren and sisters universally saying, “We are full of anguish, we are in agony till souls be saved.” The cry of Rachel, “Give me children, or I die,” is the cry―We must have spiritual children born to Christ, or our hearts will break for the longing that we have for their salvation…Oh for more of these longings, yearnings, cravings, travailings!
JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Let us pray to God with an earnest mind, so as it may not be only with lip-labour, or with casting forth some sighs at adventure: but with beseeching Him from the bottom of our heart.
C. H. SPURGEON: O let our prayers go up and let our tears drop down for sinners. Let it come to an agony, for I am persuaded we shall never get much from God by way of conversion till we feel we must have it, until our soul breaketh for the longing that it hath for the salvation of souls: when your cry is like that of Rachel, “Give me children or I die I,” you shall not long be spiritually barren. When you must have converts, or your heart will break, God will hear you and send you an answer…If we plead till the harvest or revival comes we shall partake in the joy of it.