This is a subject that we all need to think about deeply, in view of its importance to the great intercessors of the past, but one that I feel very inadequate to write about. I pray that the Holy Spirit will use this Encourager to reveal His truth, and lead us on to prayer that is more in line with His mind and heart, so that we see the blessing He is wanting to give.
1. The Importance of Brokenness
a) Tears for ourselves
Naturally, our hearts are hard, and through experience of life, they become harder. When we are brought into a state of grace, however, our hearts change from being hard and stony to being soft or broken and contrite. It is a test of whether a person has truly been converted as to how much he or she laments and grieves over their sins, seeing them as contrary to the nature and law of God, and as grieving the Holy Spirit.
Thomas Watson wrote: "Grace dissolves and liquifies the soul, causing a spiritual thaw. The sorrow of the soul runs out at the eye. A godly heart grieves that it is not more holy....Gold is the finest of all metals, yet it is the soonest melted in the fire.
Gracious hearts, which are golden hearts, are the soonest melted into tears by the fire of Godís love. The godly person weeps because the sins he commits are, in some sense, worse than the sins of other men, for they are the sins of unkindness. After Peter had been enrolled among the apostles, been taken up into the mount and shown the glory of heaven, it was base ingratitude to deny Christ. This was why he went out and wept bitterly....The sins of the wicked anger the Lord; the godly manís sins grieve Him. The sins of the wicked pierce his side; the sins of the godly wound His heart. This shows that those who scarcely ever shed a tear for sin are far from being godly. If they lose a near relation, they weep, but though they are in danger of losing God and their souls, they do not weep."
" The worldling," said A.W. Pink, will groan over the common troubles of life, such as financial loss, pain of body, the death of a loved one, but that is only the voice of nature. The worldling never weeps in secret over the coldness of his heart, or the workings of unbelief. Groans and sighs over such things are the evidences of spiritual life, for they are the hungering and thirsting after righteousness." The sighs and tears of unbelievers flow chiefly because of the results of sin in their lives, and the loss and pain that have been caused. They are tears of self-pity, though they will not admit it. The tears of believers for themselves, on the other hand, are, or should be, because of sin in their lives, their lack of holiness, the coldness of their hearts, their lack of fervour in the Lordís service, and their poor witness to their Saviour.
It is true that saints are sometimes so opposed and troubled, especially under persecution, that they cannot find language suited to their emotions, where words fail them, even praying in the Spirit. The deep thoughts and feelings in their hearts can find expression only in sighs and groans and tears. "The workings of a Christianís heart under the pressure of indwelling sin, the temptations of Satan, the opposition of the ungodly and the burden of uncongenial society, can cause believers to be grieved, (1Pet.1;6); to cry out of the depths, (Ps. 130:1); to feel overwhelmed, (Ps.61:2) and to groan inwardly, waiting for their adoption.(Rom. 8:23) For the groaning of a believer related to himself are always linked with hope. Just as "godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation, (2Cor.7:10), so the sighs and aspirations of the believer are declarations of faith in God, are pantings after Him and His holiness, yearnings for being with Christ. (2 Cor. 5 : 2 & 4)
For "the spiritual sighs and groanings of the Christian are interpreted by God as prayers." (A.W.Pink) The sacrifices which are acceptable to Him are `a broken and a contrite heart.` (Ps. 51:7) We are told to pour out our hearts before Him. (Ps.62:8) The believerís tears are intelligible language to heaven, "The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping." (Ps.6:8) "Lord, all my longing is known to You, and my sighing is not hidden from You." (Ps.38:9) As against so many prayers which are not heard, and go no further than the ceiling, the longings, the sighs, the tears of a believer are heard by the Lord. "Our tears speak to him of godly sorrow, our moans as the breathings of a contrite spirit." (A.W.Pink) We are told that the Lord looked down from heaven to earth to hear the cries and groans of His enslaved people in Egypt, (Ex.2:23-24), and came to their rescue. The psalmist testifies that the Lord looked down from His holy height to hear the groans of the prisoners, and to set free those who were doomed to die. (Ps.102:18-20)
The Lord is telling us here that He sees and hears our sighs, our groans, our deepest yearnings more than the words that we utter, for He reads the language of the heart more than the language of the brain. He knows everything about us, (Ps.139:1-6), and what He is concerned about is honesty, sincerity and truth in the depths of our beings. (Ps.51:6) Our sighs, our longings, our groanings, our tears, are the language of our innermost beings, and that is what He hears. Thus it is that the tears of believers are treasured by our compassionate God, and we can ask Him to put them in His bottle. (Ps.56:8)
b) Tears for others
" The believerís life in this world, sandwiched between the Fall and the Grave, if he is living close to the heart of God, may well be styled a Baca, a valley of tears."(the unknown author of Godís Bottle) but surely, some may say, since Pentecost, it should be a place of joy. Now it is true that the benefits of Christís life, death and resurrection include His joy, His peace, His love and His presence, yet behind all these, if we are really in tune with the mind and purposes of God, there should be a constant feeling of grief and sadness about this world that God created to be so beautiful and pleasing to him, becoming so sinful, so rebellious, so selfish, so violent, so cruel and so God rejecting. This rejection of God and His ways should be felt by all believers in the depths of their beings. We should be able to say with the psalmist, "My eyes shed streams of tears because men do not keep Your law. (Ps.119:136) Indeed we should feel this even more deeply than the psalmist, for since these words were written, God sent His Son to reveal His mercy and grace, and men rejected Him, and still go on rejecting Him, so our eyes should be shedding rivers of tears. Yet I see little evidence of this in todayís Church.
I hear plenty of words, a lot of music and singing, many claims to power and miracles, much social action, multifarious church activities, even some organized prayer meetings, but I hear little or no sighs or groans or tears over the state of the Church or the state of the nation or the state of Godís world or the rejection of the Spotless Lamb of God, that He is not getting the reward for the travail of His soul; and none at all over the fate of the millions going to hell.
I see plenty of complacency; churches where the members seem quite satisfied with their programmes, but where they turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to most of the things that break the heart of God. There appears to be a basic misunderstanding in the Church regarding satisfaction. Of course, we should have a satisfaction with Christ and His wonderful grace to us, but at the same time we should have a profound and deep dissatisfaction with the state of things in the Church and the world. For God is never satisfied with these, and His heart is breaking over all its sin and wickedness. He sees all the evil that goes on under the sun, far more than we know about. He knows the sinfulness of the human heart. There can be no satisfaction for God until sin and death are destroyed, and if we are His, with His Spirit in us, then there can be no satisfaction for us.
Zeal for His house has to consume us, so that the insults of those who insult God fall on us. (Ps.69:9)
The sins of this nation should be like a burden on our hearts, so that we sigh and groan and weep over the sins of our Jerusalem, as the Old Testament prophets did. We need to pray like Abraham and Moses and Joshua and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Daniel, who all used the word "Oh" in their pleadings before the Lord. Where is the "Oh" in our prayers today. I hear it so infrequently, especially from the pulpit. The Ohs represent all the pent up feelings within us, all the concerns, the disappointments, the desires, the determination, the desperation rising up to express what is almost beyond words. "Oh Lord, it is time for You to act. You must do something now." We have seen this as the essential element in revival praying. If our hearts are right before the Lord, then we will constantly be breathing out Ohs and sighs and groans before Him, and our tears will be constantly being put in His bottle. Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezra all prayed and wept for the sins of Godís people as though they were personally responsible. Where are the people who feel the same way today, and pray with the same brokenness of heart? The conditions in this land at this time are so bad that they would have brought any of the great men of old to their knees, weeping for the sins of the nation.
So why are our eyes so dry? The churches in Wales, before 1904, were far more, far larger and far stronger they are today, yet hundreds of people cried out to God in desperation for Him to pour out his Spirit on the land. So why are we not really broken hearted over the far worse situation today, and beseeching God with loud cries and tears?
"Every church without a prayer meeting condemns us. Every dry eye among us condemns us. Unless we repent now. Unless we fast and weep now, woe unto us at the judgment." (Leonard Ravenhill) Ravenhill goes on to state a fact that I have found true again and again. "Many people express an interest in revival; not so many are deeply concerned about it; fewer still are burdened about it; and still fewer heartbroken over it."
Make sure you are one of that few.
2. Biblical Examples and Supporting Quotations
We will look firstly at the prophet Elijah, as he prayed on Mount Carmel. "Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God." "How those words breathed forth the intensity and vehemency of the prophetís zeal for the Lord of Hosts. The repetition intimates how truly and how deeply Elijah's heart was burdened. He could not endure the dishonour done to his Master on every side. He yearned to see him vindicate Himself. How his zeal and intensity puts to shame the coldness of our prayers. It is only the genuine cry of a burdened heart that reaches the heart of God." (A.W.Pink)
Jeremiah, although he was told by God that the people of Jerusalem would not respond to his warnings, nevertheless continued to speak and to pray for Godís rebellious people, bearing them up in his heart. The depth of his concern for sinners was so deep, it has been surpassed only by that of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. "Oh that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people." (Jer. 9:1) Oh that we all had our hearts broken in the same way, so that we all pray as he did.
The prophet Ezekiel was shown a terrible scene. Six men with battle axes were told to go through the city of Jerusalem, and kill everybody, old and young, men and women, even little children. The only ones spared were those who sighed and cried over all the abominations that were being done in the city. The word translated "cried" is a very strong word meaning inner grief and real sorrow of the heart. These ones had a mark put on their foreheads, so that they were spared in the slaughter. Would God put a mark on our foreheads because we sigh and have great sorrow of heart over all the abominations being committed in our land? Can we honestly affirm with the psalmist that burning indignation has seized us because of the wicked who forsake Godís law? (Ps. 119:53)
Could we say truthfully that our eyes shed streams of water because people do not keep
His law? (Ps. 119:136) "The world has lost the power to blush over its vice, and the Church has lost her power to weep over it." (Leonard Ravenhill)
"Those who sow in tears will reap in joy." (Ps.126:5) "This is the divine edict. This is more than preaching with zeal, more than scholarly exposition, more than delivering sermons of exegetical exactitude, it is being appalled at the shrinking authority of the Church in the present drama of cruelty in the world. He cringes with sorrow that men turn a deaf ear to the gospel, and willingly risk eternal hell in the process. Under this complex burden, his heart is crushed to tears. The true man of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church, grieved at the blindness of the Church, grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church. He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the Church no longer pulls down the strongholds of the devil. He is embarrassed that Church people no longer cry in their despair before a devil ridden, sin mad society." (Leonard Ravenhill) Most have no heart sickness for the former glory of the Church because they have no idea what the Church should be like. They have had a non-threatening easy believism gospel presented to them. They have had a non self denying Christianity surrounding them. They have never experienced revival, or anything like it. Consequently they sleep easily at nights while this generation moves swiftly to the eternal night of hell.
The apostle Paul sent a tear stained letter to the Phillippian saints, saying, "I have often told you, and now tell you, even with tears, that many," (whose minds were set on earthly things, just like todayís Church,) "live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction." (Phil.3:18-19) Are we, like Paul, in tears over the worldliness of todayís Church"? "The Salvationists can scarcely read their flaming, evangelical history without tears. Has the glory of the evangelical revival under Wesley ever gripped the hearts of Methodists today? Have they read of the fire baptized men in Wesleyís team? Men like John Nelson, Thomas Walsh and a host of others whose names are written in the Book of Life; men persecuted and kicked in the streets when they held street meetings? Yet as their blood flowed from their wounds, their tears flowed from their eyesÖ.Do the Pentecostals look back with shame, as they rememberÖthe glory of the Lord in their midst? When they had a normal church life, which meant nights of prayers, followed by signs and wonders and genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit. When they were not clock watchers, and their meetings lasted for hours, saturated with holy power. Have we no tears for those memories, or shame that our children know nothing of such power?" (Leonard Ravenhill)
We need to understand and experience the sorrow and agony that Moses felt after the children of Israel had rebelled against the Lord, and made the golden calf. He knew it was a terrible sin, and that they didnít deserve to be forgiven. "Oh this people have committed a great sin," he lamented before the Lord, "yet now, if You will forgive this sin, but if not, I pray You, blot me out of the book that You have written." (Ex.32:31-32) The worldliness and compromise of the Western church should burden us in the same way.
Paul asked a similar prayer in respect of the Jews of his day, showing an incredible identification with the sinners he was praying for. In the same way, Daniel identified with the people who had caused the destruction of Jerusalem, even though he hadnít been responsible, praying with great passion and earnestness, using the word "Oh" no less than twelve times! Ezra, in the same vein, "confessed Jerusalemís sin with an agony such as if all their sin had been his own. Ezra's spirit in public prayer, his attitude and his utterances are enough to scandalise all hard, dry and meagre hearted men." (Alexander Whyte)
"Godís greatest gifts to man come through travail. In any sphere, all great reforms and discoveries and soul awakening revivals came through the toils and tears, the vigils and blood letting of men and women whose sufferings were the pangs of its birth." (F.B.Meyer) "As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children."(Is.66:8) There has to be travail for birth, yet Christians expect spiritual births without pain. We have no right to do so. It is not surprising that so many of todayís births are not real births at all, for there has been no travail.
"Can we travail for a drowning child, but not for a perishing soul? It is not hard to weep when we realize that our little one is sinking below the surface for the last time. Anguish is spontaneous then. Nor is it hard to agonize when we see the casket containing all that we love on earth borne out of the home. Ah no, tears are natural at such a time. But to realize that souls, precious, never dying souls, are perishing all round us, going out into the blackness of darkness and despair, eternally lost; and yet to feel no anguish, shed no tears, know no travail! How cold are our hearts. How little we know of the compassion of Jesus!
And yet God can give us this, and the fault is ours if we do not have it. Jacob, you remember, travailed until he prevailed. But oh, who is doing it today? Who is really travailing in prayer? How many, even of your most Christian spiritual leaders, are content to spend half an hour a day on their knees, and then pride themselves on the time they have given to God?
We expect extraordinary results, and extraordinary results are quite possible, but only through extraordinary efforts in the spiritual realm. Hence, nothing short of continuous, agonizing pleading for souls, hours upon hours, days and nights of prayer, will ever avail.
Therefore, `Gird on sackcloth and lament, you priests; howl, you ministers of the altar.
Come, lie all night in sackcloth, you ministers of my GodÖ.Consecrate a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God; and cry out to the Lord.` (Joel 1:13-14) Ah yes, Joel knew the secret." (Oswald J. Smith)
Leonard Ravenhill speaks of witnessing a woman in a little town in Wales, who was travailing in prayer. "It could not have been more painful," he wrote, "if she had been giving birth naturally and gone down to the dates of death to bring forth life. This is what praying in the Holy Ghost is all about."
"Revival is tarrying and men are slipping into hell fire by the moment. Oh the horror of it. Do you feel the concern, dear reader, or is your heart passionless, tearless, prayerless? Do you have tears for the lost? Surely revival tarries for the simple fact that we do not have tears." (Greg Gordon)
"How can I help weeping for you when you will not weep for yourselves; though your immortal souls are on the verge of destruction?" (George Whitefield)
The most outstanding example of a Bible character who sighed and cried over the sins of Godís people is, of course, the Lord Jesus Himself, "who, in the days of his flesh, offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard for His godly fear." (Heb.5:7) This statement is a further endorsement of the fact that God "hears" the anguish, the desperation, the tears
in our prayers rather than the words, but we will be taking a special look at the Son of God in Section 4.
3. Historical Illustrations
"Our forefathers wept and prayed and agonized before the Lord for sinners to be saved, and would not rest until they were slain by the Sword of the Word of God. That was the secret of their mighty success. When things were slack and would not move, they wrestled in prayer till God poured down His Spirit upon the people, and sinners were converted." (Samuel Stevenson)
Jonathan Edwards, even though regarded as very careful and logical in his reasoning, "frequently wept as he opened his grieving heart over the sinners of his day," (Leonard Ravenhill), and saw the Lord transform the whole community where he was labouring.
David Brainerd, a missionary to the North American Indians, wrote, "God enabled me to so agonize in prayer that I was quite wet with perspiration, though I was in the shade and the cool wind. My soul was drawn out very much from the world to multitudes of soulsÖ..Near the middle of the afternoon, God enabled me to wrestle ardently in intercession for my friends. But at night the Lord visited me marvellously in prayer. I think my soul never was in such an agony before. I felt no restraint, for the treasures of divine grace were opened to me. I wrestled for my friends, for the ingathering of souls, for multitudes of poor souls." Soon Brainerd saw the most incredible answers to his prayers as many, who had been proud, obstinate sinners, were powerfully convicted by the Holy Spirit, and brought into newness of life.
Later, in the same century, in England, William Bramwell, a Methodist minister, was greatly used by God. "The weight of a lost world and a struggling Church time and again brought him to his knees in travailing prayer. The Holy Spirit awakened in his heart a deep sympathy for perishing souls. He saw multitudes around him on the broad road to destruction, and longed to snatch them as brands from the fire."(David Smithers) He wrote, "I wonder at His glory, and sink before him in shame. How is it that the soul being of such value, God so great and eternity so near, yet we are so little moved?"
Another Methodist minister, whose life was cut short after only fifteen years of ministry, when he was thirty seven, was John Smith. Often as he prayed, he would wrestle with God until a considerable part of the floor of his study was wet with his tears.
(He obviously had no soft carpet or rug.) "Where the result that he desired did not attend his ministry, he would spend days and nights almost constantly on his knees, weeping and pleading before God, and especially deploring his own inadequacy to the great work of saving souls. He was, at times, when he perceived no movement in the Church, literally in agonies, travailing in birth for precious souls, till he saw Christ magnified in their salvation." (Richard Treffry) "I have often seen him come downstairs in the morning," wrote Treffry, "after spending several hours in prayer, with his eyes swollen with weeping. `I am a broken hearted man,` he said, `not for myself, but on account of others. God has given me such a sight of the value of precious souls that I cannot live if souls are not saved. O give me souls or I die.`"
We will look at one example of the results of his praying. "The Spirit of God descended upon the congregation. The deep attentive silence at the commencement of the discourse was soon interrupted by sobs and moans, followed by loud and piercing cries for mercy as one after another, the hearers were pricked to the heart, and the strongholds of Satan were beaten down." (David Smithers) Would to God we could witness such scenes today! But we know we can, if we and the preachers are willing to pay the price.
The early Primitive Methodists were men who knew tearful intercession. The whole movement was birthed in prayer, with prayer meetings going on for hours. It was not surprising that in spite of persecution, (and probably because of it), they saw the Lord working powerfully. One of their preachers was John Oxtoby, a mighty man of prayer,
who constantly prayed with tears, travailing in anguish for the places where he was ministering. As a result, the Holy Spirit was poured out on whole towns, and "in answer to his public prayers, whole assemblies of people were slain by the power of the Holy Spirit. Strong men were struck with conviction, and cried out for mercy." (David Smithers) Let us pray for that to happen this year.
Charles Finney wrote of a time when a problem "loaded him down with great agony. As I returned to my room, I felt as if I would stagger under the burden that was on my mind. I struggled and groaned and agonized, but could not manage to present my case before God in words, but only in groans and tears. The Spirit struggled within me with groanings that could not be uttered." There is a place for words with sighs and groans and tears, but there is also a place for the yearnings without the words, the deep prayer of the Holy Spirit, and that we must seek.
One of the most outstanding examples of those who knew the importance of weeping was Robert Murray M`Cheyne, the minister of St. Peterís Church in Dundee, who prayed, "Make me as holy as a redeemed sinner can be." Not only did he spend hours in prayer, crying over his people, but cried over them in the pulpit. "When he walked into the pulpit, often even before he had time to open the Bible, the people would begin to weep, because he carried the very presence of God with him." (Wesley Duewel) This shows that the nearer a person gets to the Lord, and knows His presence and His holiness, he will not only weep over sin, but will cause others to feel something of the same.
" A visitor came to see St. Peterís shortly after the death of M`Cheyne. The elder took him into the pastorís vestry, and pointing to the chair, said, "Sit down. Put your elbows on the table." The visitor obeyed. "Now put your face in your hands." Again the visitor obeyed. "Now let your tears flow, as Mr M`Cheyne used to do." He then led the visitor to the pulpit. "Kneel on the floor," said the elder. The man did so. "Now put your elbows on the pulpit," said the elder. The visitor complied. "Put your face in your hands." Again the visitor obeyed. "Now let the tears flow, as Mr M`Cheyne used to do." The elder gave the same instructions to the visitor regarding M`Cheyne`s reading of the Bible, his pulpit prayers and his sermons." (Wesley Duewel) It was not surprising that the Lord used his ministry in the most amazing way. Where are the preachers like Robert Murray M`Cheyne today? Pray for God to raise them up. "The secret of M`Cheyne`s ministry was that he carried the burden of his people, of his nation and of God`s cause upon his heart. Let the Holy Spirit burden you in the same way." (Wesley Duewel)
During the 1858-60 Welsh Revival, in answer to the fervent, tearful prayers of the saints, the Holy Spirit convicted people very strongly. It is said that "it was in its terrors that the eternal became a reality to them at first. They seemed plunged into depths of godly sorrow. For some weeks it was the sound of weeping and the sound of mourning that was heard in the meetings. The house was often so full of the divine presence that ungodly men trembled terror stricken." (Eifion Evans)
One of the giants of prayer was John Hyde, a missionary to India. "We can take our stand near his prayer closet, and hear the sighing and the groaning, and see the tears coursing down his face as he pleads with God to give him souls." (Francis M`Gaw)
"He never seemed to lose sight of those thousands in his own district without hope and without God in the world. How he pleaded for them with sobs, dry choking sobs that showed how the depths of his soul was being stirred. `Father, give me these souls or I die.` was the burden of his prayers." (Francis M`Gaw)
Feeling deeply so as to express oneself in sighs and tears is not a matter of physical maturity, but of spiritual maturity, and this can be achieved at quite a young age. In times of revival, especially in the Moravian Revival that started in 1727, in the Welsh Revival of 1858-60 and in the Ulster Revival of 1859, quite young children have prayed with heartfelt tears for the conversion of their friends and relatives. Would that we saw that today, when so many feel that children have to be pampered and entertained. We need to show that we are really concerned for their souls salvation, and seek to give them good examples of genuine sighing and groaning prayers, and not be afraid to show tears. Such examples will do more good than hours and hours of instruction.
A wonderful illustration of this is the story of an Indian boy, named as J.N., who was travelling on a train with Hyde. The missionary was urging the boy not to go away from
him and from Christ, but the boy seemingly took no notice, got off the train and went away. A woman in the compartment, who told the story, said she saw the tears flowing down his cheeks as he reasoned with the headstrong youth. She realized that he knew the value of an immortal soul. The next day, she was surprised to see the boy again. "I am going back to Mr Hyde," he said. "I havenít been able to sleep all night. I couldnít forget
One eye witness of the 1904-06 Revival in Wales said that "it was not the eloquence of Evan Roberts that broke men down, but his tears. When speaking to a congregation, he would break down, crying bitterly for them, in an agony of prayer, the tears coursing down his cheeks and his whole frame writhing. As a result, strong men would break down and cry like children, and a sound of weeping and wailing would fill the air." (David Matthews) If we would see God work in similar ways, then we, too, need to be broken before the Lord, as Evan Roberts was.
Oswald J Smith , of Toronto, Canada, gives his own testimony of what happened in 1917. "About two in the afternoon, I was praying when ..tears began to flow copiously. All I could do was to sob out, `Theyíre lost. Theyíre lost.` And so I continued weeping and praying for the people." Then began a work of the Holy Spirit in the church that was to last over a year, with hundreds weeping their way to the foot of the Cross.
A young aspiring evangelist told of the time when he was taking meetings at the Town Hall in Maesteg in Wales in 1961. The first night was a disaster, as the speaker had a stutter, and managed only a few sentences without stuttering, so the following day he visited a retired miner called Dai, and asked for prayer. Dai knelt down, then lay face down on the floor, sighing and sobbing before the Lord. After a long, time he got up and said, "You must go to the town hall tonight, and you must speak." The young man replied, "I will go to the town hall, but as regards speaking, I will have to think about that." "Donít think about it," said Dai, "or you could miss God working."
That night when the young man spoke, a stillness fell upon the audience, and he sensed an awesome awareness of the presence of God. His stutter was taken away, and he spoke with authority and boldness. Soon people were falling to the floor, crying, and after some time, the scene resembled a battlefield, with young people lying on the floor, weeping; and helpers, kneeling and praying beside them.
The evangelist Wilbur Chapman was conducting an evangelistic mission in Shrewsbury. The ministers of the churches there did not take the mission seriously,
and attendance at the planning meeting was poor. John Hyde was staying there, and felt burdened about it. His prayers changed the tide, and at the first evangelistic meeting, fifty men decided for Christ. Afterwards, Chapman asked Hyde to pray for him. John went to the evangelistís room, turned the key in the door, dropped on his knees, and for five minutes said nothing, but inwardly sighed before the Lord. Then with tears streaming down his face, he called out, "Oh God." Then for five minutes at least, there were no words from his lips, only spirit communication with God. Then, Wilbur recalled, "when he knew he was talking to God, his arm went round my shoulder, and there came up from the depth of his heart such petitions for men as I have never heard before, and I rose from my knees to know what real prayer was.``" (J.Pengwern Jones)
How that story challenges us. In our prayers, are we too ready to speak, and less ready to seek real communication with God through the language we know He hears? When we are praying in front of others, are we willing to look foolish, not caring what others think, in order to express our deepest thoughts and feelings, and really be in touch with God? When somebody else prays, are we willing to wait, as Chapman was, until the person gets through to God, and there is real prayer? Do we know what real prayer is?
4. How can we achieve this right state of heart before God?
As we think about those who have prayed at the deepest level, we know that we cannot imitate them, or just put on a show of tears, for we are talking about reality. Our minds and hearts have to be affected.
We need to let the things that break the heart of God break our hearts.
We need to let the Word of God work deeply in our minds and spirits, so that we understand more of what God understands, and we feel more of what He feels.
We must ask the Lord to give us, as John Smith said, "a sight of the value of precious souls."
We need to feel Godís sorrow over sin. "We have to get a concept of how, day by day, we offend God. As a nation, we offend God in millions of ways." (Leonard Ravenhill)
The experience of Evan Roberts may help us. "At a meeting that Roberts attended, the Spirit seemed to say to Roberts, `Thatís what you need, to be bent.` So Evan then prayed earnestly, `Oh Lord. bend me,` until "the glory broke. `After I was bent,` said Roberts, `a wave of peace came over me. I thought about the bending at the Judgment Day, and I was filled with compassion for those who would have to bend on that day, and I wept for them. After that experience, the salvation of souls became the burden of my heart.``
We need to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. Think about the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. When the people of that time looked at Jerusalem, they saw a splendid, beautiful city, thriving with merchants and traders going about their business. To the Jews, it was the centre of their religion, with a magnificent temple, resplendent with white marble stones and gilding shining in the sun, where the finest services and sacrifices were held. But when Jesus saw it, He wept over it. A grown man, being acclaimed as a leader and a hero by crowds of people as He rode in triumph into the city, saw more than any of them saw. He saw a city that was spiritually blind. The name Jerusalem means "he shall see peace, or wholeness," but the Son of God knew that
they had not seen the Prince of Peace when He came to them, so they would lose the peace they had. They had refused to believe in the One sent from God for them. They had refused to open their eyes and see what God wanted them to see; so Godís salvation would be withheld from them, they would suffer terribly as a consequence, and their temple, that they thought was so beautiful, would be reduced to rubble.
All these thoughts, and many more, went through the mind of the Son of God as the procession He was leading came over the brow of the hill, and he saw the city spread out before Him. The feelings of sadness, of yearning were so great that they eclipsed all the joyfulness of the occasion. So intense was His anguish that He wept loudly and openly.
He could not hold back the sorrow that was in his heart. The verb used in the Greek to
express what he did is the word used to describe the wild, uncontrollable sobbing of those who have been bereaved. For He knew He had been bereaved of all those who had rejected Him. So as He entered the city, His heart was overwhelmed with sorrow, and His face was tearstained. For a grown man to cry in such a way in public, and on such a joyous occasion shows that the depth of His grief and sorrow was greater than we can imagine. The tears were not for Himself, but on account of others, for all the insults and injuries He received a few days later evoked not a single sigh or tear for Himself.
What an incredible picture this is of the sorrow and anguish we should feel over the sin of this world, of this nation, of the church. The Church in our land, like the Jews at the time of Jesus, seems to have little or no idea of its disobedience, its lack of faith and prayer, its compromise and weakness, and no sense of shame over its own condition or the state of the country. In its complacency, it refuses to accept that the sinful state of the nation is its fault. How we need to bear the burden of all this, and feel the pain and heartache of the Lord.
We need to see Jesus in all His purity and grace and concern, and see our world as He sees it, not as others see it. Just as it was with Jerusalem, people around us see the outward appearance, the prosperity, the glory of man made things. But Jesus sees people as spiritually blind, and the world heading for disaster, because it does not, and will not
accept the things that make for peace, because it will not repent and accept Jesus as the Prince of Peace and the only way to God. And so it goes blindly on, from one tragedy to the next; and individuals continue on the broad way to destruction. If we really take this in, and see things as Jesus sees them, then we will feel the sorrow in his heart, our hearts will be broken, and our eyes will overflow with tears.
We need to go with Christ into Gethsemane. A Christian brother in India, at the same time as John Hyde, wrote: "God wants those who are willing to bear the burden of these millions without God to go with Jesus into Gethsemane. It is a blessed experience to feel that we can, in some measure, enter into the fellowship of Christís sufferings. It brings us into a precious nearness to the Son of God. Not only this, it is Godís appointed way of bringing the lost sheep back into the foldÖ.If we are willing to put ourselves into Godís hands, then God is willing to use us. But there are two conditions, obedience and purity; obedience in everything, even in the least, surrendering up our wills, accepting the will of God, and purity. God wants pure vessels for His service, clean channels through which to pour forth His grace." (Francis M`Gaw)
To understand and feel this, is to enter into the fellowship of Christís sufferings, and we cannot do this unless we do it with Christ, with His patience and understanding, so that we share the soul passion of the One who is always living to make intercession for us, (Heb. 7:25) and the One who intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. (Rom.8:26) This is the heart of true intercession that the great saints have proved. We cannot do this of ourselves, but as we count everything as loss for the sake of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection, so we are enabled to share His sufferings. (Phil.3:8-10) It is all by His strength made perfect in our weakness. (2 Cor. 11:9)
"I want to pray with groanings that cannot be uttered,
I want to be taught what can only be caught as the Spirit anoints.
Lord, I tearfully ask:
Teach me to pray with groanings, so there are earthquakes in hell,
Teach me the groanings of the Spirit until angels stand in awe.
Teach me Spirit born intercession that changes history.
Teach me the birth pangs of the Holy Spirit until hell-shaking revival is born.
Lead me into travail that will hold back divine judgment from the nations,
Let me be a living sacrifice on the altar of prayer, bleeding to bless,
Until flood tides of mercy sweep the nations.
Lord, break my heart in intercession until my eyes, like those of Jeremiah,
Are a fountain of tears, weeping for the slain of a spiritually dead people.
5. The Results and the Rewards
God has little to say to the matter of fact person,
Even less to the shallow and the superficial,
Nothing to the frivolous, except repent,
But everything to the contrite heart, that trembles at His Word.
"God uses people to perform His work. He does not send angels. Angels weep over it, but God does not use angels to accomplish His purposes. He use burdened, broken hearted, weeping men and women." (David Wilkerson)
God has said that those who go forth weeping, carrying seed for sowing, will definitely return with songs of joy, carrying their sheaves with them, (Ps.126:5-6), so we can stand on that assurance, and expect God to act. Jesus endured, despising the shame, knowing the joy that was set before Him. (Heb.12:2)
That joy can be ours, very soon after the travail. "In the prayer room, John Hyde would often break out into tears over the sins of the world, and especially of Godís children. Then his tears would be changed into shouts of praise according to the divine promise repeated by our Lord on that last night when He talked with his own, `You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.` (Jn.16:20-22)" (Francis M`Gaw)
However, we need to realize that travail can be short or long. Like John Hyde and many others, we should feel the pain of particular situations and particular people who are opposing the work of God, and when these prayers are answered, we can have the joy of seeing souls truly born again of the Spirit of God; but we should also have the larger burden regarding the world in all its disobedience and rebellion, the Church with all its compromise and weakness, the lack of holiness and perfection of Godís people that Robert Murray M`Cheyne experienced so deeply. Thus it was that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: "My little children, I am again in travail till Christ is formed in you." (Gal.4:19)
However, in response to our travail, before the complete answer is given, the Lord could have things for us to consider. When Nehemiah was in Susa, and heard about the terrible condition of Jerusalem, he didnít just sit down and weep and mourn and fast and pray, for God had much greater things in mind for him. The Lord gave Nehemiah a plan for rebuilding the walls, a plan so precise that he knew how long it would take to complete the work, and the letters that would need to be written for him to complete the journey safely, and acquire the materials for the construction; so that when the king asked him why he was sad, Nehemiah was all ready to tell the king what he wanted to do, how long he needed to be away, and exactly what was required. All this paved the way for Nehemiahís success. It was not sufficient for Nehemiah to pray and fast and weep, he had to listen to what God wanted to tell him, and be ready to do what God wanted him to do. He had to be ready to have his whole life turned upside down, from a comfortable, settled job to a dangerous, confrontational task hundreds of miles away.
Like Nehemiah, we know about about the terrible condition of our Jerusalem, the Church, with its walls broken down, and the awful state of the nation; but it is not enough just to bemoan the situation, nor even to be broken hearted and cry over it, though God does want us to feel the anguish that is in His heart, but God may well want to move us on in our thinking to a place of greater determination, where we say, as Nehemiah would have said, "I will not stand for this anymore, something has got to change. This situation is against Your will. It is rebellion against You. You must tell me if there is something You want me to do." Then the Lord may well give you ideas, dreams, visions, and plans for the future.
"True brokenness," wrote David Wilkerson, "is more than weeping, more than sorrow, more than a crushed spirit, more than humility. Indeed, many who weep are not broken hearted. Many who lie before God and groan are not broken in spirit. True brokenness releases in the heart the greatest power God can entrust to manÖit is the power to restore ruins, a power that brings a special kind of glory and honour to our Lord in troubled times." So make sure you are open to the Lord, and obedient to Him, so He can give you the understanding, the determination and the zeal that he wants you to have. Give Him the opportunity to use all the pent up emotions and anguish that should be in our minds and hearts, and channel it to change us into the kind of people that He can use to fulfil His purposes.
" We are prepared to serve the Lord only by sacrifice. We are fit for the work of God only when we have wept over it, prayed about it, and then are enabled by Him to tackle the job that needs to be done. May God give to us hearts that bleed, eyes that are wide open to see, minds that are clear to interpret Godís purposes, wills that are obedient, and a determination that is utterly unflinching as we set about the tasks He would have us do."
"Servants of His passion, we, pained and aching for the lost,
Marked the sighing forehead see, one with Christ at life blood cost.
Supplicate in blood like sweat, intercede in agony,
Plead for souls with faces wet, passion learned at Calvary.
Souls, my heart breaks with the cry, what else counts, what matters more?
Give me souls or else I die; violence storms at heavenís door.
Sobbing in the secret place, broken hearted anguish know.
Children will be born in grace; Godís transforming blessing flow.
Heavens be rent and mountains flow; fiends of hell in terror flee.
Christ shall reign, above, below; His the glorious victory.