Praying in Anguish

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, October 28, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

This post was inspired by a sermon by David Wilkerson called “A Call to Anguish.” It is also something God has been teaching me beyond that sermon. When we pray, do we pray with such gusto and desire that it actually hurts? More down to earth, when we pray, do we actually care about those we are praying for? And what I mean by ‘actually care’ is: do we care enough to actually get up and do something about it?

When a natural disaster strikes, we care to a degree. We grieve, we mourn, but unless it directly affects us, do we do something about it? Or do we just say a quick prayer, hoping God will use someone else to deal with the problem? Let me be open and honest about myself. I have greatly struggled in this area. Part of it is that I do not feel emotions the way most people do. I am a very analytical, fact-based, and intellectual-based person. I am not swayed by emotion easily. I get happy and excited and I get sad and depressed, so I’m not completely emotionless, however, do I truly care enough to weep over it in prayer, or to get up and do something about it?

Let me illustrate this further. As Christians, we all want to see people go to heaven. We do not want to see anyone go to hell. I have spent a good part of the last 13+ years studying and learning about Biblical worldviews, namely on the Creation/Evolution debate. This is great head knowledge. I can honestly outdebate many atheists, but do I care for their souls? Or do I just care about winning the argument? Do I care enough to show the love of Christ? During my prayer training the last few months, I realized how little I have been praying for souls. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak for the chapel service at Jesus Chapel School about the reliability of the Bible. As I prayed about this event, God pressed on my heart to pray for the souls of the students. This quote from Leonard Ravenhill got my attention:
“I am increasingly convinced that tears are an integral part of revival preaching. Preacher brethren, this is the time to blush that we have no shame, the time to weep for our lack of tears, the time to bend low that we have lost the humble touch of servants, the time to groan that we have no burden, the time to be angry over the devil's monopoly in this ‘end time’ hour, the time to chastise ourselves that the world can so easily get along with us and not attempt to chastise us.” ~Leonard Ravenhill: Why Revival Tarries pg 67

George Whitefield was a man who would weep for his audiences even when they did not know to weep over their sin. Paris Reidhead describes Whitefield as one who wept not because the people were going to hell, but because they were lost in sin and did not even know it. John “Praying Hyde” Hyde groaned with such agony and passion that it literally moved his heart from one side of his chest to another. Elijah groaned in prayer that it might rain, seven times. Jesus prayed in such agony at Gethsemane that he sweated blood. Do we care enough that it hurts, that we do something about it?

Nehemiah is the standard example of praying in anguish. In Nehemiah 1, he hears about the ruins of Jerusalem as he attended the King of Persia in Susa as a cup-bearer. He wept, fasted, and prayed, and it grieved him so much that he could not hide it from the king. To be sad before the king could cost you your life. The status of Jerusalem so grieved Nehemiah that even preserving his life could not help him mask it.

David Wilkerson describes this as a baptism of anguish: when you ask God to have him share his heart with you. Nehemiah felt the pain God was feeling about the ruin of the city of his people. Jesus felt the agony of God repeatedly when he saw the crowds and had compassion on the people. The great preachers and missionaries were baptized with anguish over the lost. Just look at Paul’s life. He had one driving passion: to see souls set free even to the point where he told God that if he could take the place of another in hell so that person could go to heaven, he would do it.

Do we care? Do we truly care? Or do we just sit back, say a quick, “May God bless this person or this situation,” and then never think about it again? Wilkerson really gets in your face about it: “Don’t tell me you’re concerned if you are spending hours in front the internet or television.” “You can sit and watch television and your family will go to hell… Let me ask you. Did what I just said convict you at all?”

Wilkerson actually cared. He heard of the violence and the poverty in New York City when he was a small town preacher from Pennsylvania. He actually cared. When visiting with a homeless man, the man said: “What do you care? You can go home to your nice fancy home and shine those nice shoes.” Wilkerson looked down at the man who had no shoes. He took his shoes off and gave them to the man. He actually cared and did something about it. But take notice that he did not get to that point unless God covered him with anguish over the situation where it hurt too much to not do anything.

A local youth minister here in El Paso, Texas heard about the kidnapping and disappearances of Johnny Gosch and Jacob Wetterling back in the 80s and it grieved him so much that he took action to deal with those cases. He became a private investigator in dealing with child kidnappings, sex trafficking, and occult crimes for a number of years. He actually cared, but his action would not have started had God not first baptized him with anguish.

A final comment about anguish that Wilkerson makes clear is that this anguish, this pain, is temporary. He described it as birthing pains. When God wants you to do something, he will burden you and it will be painful to birth, but when birth takes place, the joy surpasses the great pain. I have not had the experience of directly leading someone to the Lord. I know that is a shocker for some. I am sure some have come to Christ because of my witness, but it has been planting or watering. I have not been present being the one harvesting yet. I am asking the Lord for that as I write this post. I am asking the Lord to burden me for lost souls, so that I pray for their salvation. I am asking for him to share his heart, his anguish over the lost, with me. I am asking him to teach me how to care for the person I talk with in apologetics. It is not an overnight process, but it is coming. The more I pray, the more I am experiencing that burden. It is a good burden because it is God’s burden he wants me to help carry, and it is one I won’t be able to carry without him helping me. A call to anguish is not a pleasant thing, but very often it is the only thing that gets us off our feet. When our flesh is put on that cross and we depend more on Christ, then we will find the life and joy so abundantly above and beyond what we could ask or think.

Next week, I will start a mini-series on prayer about spiritual warfare and intercession.

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