This is a type of prayer most of us probably aren’t excited about, yet is very important. Travail is a word used to describe the labor of giving birth. The Hebrew meaning is to bring forth or to bear. It can also mean distress. This often included weeping, wailing, crying, and other loud expressions of trouble.
Paul uses this term in Galatians 4:19 where he says, “My little children, for whom I travail in birth again until Christ is formed in you.” Here he expresses not only the affection he holds for these ones, but also the anguish he went through in prayer to see them come into the fullness of what God had for them.
Childbirth isn’t a quiet and clean affair. It’s messy, noisy, and painful, but ultimately the result is well worth every effort. In the same way, travailing in prayer is not for the faint of heart.
Travailing isn’t usually something we choose, but comes upon us, sometimes at inconvenient times (just like childbirth!) There’s a sudden urge to cry out to God, weeping or groaning. Hannah’s crying out to the Lord looked to Eli like she was in a drunken state, yet it brought forth the promise of a son.
Most people don’t understand travail and it frankly freaks them out. Just like childbirth is mostly a private affair, if you feel the urge to enter into travail while in a public setting, it might be best to find a more secluded place to express your cries and groans to God.
One mistake some intercessors make is to carry the burden of travail beyond what God is asking them to. They can get burned out, overwhelmed or depressed. Travail is meant to end with joy – “A woman when she is in travail has sorrow; because her hour has come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembers no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” John 16:21 We may travail in a season, but God intends for you to walk in the joy of the Lord and trust Him to fully birth what is on His heart.
Don’t squelch that deep cry in your heart for God. Get alone with Him and pour out your heart. He is birthing something!