Vessels of Agony and Travail The life of an intercessor is one that is chosen by God Himself where his or her body becomes a vessel of honour in the realm of persevering prayer. In intercession, the intercessor becomes a carrier of the burden of the Lord. In other words, what is a pain and burden in the heart of God concerning the people becomes a pain and burden upon the heart of the intercessor. This burden and pain is generated from deep within the intercessor’s innermost being, which is called in scriptures “bowels of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:8).
The main component of the bowels of Jesus Christ in an intercessor is mercy. Mercy is the foundation of all apostolic intercessory prayers (Col 3:12). In order to possess the heart of Jesus whereby we can be touched with the feeling of the infirmities of others, we must have a personal bond with Jesus.
Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” The prophets who went before God in intercession would constantly use the term “me and my people” and this is because they felt the burden and the love of God for His saints. This is why God had a special bond with Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.
Though all Christians are called to intercede and bear the bowels and burden of Christ, an ordained intercessor is able to bear the burden of Christ in a way that no other can. They enter into a realm where the desires and burdens of Christ become alive in their spirit, soul and body. That means, they literally feel the pain of the agony of the Holy Spirit. This is why the prayer of an intercessor is called “travailing prayer” or “agonizing prayer”. Casual prayers are done with eloquent words, while intercessory prayer is done with weeping, mourning, agonizing and travail; as though in a labour room in childbirth, (Jer 9:20, Eze 21:12, Jer 9:1, Eze 27:30, Eze 27:31, Eze 27:32).
Micah the prophet entered into this realm in Micah 1:8 when he said, “Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.” the intercessor, when in intercession, feels the yearning of the bowels of Christ for His children. In other words, an intercessor cries over God’s children in the same way that Jesus cried over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37.
There is a concept circulating in the Church that prayer moves the hand of God. We must understand that prayer and Intercession cannot move the hand of God whether we cry, howl or fast. Nothing can move the hand of God except Himself. What prayer and intercession do is touch the heart of God. Whenever the heart of God is touched His heart is then moved with compassion (Mat 14:14, Mark 1:41). When God's heart is moved with compassion He then moves His hand to heal, save and deliver.
There are five levels of emotional expression of the Holy Spirit in intercession: Groaning, Travailing, Weeping, Mourning and Wailing.
TRAVAILING- This is the pain that comes with giving birth. Jer 4:31, Mic 4:10. In intercession, the intercessor feels the same pain in his or her bowels as though in literal labour. This pain is the pain of the burden of the people of God, which usually comes with screaming, agony etc. Just as a woman gives birth to a child, an intercessor gives birth to breakthroughs in the lives of the Saints of God.
GROANING- Groaning in intercession is a deep emotional sound as though in severe pain, grief or agony. It may happen in silence in your spirit or in a moaning sound (John 11:33, Rom 8:23; 2Co 5:2, 2Co 5:4; Luke 19:41-44). This happens when the Holy Spirit lays upon the intercessor’s spirit and soul the burden and pain of Jesus concerning His people. The Holy Spirit also uses this method to intercede for us (Rom 8:26). In 1 Samuel 1:10-13, Hannah cried in severe grief. Eli did not understand what was going on with her but thought she was drunk. People who are drunk are under the influence of a spirit. Hannah was also groaning under the influence of a spirit, but it was the Holy Spirit.
WEEPING- Weeping brings great harvest and is one of the expressions of the Holy Spirit in intercession. Whenever the Spirit weeps in us, we are bearing seeds of deliverance, salvation and breakthrough (Psalms 126:5-6). This weeping is a weeping that comes either in silence or loud as though in great distress (Luke 19:41-44). Jeremiah was one of the prophets that wept constantly for God’s children (Jeremiah 9:1; 17-21).
MOURNING– Intercessors mourn over the people’s sin and over the proclaimed judgment of God over a nation or people. In the Old Testament this was done in various ways: loud lamentation, as rending the clothes, wearing sackcloth, sprinkling dust or ashes and sitting in silence. In this modern time, we don’t do these things, nevertheless, we mourn in our soul over God’s people and the sins of the country.
WAILING –Wailing is basically making a loud crying noise in intercession. This is actually the same as howling (Jer 25:36). It is more than just a cry; it is a noise as a mourning woman, bewailing her dead loved one (Mat 2:18).