Finney & the Travail of the Soul

Charles Finney 3Continuing in Finney’s autobiography, I came to another instance of what God taught him about prayer that I think worth sharing. Here is how he explains it:

The Lord taught me, in those early days of my Christian experience, many very important truths in regard to the spirit of prayer. Not long after I was converted, a woman with whom I had boarded . . . was taken very sick. She was not a Christian, but her husband was a professor of religion. He came into our office one evening . . . and said to me, “My wife cannot live through the night.” This seemed to plant an arrow, as it were, in my heart. It came upon me in the sense of a burden that crushed me, the nature of which I could not at all understand.; but with it came an intense desire to pray for that woman.

Finney then writes of the struggle in his spirit as he prayed. Twice he went to the church to intercede for her, but couldn’t say much; all he could seem to do was groan. He picks up the story again:

I returned to the office again, and still found I was unable to rest; and I returned a third time to the meeting house. At this time the Lord gave me power to prevail. I was enabled to roll the burden upon him; and I obtained the assurance in my own mind that the woman would not die, and indeed that she would never die in her sins.

. . . Early the next morning the husband of this woman came into the office. I enquired how his wife was. He, smiling, said, “She’s alive, and to all appearance better this morning.” I replied, “Brother, she will not die with this sickness; you may rely upon it. And she will never die in her sins.” I do not know how I was made sure of this; but it was in some way made plain to me, so that I had no doubt that she would recover. She did recover, and soon after obtained a hope in Christ.

A Christian brother then explained to Finney that he had experienced “the travail of your soul.” How many of us, I wonder, have ever experienced this? I believe it happens to those whose hearts are open to receiving it.