If we were honest, all of our prayer lives can deepen, increase, or go to another level—whether it be time, focus, or givenness.
In this short exhortation, Nathan shares the stories of a few men from Christian history who lived lives of prayer—lives given over to intercession and prayer.
If you want to be encouraged to take your prayer life to another level, these stories will encourage (and no doubt convict you).
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Show Notes / Additional Resources
William Bramwell – The Praying-Drenched Revivalist
- The Holy Spirit awakened in his heart a deep sympathy for perishing souls. He saw multitudes around him in the broad way to destruction, and longed to snatch them as brands from the fire. He wept over the impenitent and labored to convince the gainsayers. He brought the terrors of the Law and the mild persuasives of the Gospel to bear upon the hearts of his hearers and thus urged them to flee from the wrath to come. – C.D. Andrews
- There is something perfectly dumbfounding about Bramwell’s praying. He always began at four in the morning, or in the depth of winter at five. It is in vain to plead that he went to bed early, for very often he did not. He held late after-meetings just as we do, but at four next morning he was at his prayers… At Hull he got from one of his friends the use of a room in a secluded part, and he would shut himself up to pray there for six hours at a stretch. And this was not spasmodic; all his life he prayed on this scale. – C.D. Andrews
- Pray, O pray, my brother! Never, never quit your hold of the fullness of God; for time is nearly over, and if this fullness be lost it will be lost forever. I am astonished that we do not pray more, yea, that we do not live every moment as on the brink of the eternal world, and in the blessed expectation of that glorious country. – William Bramwell
- I grieve that my love is no stronger, and that I am no more like Him. I wonder at His glory, and sink before Him with shame. How is it that the soul being of such value, and God so great, eternity so near and yet we are so little moved? –
- William Bramwell
Thomas Haire – The Praying Plumber of Lisburn
- The two characteristics that mark Tom Haire as unusual are his utter devotion to prayer and his amazing spiritual penetration. Three months after his conversion, when he was sixteen years old, he formed the habit of praying four hours each day. This practice he followed faithfully for many years. Later he added one all-night prayer session each week. In 1930 these weekly all-night prayer times were increased to two, and in 1948 he settled down to the habit of praying three nights of every week. He gets along on very little sleep. In addition to the three nights each week that he stays awake to pray he is frequently awakened in the night seasons by a passage of Scripture or a burden of prayer that will not let him rest. “And almost always,” he says, “the Lord wakens me early in the morning to pray.” – A.W. Tozer
- So fully has he lost himself in God that the text “Not I, but Christ,” actually seems to be a reality in his life. I think I have never heard him quote the text, but his whole being is a living exemplification of it. He appears to live the text each moment of each day. – A.W. Tozer
- A man is dead when he no longer resists the will of God in anything. Dead men do not resist. You must go to God as a lamb, to obey, follow and die. –
- Thomas Haire
Leonard Ravenhill – The Fiery Prophet of Prayer
- As a young Christian, Leonard’s main goal was not primarily to be a preacher, but a man of prayer…His praying at times was almost astounding. Ever fresh, ever real and heartfelt, one knew he was truly praying in the Holy Spirit with unction and was in touch with God in an unusual way. Leonard had utterance in prayer, an intimacy with God that was at times almost embarrassing. It was the kind of praying that rebuked the lukewarm, stirred the godly, and inspired anyone who had a heart for God. His prayer life made others realize they did not know God the way he did. – Mack Tomlinson
- Leonard’s passion for God fueled his prayer life. He was often in prayer hours each day. Many men have talked about the amount of time Ravenhill spent in prayer. There is no need to try to calculate it. The reality is it was often, consistent, and hours every day. Prayer was not a part of his life—it was his life…I can still remember him saying to me, “I don’t want to meet a man who has written more books than me or is a better preacher than me or who has preached to more people than me. I want to meet a man who has more of God on his life than I do. That’s what I long for.” Unlike most preachers today, Leonard spent more time with God alone than he did with anyone else. – Jacob Aranza
- Did you ever spend a night in prayer wrestling like that? I used to have a team of two men that wrestled in prayer with me. We would tire ourselves out in street meetings and indoor meetings. We lived on bread and butter for months. At night, just as we were going to bed, one brother would say, “I feel like praying.” At that point, I knew what would happen. As soon as one wanted to pray, then the other wanted to pray. Because I was the captain of the team, what could I do? I had to pray! I wouldn’t trade those nights in prayer with those men for anything. In one streak, we prayed for five days right through. Often three nights a week we would pray, weep, and groan. –
- Leonard Ravenhill
Rex Andrews – The Gentle Giant of Prayer
- Rex Andrews in Zion, Illinois lived a life of intercession that impacted thousands of lives and many countries. One man who worked with him verified that Andrews spend every night in prayer from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., from 1944 until shortly before his death in 1976, a period of thirty-two years. He prayed through the night every night and did not leave his house the last twelve years of his life. –
- Mack Tomlinson
Edward Payson – The Camel-kneed Preacher
- Edward Payson, better known as praying Payson of Portland, was another great prayer warrior. He used to kneel at the side of his bed and pray, and pray, and pray. When they washed his body for burial, they found great big pads on his knees like a camel has. Tradition says that James had camel’s knees, but it’s a living fact that Payson had them. When they were washing him, somebody said, “What abnormal knees. They’re heavy with callouses.” That’s because he used to pray at the side of his bed with energy – and he wore two grooves about six or seven inches long into that hard floor where he used to pray and make intercession. – Leonard Ravenhill
- Among the virtues of his character, that of humility appeared eminently beautiful and lovely and shone in his whole deportment. In prayer his soul lay low before God. Here he excelled all the men I have ever heard. He carried us up and placed us all in the divine presence; and when he spread forth his hands to God, heaven seemed to come down to earth, and the glory of the Lord shone around our tabernacle. While this holy man talked with God and seemed to be overshadowed with the divine glory, I have sometimes thought I could imagine what must have been the ecstasy of Peter when surrounded with the glories of the transfiguration scene. – A Friend of Payson
- Payson used to say that he pitied the Christian who could not experience the meaning of the words ‘groanings which cannot be uttered.’ –
- Wesley Duewel
John “Praying” Hyde – The Man Who Rarely Slept
- God knew John Hyde; John Hyde knew God. Again I say, there is all the difference in the world between knowing the Word of God and knowing the God of the Word. John Hyde’s “homing instinct of the soul” led him to the prayer closet. That was his habitat. There he soared; there he listened; there he heard; there he grew; there he wept; there he developed spiritual muscle. Just as a man seeks the solitary place to tell his love to the woman of his choice, so John Hyde had a prayer harbor where his soul delighted in the Lord and where the Lord delighted in him. The only reason we have a record of John Hyde is that in this art of prayer he was a master in our Israel. Listening by John’s door, men heard him weeping, even as Jesus wept over Jerusalem and even as the Apostle Paul wept for the stubborn sinners of his day. (No Bible schools can teach us this art of tears.) Hyde knew those “groanings which cannot be uttered.” A lady who often used to see him in India told me there was always the air of another world about him. Yet how he loved the souls of men! Few of my readers have not read how John Hyde got to the place where from leading one soul a day to Christ, he led four souls a day to Him. He would stay on his face before God until the answer came clear. Even if he had to stay alone for as long as forty hours, yet he would not let God go until he knew the yea or nay of the Spirit in the matter for which he sought. – Leonard Ravenhill
- Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman was once preaching in Hereford, England. For days there was a signal absence of power and conviction of sin. “But when John Hyde came there, God came to town,” said Wilbur Chapman. God and Hyde walked together. (Amazing condescension of God!) As a result, when Chapman made the appeal on the first night after Hyde was in that town, fifty men came to Christ. Chapman begged Hyde, “Pray for me.” Into a room these two men went; Hyde turned the key in the door, turned his face up to God, then turned the fountains of his great heart open. Chapman adds, “I felt the hot tears running down my face. I knew I was with God. With upturned face, down which the tears were streaming, John Hyde said two words: ‘Oh God!’ For five minutes at least, he was still again, and then when he knew he was talking with God, his arm went around my shoulder, and there came up from the depth of his heart such petitions for men as I had never before heard. I rose from my knees to know what real prayer was.” John Hyde was all of these and more, for deep in India’s Punjab he envisioned his Master, and face to face with the Eternal he learned lessons of prayer which to others were amazing. Walking on such anointed ground…for thirty days and nights, or ten days on end, or remain on his knees for thirty-six hours without moving…when he returned to the field preaching from such seasons…he was thus possessed of a spiritual power which opened dark hearts of India to his message. – Basil Miller
- Hyde was always on his knees when I went to bed, and on his knees long before I was up in the morning, though I was up with the dawn. He would also light the lamp several times in the night, and feast on some passages of the Word, and then have a little talk with the Master. He sometimes remained on his knees the whole day. The Spirit made him an object-lesson to us, that we might have a better idea of Christ’s prayer life. – J. Pengwern Jones
- I have felt led to pray for others this year as never before. I never knew what it was to work all day and then pray all night before God for another. Early in the morning, four or five o’clock, or even earlier, and late at night to twelve or one o’clock, in college or at parties at home, I used to keep such hours for myself or pleasure, and can I not do as much for God and souls? –
- John Hyde
David Brainerd – The Intensely Fervent Contender
- David Brainerd was a young American who died at the age of 28. All he possessed was a cowhide that he wore with a rope tied around it. He used to ride over the Susquehanna River to follow the Indians. David had a severe case of tuberculosis and only weighed about 95 pounds. I remember reading his diary once. He said, “I got up this morning and the Indians were still committing adultery and drinking and beating their tom-toms and shouting like hell itself. I prayed from a half hour after sunrise to a half hour before sunset. There was nowhere to pray in the Indian camp. I went into the woods and knelt in the snow. It was up to my chin.” No, he didn’t have a heater with him or anything else. He was just there in the frigid snow, tuberculosis and all. He continued, “I wrestled in prayer until a half hour before sunset, and I could only touch the snow with the tips of my fingers. The heat of my body had melted the snow.” What amazing intercessory prayer! – Leonard Ravenhill
- In the afternoon ‘God was with me of a truth.’ Oh, it was blessed company indeed! God enabled me so to agonize in prayer that I was quite wet with sweat, though in the shade and the cool wind. My soul was drawn out very much from the world; I grasped for multitudes of souls. I think I had more enlargement for sinners than for the children of God, though I felt as if I could spend my life in cries for both…I enjoyed great sweetness in communion with my dear Saviour. I think I never in my life felt such an entire weanedness from this world and so much resigned to God in everything. Oh, that I may always live to – David Brainerd
- In prayer I was exceedingly enlarged and my soul was as much drawn out as ever I remember it to have been in my life or near. I was in such anguish and pleaded with so much earnestness and importunity that when I rose from my knees, I felt extremely weak and overcome—I could scarcely walk straight. My joints were loosed, the sweat ran down my face and body, and nature seemed as if it would dissolve…in my fervent supplications for the poor Indians. I knew they met together to worship demons and not God. This made me cry earnestly that God would now appear and help me…My soul pleaded – David Brainerd
- I care not where I go, or how I live, or what I endure so that I may save souls. When I sleep I dream of them; when I awake they are first in my thoughts. – David Brainerd
Abel Clary – The Faithful Burden-bearer
- The prayer that prevails with God is the prayer into which we throw our whole heart, the prayer of intense earnestness; and it is the Holy Spirit who inspires us to that intense earnestness in prayer. Oh, how cold and formal we are in many of our prayers. How little intense longing there is in our souls to obtain the thing that we ask. We pray even for the salvation of the lost with much indifference, though we ought to realize that if our prayers are not heard they are going to spend eternity in hell. But men and women whose prayer life is under the control of the Holy Spirit, pray with intense earnestness; they cry mightily to God; there is a great burden of prayer in their hearts; they pray sometimes with groanings which cannot be uttered. Mr. Finney told us about a man named Abel Clary. He said of him, ‘He had been licensed to preach; but his spirit of prayer was such, he was so burdened with the souls of men, that he was not able to preach much, his whole time and strength being given to prayer. The burden of his soul would frequently be so great that he was unable to stand, and he would writhe and groan in agony. I was well acquainted with him; and knew something of the wonderful spirit of prayer that was upon him. He was a very silent man, as almost all are who have that powerful spirit of prayer.’ Abel Clary was of great assistance to Mr. Finney, simply by praying, in his work in Rochester, N.Y., where a revival sprang up the report of which resulted in revivals all over the country, and which, it is said, brought 100,000 souls to Christ in a year. – R.A. Torrey
John Smith – The Agonizing Soul-lover
- John Smith of the quiet hamlet of Cudworth near Barnsley, England, is an example of an intercessor. He excelled in piety and gloried in prayer. He was given to long hours of intercession and knew the worth of souls. Hear him: “Perhaps you will have to spend hours on your knees or upon your face before the throne. Never mind. Wait. God will do great things for you if you will wait for Him. Yield to Him. Cooperate with Him. Oh play the man! Dwell in the clear light.” Yet again in writing to a friend, John Smith said, “I have often seen him come downstairs in the morning after several hours in prayer, his eyes swollen with weeping. He would soon introduce the subject of his anxiety by saying, ‘I am a brokenhearted man; yes, indeed, I am an unhappy man, 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 be not saved. Oh give me souls, or else I die!’” – Leonard Ravenhill
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About NRJohnson & the Deeper Christian Podcast
NRJohnson (Nathan Johnson) is a Christian who has an overwhelming passion for Jesus, the Gospel, and Studying God’s Word. He is a writer, teacher, and communicator who helps other believers understand and apply the Bible as they grow and mature in their faith—desiring that they gain greater intimacy with Christ, experience the victorious Christian life, and transform the world through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Read more about him here.
The Deeper Christian Podcast is the podcast to help you study God’s Word, know Jesus intimately, and discover how you can build your life around Jesus Christ. This weekly audio program, hosted by NRJohnson, dives into Scripture and encourages Christians to keep their focus upon Jesus Christ—equipping believers in how to study the Bible and know God’s Word, grow in their spiritual lives, and change the world. Main discussion topics center around practical advice on Christian living, Bible study, prayer, the Gospel, freedom from sin, evangelism and how to share your faith, the Christian disciplines, and the lives and messages from the Christian heroes from yesteryear such as A.W. Tozer, Charles Spurgeon, Major Ian Thomas, Oswald Chambers, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, C.T. Studd, George Müller, Andrew Murray, Leonard Ravenhill, E.M. Bounds, and others. Learn more about the deeper Christian life.