.

David Brainerd
With Much Prayer and Fasting

“Some time in February, 1738/9, I set apart a day for secret fasting and prayer, and spent the day in almost incessant cries to God for mercy, that he would open my eyes to see the evil of sin, and the way of life by Jesus Christ. And God was pleased that day to make considerable discoveries of my heart to me, and to make my endeavors a means to show me my helplessness in some measure. I constantly strove after whatever qualifications I imagined others obtained before the reception of Christ. Sometimes I felt the power of a hard heart, and supposed it must be softened before Christ would accept of me; and when I felt any meltings of heart, I hoped now the work was almost done; and hence, when my distress still remained, I was wont to murmur at God’s dealings with me: and thought, when others felt their hearts softened, God showed them mercy but my distress remained still. p. 13

“In the time while I remained in this state my notions respecting my duties, were quite different from what I had entertained in times past. Now I saw there was no necessary connection between my prayers and the Divine mercy; that they laid not the least obligation upon God to bestow his grace upon me; and that there was no more goodness in them than there would be in my paddling in the water (which was the comparison I had then in my mind) and this because they were not performed from any love to God. I saw that I had heaped up my devotions before God, fasting, praying, &c. really thinking I was aiming at the glory of God; where as I never once truly intended it.

“I continued in this state of mind from Friday morning till the Sabbath evening following, July 12, 1739, when I was walking again in the same solitary place, and attempting to pray, but found no heart to engage in that, or any other duty. Having been thus endeavoring to pray for near half an hour (and by this time the sun was about half an hour high,) as I was walking in a dark thick grove unspeakable glory seemed to open to the view of my soul. I do not mean any external brightness, nor any imagination of a body of light, or any thing of that nature; but it was a new inward apprehension, or view that I had of God, such as I never had before. I stood still, and admired. I knew that I had never seen before any thing comparable to it for excellency and beauty; it was widely different from all the conceptions that ever I had of God, or things divine. I had no particular apprehension of any one person in the Trinity, either the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost; but it appeared to be divine glory that I then beheld, and my soul rejoiced with joy unspeakable to see such a glorious divine Being; and I was inwardly pleased and satisfied that he should be God over all forever and ever. My soul was so captivated and delighted with the excellency, loveliness, greatness, and other perfections of God; that I was even swallowed up in him to that degree, that, first, I scarce reflected there was such a creature as myself.

“Thus God, I trust, brought me to a hearty disposition to exalt him and set him upon the throne, and ultimately to aim at his honor and glory as King of the universe.

“I continued in this state until near dark without any sensible abatement, and then began to think what I had seen, and was sweetly composed all the evening following. I felt myself in a new world, and everything about me appeared with a different aspect from what it was wont to do.

“At this time the way of salvation opened to me with such infinite wisdom, suitableness, and excellency, that I wondered I should ever think of any other way of salvation; was amazed that I had not dropped my own contrivances, and complied with this blessed and excellent way before. If I could have been saved by my own duties, or any other way that I had formerly contrived, my whole soul would now have refused. I wondered that the whole world did not see and comply with this way of salvation entirely by the righteousness of Christ.” pp. 17-19


April 20, 1743. “I set apart this day for fasting and prayer, to bow my soul before God for grace; especially that all my inward distresses might be sanctified. I endeavored also to remember the goodness of God to me in the year past, this day being my birthday, I am now arrived at the age of twenty-five. My soul was pained to think of my barrenness and deadness, that I have lived so little to the glory of God. I spent the day in the woods alone, and there poured out my complaint to the Lord, that he would enable me to live to his glory for the future! p. 48


“Nov. 3. I spent this day in secret fasting and prayer, from morning till night. Early in the morning, I had some assistance in prayer. Afterwards I read the story of Elijah the prophet. My soul was much moved, observing the faith, zeal, and power of that Holy man; and how he wrestled with God in prayer. I then cried with Elisha, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah!” I longed for more faith! My soul breathed after God, and pleaded with him, that a double portion of that spirit, which was given to Elijah, might rest on me, and I saw God is the same that he was in the days of Elijah. I was enabled to wrestle with God by prayer, in a more affectionate, humble, and importunate manner, than I have for many months past. Nothing seemed too hard for God to perform; nothing too great for me to hope for from him. I had for many months lost all hopes of doing any special service for God in the world; it appeared impossible, that one so vile should be thus employed for God. But at this time God was pleased to revive this hope. Afterwards I read the third chapter of Exodus, and on to the twentieth, and saw more of the glory and majesty of God discovered in those chapters, than ever I had seen before; frequently, in the mean time, falling on my knees, and crying to God for the faith of Moses, and for a manifestation of the Divine glory. My soul was ardent in prayer, and I was enabled to wrestle for myself, for my friends, and for the church. I felt more desire to see the power of God in the conversion of souls, than I have done for a long season. Blessed be God for this season of fasting and prayer. May his goodness always abide with me, and draw my soul to him. Pp. 58


“3. My time passes away so swiftly, that I am astonished when I reflect how little I do in it. My state of solitude does not make the hours hang heavy upon my hands. O what reason of thankfulness have I on account of this retirement! I do not lead a Christian life when I am abroad, and cannot spend time in devotion, Christian conversation, and meditation. Those weeks that I am obliged to be from home, in order to learn the Indian tongue, are mostly spent in barrenness; and I feel myself a stranger to the throne of grace. When I return home, and give myself to meditation, prayer, and fasting, a new scene opens, and my soul longs for mortification, self-denial, humility, and divorcement from all the things of the world. p. 59


“6. Feeling my extreme weakness, and want of grace, I set apart this day for fasting and prayer. My soul intensely longed, that the dreadful spots and stains of my sin might be washed away. My mind was greatly fixed on Divine things; my resolution for a life of mortification, continual watchfulness, self-denial, seriousness, and devotion to God, were strong and fixed; my desires ardent and intense: my conscience tender, and afraid of every appearance of evil. My soul was grieved with the reflection on my past levity, and want of resolution for God. I solemnly renewed my dedication of my self to God, and longed for grace to enable me always to keep covenant with him.


“Feb. 2. I spent this day in fasting and prayer, seeking the presence and assistance of God, that he would enable me to overcome all my corruptions and spiritual enemies. p. 60


“Dec. 6. Having now a happy opportunity of being retired in a house of my own, I set apart this day for secret prayer and fasting, to implore the blessing of God on myself, on my poor people, on my friends, and on the church of God. And now God was pleased to give me a discovery of the plague of my own heart, more affecting than I have of late had. And especially I saw my sinfulness in this, that when God had withdrawn himself, instead of living and dying in pursuit of him, I have been disposed to one of these two things, either to yield an unbecoming respect to some earthly objects, as if happiness were to be derived from them; or to be secretly froward and impatient, and unsuitably desirous of death. That which often drove me to this impatient desire of death, was a despair of doing good in life. But now God made me sensible of my sin, and enabled me to cry to him for forgiveness, Yet this was not all I wanted; for my soul appeared exceedingly polluted; and I wanted to be purified by the blood of sprinkling that cleanseth from all sin. And this I was enabled to pray for in faith. I enjoyed much more intenseness, fervency, and spirituality, than I expected: God was better to me than ray fears. I was enabled to persevere in prayer till the evening: I saw so much need of divine help, in every respect, that I knew not how to leave off and had forgot that I needed food. p. 94


“April 25. Having appointed the next Lord’s day for the administration of the Lord’s supper, this day was set apart for solemn fasting and prayer, to implore the blessing of God upon our design of renewing our covenant with him, and with one another; and to entreat that his divine presence might be with us in our designed approach to his table. p. 175


“March ?. Being kept in Elizabethtown as a day of fasting and prayer, I was able to attend public worship, which was the first time since December 21. Oh, how much distress did God carry me through in this space of time! But having obtained help from him, I yet live: oh that I could live to his glory! p. 213


“April 4. I was uneasy by reason of the misemployment of time; and yet knew not what to do! I longed to spend time in fasting and prayer; but alas, I had no bodily strength! Oh, how blessed a thing is it, to enjoy peace of conscience! How dreadful is a want of inward peace! It is impossible, I find, to enjoy this happiness without redeeming time, and maintaining a spiritual frame of mind. p. 214


Impressions from Brainerd's Final Hours

“On the evening of Sept. 9, as he lay on his bed he seemed to be in an extraordinary frame; his mind greatly engaged concerning the prosperity of Zion: there being present at that time two candidates for the ministry, he desired us all to unite in singing a psalm on that subject, even Zion s prosperity. And by his desire, we sung a part of the l0d Psalm. This seemed much to refresh him, and give him new strength; so that, though before he could scarce speak at all, now he proceeded with some freedom of speech, to give his dying counsels to those two young gentlemen, relating to that great work of the ministry they were designed for; and in particular, earnestly recommended to them frequent secret fasting and prayer; and enforced his counsel with regard to this, from his own experience of the great comfort and benefit of it, which, said he, I should not mention, were it not that I am a dying person. And after he had finished his counsel, he made a prayer, in the audience of us all; wherein, besides praying for his family, for his brethren, and those candidates for the ministry, and for his own congregation, he earnestly prayed for the reviving and flourishing of religion in the world. pp. 238,239

Jonathan Edwards, Memoirs of Rev. David Brainerd, Missionary to the Indians of North America, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1891). 

Top