Travail connotes that we are at a narrow transition. This transitional place is a life and death intersection. The transitional place is a place of "crossing over." Travail means that we are in a "distressed" moment.
Travail is a specific type of prayer which births (Isaiah 66:7-9), as well as wars (Isaiah 42:12-14). When a person enters a time period or season of travail (birthing and/or warring), they will experience it as a heaviness, a weight, a BURDEN, a deep penetrating concern, or an uneasiness over a situation or condition that they cannot shake. Sometimes, travail extends to weeks or months.
Travail is defined as BIRTHING, delivering; to be disgusted, faint, grieved or weary, distressed, troubled. To travail is to be troubled, sorrowful, in agony, intense pain or distress. Often time, a believer will initially interpret travail emotionally and become introspective, suspecting something is wrong with them. However, it is not an emotion, it is the BURDEN of the Lord, and the voice of the Lord coming to a person as a burden to draw them into partnering with Him to birth and/or to war.
The only way travail will be released is through prayer. The person will feel weighted down by a situation until it is released through sustained prayer. It is during travail that people often experience a "Romans 8:22-26 time, "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now." The Holy Spirit within the person knows how to pray under this type of BURDEN. As the person begins to pray, the Holy Spirit takes over and begins to TRAVAIL within and through them with groanings that cannot be expressed in English words.
Isaiah 42:13 says that God Himself, "will go forth as a Mighty Man, He will cry, 'yes,' He will shout aloud, He will do mightily against His enemies." Verse 14 continues, "Thus says the Lord, 'I have for a long time held My peace, I have restrained Myself, now I will cry out like a woman in travail...'"
In 1 Samuel 1:10-18, we see how Hannah agonized before the Lord to give her a child. Her agonizing gives us a great pattern to follow:
1. Pray to the Lord.
2. Weep in anguish (agonized).
3. Lift your affliction to the Lord.
4. Cry out: "Remember why I was created!"
5. Plead, "Fulfill my request, and You can have my firstfruit offering."
6. Go to the highest level authority in your life that can pray for you (she told the priest her problem and expressed her emotion).
7. Ask for favor to come upon you.
8. Press through and get up in victory.
9. Birth the new thing in your life.
10. Watch change take place.
There is a tremendous power in travailing prayer because it births the will of God into the earth. This type of prayer always outwits the devil because he is so strongly opposed by the new thing God is producing as a result of travail. We, therefore, need to have an understanding of what God is wanting to BIRTH through us. We, like Hannah, need to be in-tune with what God is ready to bring forth in that given hour. That can only be done through intimacy with God and through a willingness to allow Him to use us in TRAVAIL.
Many times, we have much that God has put in our spirits, but we don't have the strength to bring it to BIRTH. Isaiah 60:1 says, "Arise, shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you." In the Amplified Version, it tells you to arise from the depression and oppression that has held you down, and arise to new life. This is the time to call upon the Lord to begin to break those things that have held down your spirit, for this is the time for the Spirit of God to begin to arise within us.
The word "arise" means to stand firm; to come from a lying down position to a stand. When we begin to arise and allow God's glory to arise through us, we will take our stand against the powers and principalities that have resisted us. As we allow the Spirit of the Lord to arise within us, we will find that He gives us the expectation of new life and the strength to bring that life to BIRTH.
Once this process begins and we identify what burden God wants us to pray over, we begin to agonize and feel the urgency of seeing the BURDEN birthed. The BURDEN becomes our own "baby" as God's heart for seeing that thing brought forth, begins to press down on our spirits. With it comes oppression, but it's not the oppression of the devil. If your assignment, for instance, is a travail to break an oppression over certain people on God's heart, you can actually begin to feel the oppression they are under. That is the time to TRAVAIL until the oppression breaks--until, as in natural childbirth, the Heavenly opening is large enough, so that God's will can come forth on the earth.