By David Smithers
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5). By the grace of God, David Brainerd obeyed this first and great commandment. He prayed with sacrificial passion, pursued perfect holiness and called sinners to repentance; all because he fervently loved the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sad to say, some Christians may have a difficult time understanding David Brainerd's zeal and love for JESUS. "To him the material and physical world had little value. He was of the race of the early martyrs. To him all things were naught that he might attain a deeper spiritual fellowship with God." Brainerd's diary states, "Thirsting desires and longings possessed my soul after perfect holiness. God was so precious to my soul that the world with all its enjoyments appeared vile. I had no more value for the favor of men than for pebbles."
He spent a great deal of time in prayer and frequently set aside days for prayer and fasting. He loved to retire into the woods to be alone with God. "Prayer became Brainerd's priority and it was his joy to spend two hours at a time in secret communion with Christ. He would rise early in the morning and get alone with God to enjoy His presence. He thirsted for God, the living God and he was not disappointed!"
Determined to share Christ, Brainerd embraced a life of self-denial and sacrifice. He spent as much as twenty hours a week on horseback. His diet consisted of hasty pudding, boiled corn, bread baked in the ashes, and sometimes a little meat and butter. His home was a small log room complete with a heap of straw laid upon boards for a bed.
David Brainerd consistently and fervently interceded for the lost souls of the American Indians. Often he would travail with such earnestness that when he rose from his knees he was covered in sweat and could hardly walk straight. Like the persistent widow in Luke 18, David Brainerd's prayers were finally answered. Entire camps of Indians were converted by the power of God as he proclaimed a message of repentance and grace.
"Old men and women who had been drunken wretches for years, and little children not more than six or seven years of age appeared in distress for their souls. There was almost universal praying and crying for mercy. Many could neither go nor stand."
The countless hours spent in prayer and fasting, his faithfulness in spite of physical weakness and having to endure the most terrible hardships, were now rewarded openly. The fire of the Lord fell. The remarkable thing was that all this happened at a time when he confessed that his hopes were at their very lowest. He had seriously entertained thoughts of giving up while on the very brink of glory and blessing.
Brainerd now saw a remarkable change in the lives of the Indians. He recorded in his diary, "I know of no assembly of Christians where there seems to be so much of the presence of God, where brotherly love so much prevails . . . "
David Brainerd poured a lifetime of holy passion, prayer and preaching into four short years. He ministered from 1743-1747, dying of tuberculosis at the age of 29, "Brainerd once wrote in his diary, I longed to be a flame of fire continually glowing in the divine service and building up of Christ's kingdom to my last and dying breath." That prayer was abundantly answered.