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Mark Rogers|1:38 PM CT

Praying with One Another: Lessons from the Life of David Brainerd

David Brainerd (1718-1747) was a missionary to the Native Americans of New York. He died of Tuberculosis in Jonathan Edwards’ home. Two years later Edwards published The Life of David Brainerd, which consists almost entirely of Brainerd’s journal entries. Brainerd’s Life has been influential on countless missionaries after him. It had a major impact on people like William Carey, Henry Martyn, and Jim Elliot.

One of the instructive elements of Brainerd’s life is how much time he spent in prayer, not only by himself, but with other Christians. For example:

Sept. 10, 1742: In the afternoon, prayed with a dear friend privately, and had the presence of God with us; our souls united together to reach after a blessed immorality.

Dec. 11, 1742: I rode to Bethlehem, came to Mr. Bellamy’s lodgings, and spent the evening with him in sweet conversation and prayer.

Dec. 23, 1742: I rode to New-Haven, and there enjoyed some sweetness in prayer and conversation, with some dear Christian friends. My mind was sweetly serious and composed.

Dec. 26, 1742: In the evening, rode from New-Haven to Branford, after I had kneeled and prayed with a number of dear Christian friends in a very retired place in the woods.

Feb. 17, 1743: In the evening, spent some time with a dear Christian friend; and felt serious, as on the brink of eternity. My soul enjoyed sweetness in lively apprehensions of standing before the glorious God: prayed with my dear friend with sweetness, and discoursed with the utmost solemnity. And truly it was a little emblem of heaven itself.

March 19, 1743: In the afternoon, rode to Newark, and had some sweetness in conversation with Mr. Burr, and in praying together. O blessed be God forever and ever, for any enlivening and quickening seasons.


1. Brainerd nearly always reports a vibrant time of prayer when praying with friends. Secret prayer is necessary and important. But we should remember that praying out loud with others is a means God often uses to minister to our souls in a powerful way.

2. Brainerd’s secret prayer was often more lively and focused after spending time together with friends in prayer.

3. Brainerd went as a missionary, sometimes with a translator, but often with no friend but his horse. He was working among tribes with zero Christians. He often struggled with despair and horrible loneliness. I wonder how his ministry or walk with Christ may have been different if he had a like-minded co-worker.


1. We should pray together. Every time Brainerd records staying with someone or seeing friends they had “spiritual conversations” and prayed together. How much of our spiritual weakness stems from our silence about God and toward God when we are together?

2. If we don’t have friends that would want to pray with us, we should seek out additional friends. Biblical community is not something we drift into accidentally.

3. We need to ask others to pray for us and with us if we want to grow in Christ or be useful in advancing the gospel.

4. We should pray with missionaries (not just for missionaries) whenever we have the opportunity.

5. We should probably never “fly solo” as Brainerd did the last few years of his life. If you are in a rough work environment, feel alone, or have a difficult ministry (and even if you don’t), you need friends to come alongside you. The American way may be individualistic and self-reliant, but that is not the biblical way.

Mark Rogers is a Ph.D. student in historical theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. A former college pastor and associate pastor, Mark is the editor of “Glimpses of Christian History” and is writing his dissertation on evangelical missions between 1925 and 1945.