In Gods mind the care thats given in a church goes two directions: Leaders must care for their congregations, but congregations must also care for their leaders. Including himself as one of their leaders, the author calls on his readers to spiritually cover them in prayer. He says, Pray for us for we are persuaded that we have a good conscience, wishing to conduct our lives and ministries properly in all matters (paraphrase). Having just told the churches to submit to their leaders (v 17), he immediately requests that they also pray for them.
As we noted last week, its easy to criticize leaders when they fail, and without question failed leaders are responsible for the poor decisions theyve made. They cant blame anyone else because God has given each of us unlimited access to the power of the Holy Spirit. Even if no one were to pray for us He is able to keep us from stumbling and to make us stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy (Jude 24). But when people do pray for us youll notice it becomes easier to do the right thing. You feel stronger inside, your heart feels more love and hope than you might have felt if left to yourself. So, though were not to blame when leaders fall, our prayers for them make a huge differenceso much difference, that someday when Jesus is rewarding His church for her faithfulness, I suspect prayer warriors may stand first in line because it was their prayers that strengthened the hands that hung down and the knees that grew feeble (He 12:12). It was their prayers that opened the door that leaders walked through.
A. A Principle
Robert Munger: evangelism is reaping the harvest of prayer
Prayer is the first step, and the foundation upon which ministry is built.
B. What does he ask for?
1) Protection from slander (v 18)
The fact that in the midst of this request he felt the need to declare that he and the leaders of these local churches have a good conscience and want to conduct themselves properly must mean that their character has been attacked. He doesnt tell us by whom, but looking back over his letter would lead us to guess that it is those who have tried to diminish Jesus and His gospel of grace. In order to attack Jesus they directed their attack at those who taught Him faithfully.
Slander is a common weapon used to discredit leaders (2Co 7:2; 11:1-15). An unscrupulous person who cant win a theological debate fairly may redirect his attack toward the personality or character of his opponent. The authors appeal makes it appear that this dishonest tactic was being widely used. Attempts were being made to cast doubt on the motives and conduct of Christian leaders. So it was urgent that believers pray for them.
2) Release from hindrance (v 19)
The author emphasizes that he is very personally in need of prayer at that very moment. He says, I even more ask you to do this (pray for me) so that I may be restored back to you again. He doesnt say what it is thats hindering him from returning to them, but his words sound similar to those of Paul writing from prison (Phm 1:1, 22). If not prison, then he may be facing some other persecution (1Th 2:14-18). Whatever the cause, the solution in his mind is to call the churches to pray, confident that if they do he will be restored to them sooner.
Acts 12:1-19 deliverance of Peter
Philemon 1:1, 4, 22
C. Additional ways to pray for leaders
1) Protection from persecution
2 Corinthians 1:8-11
2 Thessalonians 3:2 (pray for us)
that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith
Angels, discernment, guidance, favor with those in authority
2) Open doors of faith
2 Thessalonians 3:1
and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles
1 Corinthians 16:8, 9 But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide open door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
2 Corinthians 2:12
when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ
a door was opened for me in the Lord.
Revelation 3:8 (Philadelphia)
Behold I have put before you an open door which no one can shut
Colossians 4:2, 3
3) Boldness to speak
Colossians 4:3, 4
It doesnt take boldness to tell people what they want to hear
it takes boldness to tell them the truth of Gods Word.
Ezekiel 2:1-9 A forehead like flint.
4) Grace to minister
Acts 14:26 From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended (to give over to) the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished
NWC sending out mission teams.
5) Protection from temptation
lead us not into temptation. I use the format of the Lords Prayer to intercede for others. They need the same things I need.
Matthew 26:36-41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
6) Love for those they lead
Impatience, disappointment, personal attacks can leave a leaders heart cold.
Phillipians 1:9 And this I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment
John 10:11-14 I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
7) Protection from discouragement
Leaders can conclude theyre failures and long to withdraw from ministry to escape the shame they feel
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart
1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13
appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in their work.
verse 25 Brethren, pray for us
Not only do our leaders form us, but to a remarkable degree we form our leaders. Apparently, great followers enable their leaders to be great. By our obedience and cooperation we bring them joy (Heb 13:17), and when we accept our responsibility to diligently pray for them we ensure that they will be protected and empowered.
1) Have you ever felt what its like to have other people praying for you? Maybe you were ill and others were interceding or you went on a mission trip and were daily covered by the church. Describe what you observed.
2) Have you ever been in a ministry or on a mission where you werent prayed for? What was that like?
3) Do you regularly pray for others? If so, what caused you to start doing this?