Three Strategic Prayers for Our Spiritual Leaders (Part Two)
Charles Spurgeon noted, “I know of no greater kindness than for my people to pray for me.” Every wise church leader seeks and cherishes the prayer support of his people. Yet, why do we pray? How should we pray? What should we pray about?
In Part One we began to unpack Paul’s appeal for the prayer support of the believers in Rome as we looked at Romans 15:30-33. Paul wrote,
Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you. Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Why and How
We saw last week that we should pray for our spiritual leaders because they need it and ask for it. More significantly, we pray because we regard the name and honor of Christ and because we love the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The nature of our prayers is described by Paul as “agonizing” prayer. We strive with all of our energies, feeling the great weight of the spiritual burden of the Gospel’s cause and spiritual battle.
Three Specific Prayer Targets
Paul describes three specific needs that are pressing on him as he serves the Lord and travels in obedience to the call.
First he seeks prayer for protection from spiritual enemies. He asked the Romans to pray that he might be “delivered from those in Judea who do not believe.” In this context, Paul was journeying back to Jerusalem where his most violent opponents would come against him.
He was not concerned with survival but with the satisfaction of his mission. On one hand Paul said, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21). On the other hand, when faced with inevitable threats on his life, he states, “Chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:23-24). Paul’s prayer request was rooted in a longing to effectively finish his task, not a fear of dying.
Today, Western believers do not feel so compelled to pray this way since our leaders are seldom threatened. Yet, I am reminded of a story told to me by a church member named Ted. While on a plane in California Ted sat next to a man who appeared to be praying and fasting during the flight. Ted eventually asked the gentleman about his evident devotion. Indeed, the man was praying and fasting – to Satan. Ted learned that this man had joined other Satanists in a commitment to fast and pray once a week for the downfall of the marriages of Christian leaders. Indeed, the battle is real, the attacks are subtle, and our prayers are vital.
Second, Paul asks the church to pray for the prosperity of his ministry efforts to the saints. He stated, “…that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.” In taking funds collected from the gentiles, he faced the possibility of rejection, suspicion, or division depending on the response of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem.
Still today, we need to pray for the soil of the hearts of God’s people to be receptive as the Word and work of the ministry is shared by our leaders. So many times the enemy fuels misunderstanding, confusion, and criticism, which undermine the fruit of Gospel ministry.
Third, Paul sought prayer for the provision of his personal needs by the believers in Rome. After a long, demanding journey Paul anticipated making it to Rome, by God’s will and with his joy intact, but needing personal refreshment from the saints there. Whether they speak openly about it or not, our leaders need the refreshment of encouraging words, thoughtful actions, and supportive expressions of kindness.
When we review Acts 21:17 – 28:31 we find the answers to these prayers. Paul’s gift to the believers in Jerusalem was accepted. In addition, the Jerusalem church rejoiced in the work of the Gospel and wanted to learn more about the spread of grace.
While in Jerusalem, the antagonistic Jews attacked Paul again, seeking to kill him. The Roman military, seeing their hatred and learning of their murderous plots, sent him to Caesarea (under the guard of 470 soldiers!) where Paul appeared before several Roman magistrates. Eventually, Paul sailed to Rome to appeal to Caesar. On the way, they experienced shipwreck and Paul was bitten by a viper – only to survive everything. Throughout it all, the Roman church was agonizing in prayer for Paul’s protection.
Paul was under house arrest in Rome so he did not make it to the 11:00 a.m. worship service to enjoy the refreshment of the believers there. However, it is apparent that believers were able to come to him and refresh his spirit. Most notable was a man named Onesiphorus, of whom Paul spoke in his final letter (2 Timothy 1:16-18).
As we see these amazing answers to prayer we must obey the call to pray for our leaders. God invites us to play a vital role in the advancement of His Gospel purposes as we intercede for pastors and missionaries.
The Peace that Comes Through Prayer
Paul’s appeal for prayer ends with this benediction: “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” Prayer replaces worry. Prayer produces a Christ-alignment in our hearts that results in unity, trust, and spiritual health. For the sake of the Gospel, for the good of our leaders, and for the spiritual health of our own hearts – let’s resolve to pray for those whom God has appointed to shepherd our souls.
A full sermon on this subject is available at Strategic Renewal. Along with the DVD you will receive a group study guide and a special interview with Pastor Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals. Go to http://www.strategicrenewal.com/cddvd/your-most-strategic-investment-cd-dvd/
Copyright © 2011 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.