STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. But I especially urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
When was the last time we prayed for our pastors, missionaries or teachers? Oh yes, these servants of the Word are customarily included in the Sunday General Prayer spoken on our behalf. But how often have we included them in our personal prayers?
In an active prayer life, we offer mealtime prayers, the Lord’s Prayer, and supplications for ourselves and for those near and dear to us. However, do intercessory prayers for our called servants receive as much attention?
The writer to the Hebrews called upon his readers to pray for him and his fellow workers. Quite frequently the apostle Paul beseeched readers of his epistles to speak of him and his coworkers in their prayers (see 1 Thessalonians 5:25, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2, Romans15:30-32, Ephesians 6:18-20, and Colossians 4:3). And he in turn remembered them in his prayers.
Since we read in Holy Scripture that such intercessory prayers were encouraged and made, surely the Lord deems it very important and most helpful for His people to be regularly engaged in them. It is certainly a powerful means of providing support for kingdom workers, for in so doing we are petitioning the almighty God of heaven and earth to supply the necessary aid for His servants in fulfilling their high callings.
But then, what should we pray for? In his letter to the Hebrews, the inspired writer said to these Christians, “But I especially urge you to do this (that is, pray for him), that I may be restored to you the sooner.” It was this spiritual counselor’s fervent hope that he be permitted to come to them as soon as possible for the sake of the kingdom. Was there some kind of hindrance standing in the way of a timely return to them? Was his delay due to sickness, imprisonment, or work? They were not told. God knew. And so, they would need to leave this in the hands of the Lord to do what was best for His under-shepherd and His sheep.
Well, what about us?
What should we pray for when interceding for servants of the Word who work among us? We may be inclined to say to the Lord, “You know what these workers are dealing with and the kind of help they need, so kindly supply them with the aid they require.” We could certainly offer this kind of petition, since God knows better than we do in such matters. But there is much to be said for taking a personal interest in the lives and work of our called workers. This would help us in making specific requests of God for them.
Aside from learning such particulars, we can pray that God bless them with good health and strength so that they can continue in their work; that they be faithful in preaching and teaching the pure Word of God; that the Lord give them the spiritual fortitude to lovingly reprove, rebuke, admonish, and exhort with all longsuffering; that the Good Shepherd fill His servants with the zeal to feed with the sweet Gospel the precious souls entrusted to them; that God keep them safe from all harm and danger; and that He bless their labors so that spiritual fruit can be produced to His honor, glory, and praise.
In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to young pastor Timothy, he gave this exhortation that was intended not only for Timothy, but also for all Christians: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” (1 Timothy 2:1) In Hebrews 13:18-19 it was not only the Hebrews who were urged to pray for servants of the Word, but by extension we too receive the same encouragement.
May God help us to remember to regularly carry this out in our prayer lives.
Mark Gullerud recently retired from the pastorate of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bowdle, South Dakota, and Zion Lutheran Church in Ipswich, South Dakota.