Six Ways to Pray for the Church
Yesterday, we talked about why you should extend your prayers beyond your own personal needs, and even beyond your close circle of friends and family. Today, we're sharing six prayer starters to guide your prayer time into deeper waters and closer to the heart of our God.
Pray about a heart for God's people
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. -John 13:34
Like any type of love, you don't wake up one morning and find yourself in love with someone. And if you don't love someone, it's very difficult to care for their needs or even sacrifice something of yours (time, finances, prayers) for them. That kind of love (Ephesians 4:15-16) comes from knowing and loving someone. And that comes from above. So, ask the Lord to fill your heart with a love and burden for His people. Ask to see others like He does.
This is particularly important if you or someone you know has been hurt by a church or church member at some point. Don't let the misguided actions of some human being - even if they were acting in the capacity of their role in church - extinguish the love the Lord planted in your heart for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We all make mistakes. And although we are called to reflect Christ, sometimes we fail. But that does not and should not tarnish God's or His church's reputation!
Pray for the leaders of the church
Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. -Hebrews 13:7
In 1 Thessalonians 5:25, Apostle Paul asks the church to pray for him and the other leaders of the first church. Because being a leader is always difficult, but when you're responsible for someone else's salvation that is an incredibly difficult burden to carry and a high calling to accept from God. Some things to pray over for your local church's leaders:
- Spiritual discernment, so that they may only preach the Truth and the Word of God with no personal agendas or false doctrine. The Bible warns us that as the last days near, there will be many false prophets and spiritual leaders, and since pastors are human, they are just as susceptible to the lies and pressures of the enemy as any of us.
- Health and financial security: most pastors and church leaders don't live extravagant lives, and there are some pastors around the world who don't even have a spare set of clothes to change into. But, like God fed Elijah in 1 Kings 19, so He can also provide food, health, shelter, clothing and whatever else is needed for pastors everywhere.
- Family: some pastor's kids have to fight the world's temptations the hardest. And no family is ever truly living without some hardship or struggles. So pray for the wives and children of pastors who have tied their lives to the callings of their husbands and fathers - that they may not only support the pastors but also that there may be peace and holiness in their households.
Pray for the members suffering persecution
That there should be no schism in the body but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. -1 Corinthians 12:25-27
When you stub your toe, you feel it with your whole body. Worse, should you ever lose a limb, that missing piece of you impacts so much about your body and life. Maybe that's why God uses the body as an analogy for His church: because we can understand the pain and suffering of such incidents in our human capacity.
If the suffering of other believers around the world doesn't impact you in any way today, seriously consider whether you are truly a member of the church of Christ. I know that sounds harsh, and it took me a long time to humble myself and admit that for a long time, I distanced myself from the suffering of others. Because it felt so foreign and unreal. Denial and ignorance were so much easier in the midst of my luxurious and comfortable life.
That's why that first prayer we discussed is so important: to feel the pain of others sufferings and to be able to adequately carry them in prayer, we must have God's love for His people in our hearts. For God finds great pleasure in answering these prayers.
For example, in Acts 12, Peter was in prison and all the while, the church remained in constant prayer for him. In response, Peter was miraculously escorted by angels from prison. Apostle Paul also often makes mention of his gratefulness that the church kept praying for him while he was imprisoned.
We serve the same God as the apostles and the first church described in the New Testament (Hebrews 13:8). The promises Jesus made to those first followers also extend to you and me today (Acts 2:39). The church of God today still has the same power (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18; John 14:13-14; James 5:14-16). So, yes, our united prayers today are capable of setting Christian prisoners free and for protection from the harshest forms of persecution (Matthew 16:18-19).
Pray for widows and orphans
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. -James 1:27
Psalm 68:5 says that our Heavenly father has a weak spot for the neglected people of the world: widows, orphans, the oppressed and the poor, the sick. 1 Timothy 5:5 says that a widow's dependence is only on God and that she "continues in supplications and prayers night and day."
Maybe right now you don't have the chance to tangibly help a widow or an orphan, but sometimes, prayer is so much more powerful than anything material we can give. Remember in Acts 3 when Peter and John were going to pray in the temple and they met a lame man on the way? He asked for alms, but they could only give him what they had: Jesus and the healing of his lifelong illness in the name of Jesus Christ.
Because of your prayer, and unknown to you, a widow may have dinner on the table tonight - across the world or down the street from you. Or maybe an orphan will finally be adopted by a loving family after years spent jumping from home to home in the foster care system. Maybe a young woman will answer the call on her heart to spend some time abroad working or starting an orphanage in a third world country.
So, let's pray for material and financial provision, spiritual strength, peace and all the other blessings we can think of upon those who hold a special place in the heart of our heavenly father.
Pray for revival and mercy
If my people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. -2 Chronicles 7:14
Earlier, we talked about some of the major characters in the Bible who appealed to God on the behalf of His people. Some asked for mercy in the wake of sin and corruption. Others asked for spiritual revival. Today, we have a desperate need for both types of prayers both in the United States and for people all over the world - both within the church and those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior yet.
We need to pray for workers who will go out and work the harvest (Luke 10:2; Matthew 9:35-38): people who will preach the good word at college campuses, corporations, political gatherings, or the African jungle.
If you're not sure exactly what to pray for, the Psalms offer a multitude of templates like this:
Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, Lord, and grant us Your salvation. -Psalm 85:6-7
Pray for the children and youth
Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. -2 Timothy 2:22
These two sects of the church are the future leaders of our generation: at home, in church, and in different professions and industries. Nowadays, children and teens are especially vulnerable to the influences and pressures of this world - sexting, cyberbullying, makeup, sexual exploration, social media, clothing. That's why here at Tirzah, young women are the beating heart of our mission. We can talk about Jesus and following Him until we're blue in the face, but only prayer and the Holy Spirit can transform, empower and protect the hearts of young people.
So, pray over these vulnerable ages, that they may stay on the narrow path that leads to Heaven, for protection from peer pressure, for purity and holiness, for strength to live a set-apart life amongst a spiritually corrupt generation and for the callings God has destined for their lives.