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When Leaders Pray, Week Four
by Tom Goodman
May 22, 2008

How we communicate with each other has as much to do with body language as the spoken word.  Maybe the way we communicate with God has a lot to do with body language, too.

Your body language can tell me a lot about you.  What you do with your hands, how you fold your arms, the way you sit, whether you shift your feet -- your body language can tell me a lot about your interest or boredom or impatience or anxiety.  Have you ever considered that how we communicate to God may also have a lot to do with body language?

We're taking a few weeks in LeaderLines to go through some of the prayers the Apostle Paul expressed for his people in his letters.  Take a look at how the prayer recorded in Ephesians 3:14-21 starts out:

I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

When he thought of what he wanted God to do for his people, he knelt down like a beggar.  Of course, God looks at the sincerity of our heart, not the pose of our body.  But for Paul, what he felt in his heart and what he expressed in his body were one and the same.  Paul went down on his knees because of the urgency and intensity of his concern.  Both his body and his words were fused together as he prayed, "God, I beg you to grant my request!"

My favorite example of a church leader praying for his people is Epaphras.  Paul reported to the Colossian believers that Epaphras was "always wrestling in prayer for them" (4:12).  We do not know for sure whether Epaphras was the pastor of the Colossian congregation.  We read only that he was "a faithful minister of Christ" through whom the Colossians had come to believe (1:7).  But he certainly maintained a pastoral concern for those he led to Christ.

And Paul wrote that he often observed Epaphras "wrestling" in prayer on their behalf.  The Greek word is agonizomenos -- if you pronounce it you will hear the word "agony."

As a church leader, the example of Epaphras always convicts me.  If I am not careful, my intercession will often degenerate into a few tired sentences between yawns and sips of coffee as I start my day.  I could hardly describe that as agonized wrestling against "principalities and powers" (Ephesians 6:12) on behalf of my congregation!

What Paul prayed for was so vital to those he led that he wanted them to envision what he was doing.  So, in Ephesians 3:14-15, he said, "I'm begging God on hands and knees to answer my requests on your behalf!"  And what were his requests?  Take a look:
I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

He asked God to give the Ephesian believers two things: God's power and God's love.  There's nothing more we as leaders could pray for any believer in any situation than an unmistakable experience of God's power and love:
  • I'm thinking of a young man who's trying to make some decisions about the future.  What he needs is the courage that comes from God's power and the confidence that comes from God's love.
  • I'm thinking of a woman who made a commitment to leave a sinful lifestyle.  God's power will give her the strength to say "no" to the old temptations and God's love will give her the joy to say "yes" to godliness.
  • I'm thinking of a person trying to shake off depression.  Sometimes he needs God's power to get through even the most routine tasks.  And he needs God's love to remind him that the darkness will turn to dawning.
  • I'm thinking of more than one family facing financial difficulties.  These families need divine power to bring the crisis under control, and they need divine love to protect their hearts from despair and panic.

Clasping hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the chaos in another person's life!  When you and I pray for those we lead, we need to pray, "God, let them experience your power!  God, let them experience your love."

We'll dig deeper into these two prayer requests next week.  In the meantime, examine your prayer life for those you lead.  Does it hold a candle to the agonized wrestling of Epaphras and the beggarly pleas of Paul?


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