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When Leaders Pray, Week Eight
by Tom Goodman
June 20, 2008

Today we'll wrap up an eight-week series in LeaderLines.  We've been going through some of the prayers the Apostle Paul expressed for his people in his letters.  These prayers can serve as a valuable guide in your own prayers.

But in Ephesians 6:19-20, the man who prayed for others asked others to pray for him:

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.  Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Just a sentence earlier he had written, "Always keep on praying for all the saints."  Now he says, "Pray also for me."  He seems to be saying that every Christian needs to be on someone's prayer list, but every prayer list ought to include someone's pastor.

Ephesians 6 isn't the only place he asked for Christians to pray for him:
  • In 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 he writes, "Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you."
  • In Colossians 4:3-4, he writes almost the same thing that he writes in Ephesians 6:  "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should."
  • In 1 Thessalonians 5:25 he says simply, "Brothers, pray for us."
In fact, he even regarded the prayers of others as a sort of partnership with him.  He writes in Romans 15:30, "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me."

There was something about intercessory prayer that actually created a partnership between Paul and the person who prayed for Paul.  It's true between you and me, too:  You may not know the details of my work, and I may not know that you are even praying for me.  But in the spiritual world there is a partnership between your prayers and my work.

What should you pray for when you pray for me?  For my physical health?  Yes, but there is something more important than that.  For faith and emotional strength and the ability to fight back the demons of depression?  Yes.  For financial discipline?  Yes.  For moral purity?  Yes, that too.  For the stability of my home and the commitment to be a good husband and father?  Yes, but there is something even more important than that.  Paul said to his people:  "Pray for me that words will be given to me and that boldness will be given to me."  I need those same things:  I need God to give me the words and the courage to say exactly what God wants me to say.

First, he wanted words.  He wanted to say exactly what God wanted him to say.  The NASB and KJV translates it "utterance" -- "Pray that I may be given utterance."  That's an old-fashioned word that we don't use much today, but it just might be the best way to help us understand what Paul was getting at.  He had in mind more than just words -- he wanted God to give him divine words.  He wanted God to give him words that would convict and convince.  He wanted otherworldly conversation.  He wanted "utterance."

So, when you pray for me, pray that words from God's Word will be given to me.  Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:15, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

Notice what he calls a person whose job is to correctly handle the word of truth.  He calls that person a workman, a laborer, a hired hand, blue-collar worker, an ordinary grunt.  Far from taking a pastor's time in the Word and shoving it off into whatever spare time a pastor has left after the "real" work of ministry is done, Paul said, "Timothy, here is the real grunt work of ministry, here is where you should labor until you're wiping grit and sweat from your brow like a plowboy:  Timothy, do your best to be a workman who correctly handles the word of truth."

I've spent time as a grunt on construction crews, and I've stocked warehouse shelves, and I've operated forklifts, and I've drawn pay as a plumber.  But I can tell you that nothing exhausts the body and mind like extended study in God's Word.  You need to pray that I be given time to listen to no other voices but the voice of God as he speaks through the Scripture.

So pray that I might have the time to be a workman who correctly handles the word of truth.  And pray that the time I spend with God's Book will be productive times.  Pray that during those times of study God will feed me and shape me and enliven me so that when I speak on Sundays or counsel in my office or offer leadership on the direction of this church -- when I open my mouth to speak, it will be exactly what God wants me to say.

Second, he wanted courage.  Paul wanted the Ephesian Christians to pray not only that God would give Paul the words to speak but also that God would give Paul the courage to speak those words.

His concern for courage was so much on his mind, he mentions it twice -- once in verse 19 and immediately again in verse 20.  In verse 19 he says, "Pray... that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel."  Then in verse 20 the thought comes to his mind again:  "Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

It's hard to imagine Paul worried that he might lose courage in sharing the gospel, isn't it?  But anyone who seriously considers what is at stake has this concern.  Chuck Colson wrote:

When I was a Marine lieutenant, I was conscious that I had fifty lives in my hands.  I didn't dare show it, but I was frightened.  A 747 pilot knows that he is responsible for three hundred or more lives.  But can there be anything more terrifying than to know that you are actually speaking for God -- the holy, majestic 'I Am'?  Can there be any greater responsibility than to shepherd the church of God which Jesus purchased with His own blood?  Even with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the charge is terrifying, considering our own frailty.

Pray that I will be given boldness to say exactly what God wants me to say -- in the pulpit, one-on-one, and as I lead this church.

So, when you pray for your pastor, pray that he be given words and courage.

Several years ago, college football coach Bill McCartney began the phenomenal men's movement called Promise Keepers.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of Christian men pledged to keep seven vital promises, one of them being to honor and pray for their pastor.  Pastors experienced powerful personal revival because Promise Keepers reminded Christian men to honor and pray for their pastors.

In a 1993 conference, Coach McCartney said to the men:  "I see us going home to our churches and asking our pastors for permission, praying fervently for the favor of God, to stand before the congregation and say, 'We're going to start to lift up our pastor.  We are going to stand in the gap for our preacher.  We're going to pray around the clock!  We're going to build this man up.  We're going to take him where he has never been before!'"

All around this nation churches were different when hundreds of thousands of men took up the coach's challenge and prayed.  Ephesians 6:19-20 stands as instruction for every Christian, not just Promise Keepers.  Like Paul asked his people, I ask you:  "Pray for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel."


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