Three times New Testament writers ask their readers to pray for them:
- Brethren, pray for us. (1 Thess. 5:25)
- Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you. (2 Thess. 3:1)
- Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. (Heb. 13:18)
Those verses came to mind for three reasons this morning.
I thought of them first of all because of the sermon I will preach on Sunday, “Caring for One Another: A Life of Prayer” (Rom. 1:8-10). Paul models the necessity of prayer in the body of Christ. Prayer is indispensable for the preservation and care of the flock. It is necessary not only for the “needy,” but even the apostles and elders in the early church requested it. Everyone needs the intercession of God on his behalf.
It is tempting to discount the significance of prayer for each other, but elsewhere Paul says that the prayers offered for him and his co-workers were both a “help” and a “favor” (grace gift; see 2 Cor. 1:11). Prayer helps and prayer is an expression of God’s grace to His people. So we need to pray for each other because it is a means of genuinely caring for each other.
These verses also came to mind because earlier this week another pastor confessed moral failure that required his removal from the pastorate. Actually, there was probably more than one that confessed that sin, but this pastor led a very large and influential church and has written numerous books (some of which sit on my shelves) and has spoken at many conferences. When a man falls under the deluding influence of sin and the flesh, it is a reminder of the commonality of temptation (1 Cor. 10:13) and a warning to the rest of us to take heed and care so that we don’t fall into similar sins (1 Cor. 10:12).
The battle with the flesh is persistent — even (especially?) for the believer. And one of the tools of resistance we have is prayer. Prayer for ourselves is one way to stand against sin, and prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ that they also stand is another means of fighting this battle (e.g., Eph. 1:19ff; Phil. 1:10; Col. 1:10). We minister to and help our brothers if we regularly pray for strength for them to resist the inevitable temptations of sin. Anyone can fall to temptation. But it is equally true that any (every) believer can resist temptation (1 Jn. 2:1-2). And we serve each other well when we pray for each other to stand against sin.
And finally I thought of these verses because of the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States this morning, denying states the right to ban same-sex marriage (CNN; Christianity Today; Russell Moore; Denny Burk). This is a sad, though expected, day in our country.
I have two immediate thoughts in response to the ruling. There is a measure in which events like this are a blessing. The decision itself is certainly not a blessing, but one of the consequences is — and that is, it is getting to be easier and easier to see who believes the Bible and Christ and who does not. And to that end, it simplifies the ministry of the church, for it is becoming increasingly clear who needs evangelism and it makes our message of the gospel that much more clear and hopeful.
But along with that “blessing,” is the reality that it will require increasing boldness to carry the name of Christ in this country. In other places, believers in Christ are used to persecution. American Christians are not. In spite of what the Scriptures say, American believers assert their right not to be persecuted. The Bible says we have an expectation of persecution — it is the norm for believers and we should not treat it as something unusual (2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:12). That’s easy to write from the comfort of my office chair and it’s easy to read at the security of your kitchen table. But it’s more difficult when demands might be made for tolerance in the workplace. Or when restrictions might be placed on churches who refuse to marry homosexuals or recognize homosexual unions. Or when family members embrace and flaunt those standards. Will we still stand when opposition and persecution increase? We will stand if we are bold; and we will be bold, in part, when we pray for one another. The days are evil (Eph. 5:16). Pray for each other to be bold and unwavering in these evil days.
We need to pray for each other. We need that common union and fellowship. We need each other’s prayers so that we can fight our battles against sin. And we need to pray for each other because we need courage in difficult days.
Pray for one another. Today. Now.