Praying for Your Local Church

by Yan Ding

Prayer is a vital component of a Christian’s life. Prayer is how we communicate our praises, thanksgivings, requests, and supplications to God. From our first prayer of repentance for sin to routine prayers for provision and protection, we often pray for ourselves and for our family members. But how often do we think of the local church in our prayers? How often do we pray for and thank the Lord for our spiritual family in the local body of Christ.

Prayer is Commanded by God
As believers we are commanded to “pray without ceasing,” which means we are to pray regularly and frequently (1 Thess 5:17). And the Lord Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Here the Lord exhorts His people to keep His commandments not because He desires mechanical acts of devotion, but because He has a personal relationship with His redeemed people, a people He empowers with the Holy Spirit to do good works and build His Church, the Body of Christ. Prayer is a command from Christ that we obey out of love for Him.

God is Pleased When We Pray
God is pleased when His people pray. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Tim 2:1-3). God also commands His people to pray together. Early in the book of Acts we find believers in the newly-established church gathering regularly together to devote themselves, among other things, to the teaching of the Word of God, worship, communion, and prayer (Acts 2:42).

Prayer Orients our Hearts to God
God designed prayer as a means for us to orient our hearts to Him. As believers, our sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ and we are being sanctified, set apart for Christ by the Spirit (1 Cor 6:11). We are not to be conformed to this world but be transformed through the renewal of the mind to discern the will of God (Rom 12:2). And it is the will of God for believers to rejoice, pray, and give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:16-18). The apostle Paul prayed on behalf of the believers in Colossae that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col 1:9). And we are commanded to submit all our requests to God with prayer and thanksgiving, and, as a result, He will give us a peace that surpasses all understanding which guards our hearts from anxiety, doubt, and fear (Phil 4:6-7).

We who were once slaves of sin have been freed by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And now as God’s children we are able to pursue righteousness and do good works (Rom 6:18; Eph 2:8-10). Before, we were enemies of God and lovers of self, but now we are children of God and able to love others rightly and pray for others rightly. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).

God Honors Earnest Prayer
As children of God, we can trust that our Father will hear our prayers (John 14:14). Scripture is also clear that God will not honor the prayers of the wicked (Ps 66:18; Prov 15:29). Just as a father grants the good things his children ask for and not the bad, so does our heavenly Father honor the prayers of His children when we desire the things that please Him (Luke 11:10-13). Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Thus, if you are in Christ and you desire to do the will of God according to His Word, He will honor your prayers.

How Can You Pray for Your Local Church?
The pastors, elders, and overseers of a church are called by God to lead their local congregation as a council of qualified men. Some of their primary roles include preaching and teaching the Word of God, protecting the flock against false teaching, and exhorting the saints with sound doctrine (Acts 20:28-31; Titus 1:9). Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Matt 16:18), but Satan seeks to tear down the church by provoking division and encouraging moral and doctrinal compromise in the leadership of local churches (Acts 20:29-30). Our elders desperately need the prayers of the saints for protection from Satan, to preserve unity, and maintain good repute (1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5)

The saints should also uphold these brothers in prayer for wisdom in big decisions such as how to allocate church finances, ministry emphases, ordination of elders and deacons, and for the teaching and training of new leaders.

A local congregation is comprised of a mosaic of people—rich and poor, young and old, healthy and sick, married and unmarried, working and out-of-a-job, thriving and on-the-fringes. Despite these differences, there is something in common about each person. We are all sinners, and all of us struggle, in various ways, with the desires of the flesh and are doomed to hell apart from Christ. Therefore, the present church is not perfect, but as believers we are united in Christ (Eph 2:11-22). He has given us new life and equipped us to do the work of the ministry and to build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12, 22-24).

God has given each of us gifts and roles to bless the church body, and if any member suffers, all suffer together (1 Cor 12:12-26). How then, should we pray for one another? Here are some ideas from Scripture.

  • Pray that there is unity in the body and that all believers will use their gifts to serve one another in love (Gal 5:14; 1 Pet 3:8).
  • Pray that believers in the church will forgive one another (Eph 4:32)
  • Pray that a brother or sister who sins will respond rightly to correction (Matt 18:15).
  • Pray that any disagreement between believers will be resolved for the glory of God (Rom 14).
  • Pray that all will be generous, and those who have less will have enough (Ps 41:1-3).
  • Pray that those who are sick will be healed, and praise God when health is restored (James 5:13-16).
  • Pray for children to obey their parents, and Christian parents to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph 6:1-4).
  • Pray that all believers will be cultivating the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22).
  • Pray that younger men and women will grow in godliness by learning from the older men and women in the church, and that older believers will be able to disciple younger believers (Titus 2:1-6).
  • Pray for those who are lonely to find comfort and satisfaction in the Lord and among His people (Prov 18:1; 2 Tim 4:17; Heb 10:23-24).
  • Pray for those who desire to be married to trust in God’s sovereignty and perfect timing (1 Cor 7:35).
  • Pray for those who are married in the Lord to have strong, Christ-centered marriages (Eph 5:22-33).
  • Pray for those who are married to unbelievers to be godly testimonies to their spouses (1 Pet 3:1-7).
  • Pray for believers to work with diligence, integrity, and joy as for the Lord (Col 3:23-24).
  • Pray for believers to exhibit the love of Christ and the glory of the gospel to the unbelievers in our assembly (Matt 5:16; John 13:35).

The Lord commanded us to proclaim the good news to all nations and shine the light of the gospel in a dark world (Matt 28:19-20; 2 Cor 4:1-6). How can we pray for GBF’s evangelism and discipleship ministry?

  • Pray for for your church’s evangelism and outreach ministry to train and equip saints to share the gospel more effectively.
  • Pray for believers to reach their communities, neighbors, and coworkers with the gospel.
  • Pray for outreach opportunities during our Christmas concerts, women’s events, etc.
  • Pray that God will continue to provide the resources that you need to conduct ministry to the saints and your local community.

Prayer is a vital spiritual discipline. Prayer requires faith in God Whom we cannot see for outcomes we cannot control. The Bible teaches us about God’s character and His promises, and prayer draws our hearts closer to Him. We cannot grow as Christians if we do not pray. God has given us His indwelling Spirit to teach us (John 14:26). And though our prayers may be feeble, the Spirit “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). The Spirit is growing us, sanctifying us, gradually in Christ-likeness (2 Cor 3:18). Sanctification requires our efforts to develop spiritual disciplines (2 Cor 7:1). Therefore, we ought to keep praying steadfastly, earnestly, and selflessly, especially with an eye toward those in our local church (Rom 12:12; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:17).

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