May 19, 2008

More Prayers for the Preacher

For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in this world, and especially toward you. 2 Corinthians 1:12

Here are some more tips in case you are praying for me while I'm away in Ethiopia (and when I get home too!); as you pray for your missionaries; and as you pray for the men who seek to minister the word of God in your local church:

1. Pray that we would conduct ourselves in holiness. To be sure, ministering God's word takes hard work. But much of ministry consists of being holy. Robert M'Cheyne, a great minister in the Church of Scotland in the 19th century, would often receive letters from those who had been converted under His preaching. Many times they said that what he actually said was not as vital to them as how he actually lived, day-by-day in holiness. O, that ministers would see that personal holiness, not polished speaking, is what honors God most!

2. Pray that we would minister in godly sincerity. It is quite easy for a minister to fall into the trap of doing his work because he feels obligated, not because he really wants to. This can be true in preaching, teaching, visiting, counseling, and any other area of the ministry. But this is insincere ministry. Rather, we ought to minister in sincerity the way God does. God does not love us, or save us, or bless us because He has to. God is not obligated to any man. God loves and saves and blesses us because He wants to. Pray for us, that we would be as willing to serve as Jesus is to save.

3. Pray that we would not minister in fleshly wisdom. We live in an age that says, "If it works, it must be good." Sadly, many ministers have taken this unbiblical idea and made it into the catch-phrase for ministry. Ministers are under a lot of pressure to "grow a church" (which is not what God asks us to do—see Matt. 16:18) and are thus tempted to find anything and everything that will work—regardless of whether or not it is biblical. There is a whole book industry ready to help us grow churches by using the methods of the world (entertainment, bribery, even ethnic and cultural segregation!). Pray that God's men would use the methods of Jesus and Paul and Peter rather than those of 21st century America.

4. Pray that we would minister in the grace of God. I think what Paul means is that we should minister in such a way that we see that it is God's grace to us that brings results—not our own works. In other words, no matter how well I preach, I cannot save anyone. And no matter how poorly I preach, God can save. It is not our works that do anything for the kingdom. It is the grace and power of God alone that makes ministry effective.

Dear Christians, please pray fervently, regularly, and biblically for those who minister to you here at home and on your behalf in all the world.

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