July 4, 2013

"Brethren, pray for us"

Last Sunday – from Acts 4 – I urged our congregation to make a special effort to pray for the preaching and teaching of the word of God to which they are privy in our church – asking God’s blessing on us as we meet with Him in our own prayer closets, during family worship, and in Sunday morning prayer meeting. Following up on that, I thought it would be good to rehash some prayers that I regularly pray for myself as I prepare to preach each week. I hope you’ll take them up as your own, praying both for your own pastor(s) and for the others who teach you God’s word week to week.

So then, pray that the preaching and teaching would be …

Accurate. That we who open the Book to you each Sunday and Wednesday would get it right – “accurately handling” (or “rightly dividing” as the KJV puts it) “the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2.15). Correct understanding and legitimate application is sometimes easier said than done … especially with difficult passages. So pray for us … that we’d get it right.

Clear. That your preachers and teachers would, by their thoughtful organization, illustration, and speech patterns, be easy to understand and follow (rather than opaque, disorganized, or out of touch). That we would, therefore, be like lanterns in the Spirit’s hands, gently throwing light upon the scriptures – so that you can see for yourself what is there on the page. “Devote yourselves to prayer … praying at the same time for us as well … that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Colossians 4.2-4).

Patient. That as we study, and as we preach, we will not be in a hurry to get to the end … but will work at a pace that allows the Holy Spirit to interject nuances and applications that we might have otherwise missed as we sped along at too high a speed.

Personal. Here I paraphrase my historical pastor/hero, Thomas Boston. Pray for us … ‘that the Lord may preach the truth into our own hearts, both as we study and as we actually preach. If this is lacking, we shall be like those who feed others, but starve themselves; or like a road sign, that shows the way to others, but never moves a foot itself.’*

Powerful. There are times when the preacher preaches, with the help of the Holy Spirit (and we are thankful for these times!). But then there are times when the Holy Spirit almost seems to do the preaching Himself; times when the preacher is taken up with what we might call unction from on high. Pray that, more and more, this would be the case among us … that we would preach, “not … in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1.5).

Prophetic. It is one thing to understand and explain what a particular passage means. But it is quite another to really see how that passage, written centuries ago, applies to the people sitting in front of the preacher today. Once again, we are utterly reliant upon the Holy Spirit to really drive the message home; to help us see the relevance of it for our own people; to deliver God’s message for God’s people today. So pray that God will, in this regard, help those who teach you each week – that, whether or not they actually know what is going on behind the scenes of your life, you will leave saying: ‘That word was exactly what I needed to hear today. It was almost as though he had been reading my journal, and came with a special word, perfectly suited to meet me in my need.’ And pray that this will be so, not only for you, but for many others as well!

There are other prayers that could be prayed as well, I am sure. But this is a starting place. Use this list. Maybe put it in the inside cover of your Bible or journal. Or create your own list. Or pray without a list at all. But however you do it, “brethren, pray for us” (2 Thessalonians 3.1) “that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified.”

*Paraphrased from Thomas Boston. The Art of Manfishing. Originally published in 1773 (over four decades after Boston’s death), and available in several modern editions.

No comments: