“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”(Ephesians 6:18)
We must pray. Whether it be in public and in concert with other believers, or privately and even silently, we pray. Even when we lack the words, our hearts and minds offer wordless utterances before the Lord.
And we must pray for the church. As no Christian has his or her true identity apart from God (which is why we unite ourselves to Him in prayer), so no believer has his or her true identity as a Christian apart from His Body. Therefore, we both unite ourselves to one another, and to our Savior, in praying for Christ’s church.
How do we pray for Christ’s church? While there are always particular circumstances in a local congregation, a denomination, or even in the worldwide church that demand specific prayers, there are also some aspects of prayer for the church that we may, and should, always pray for. Learning these ongoing types of prayers will be the focus of this series of posts.
In each brief post, I’ll look at one of a number of topics that we can pray about for the church, and consider the biblical basis and mandate for praying in that manner. I’ll also try to identify concrete and explicit ways that we might pray for that topic.
It is our delight and privilege to come before the Lord in prayer, and I am grateful to God for this opportunity to learn with you how we might pray for Christ’s church.
Praying for God’s Glory
“One of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name … .”’” (Luke 11:1-2)
We are taught by Christ Himself to pray for the glory of God. All of mankind was created for God’s glory (Westminster Catechism #1); we were made to be worshipers, and while we frequently fail to fulfill this purpose, God’s glory is nevertheless due Him in our worship, both individually and corporately. It is what we were built for; consequently, this is the proper beginning point for considering how we might pray for the church.
God’s glory is a prominent theme throughout Scripture, and therefore it ought to be a prominent theme in all of our prayers (Psalm 34:3; cf. Daniel 4:37; John 12:28; John 17:1,5; Romans 15:6). The Bible gives us examples of God’s leaders (and Jesus Himself) praying: that God would be glorified in the worship and work of individuals and of God’s people; that God’s glory would be revealed to unbelievers as a basis for them to believe; that the prominence of God’s grace and mercy might increase as the world’s awareness of His glory increases.
Therefore, we ought to pray for God’s glory to be prominently displayed through the church. God’s people are, first and foremost, worshipers—we are created, called, and established by Him to bring glory to Him through our worship, both individually and corporately. Toward that end, God’s church is called four things in Scripture:
His Body: If we, the church, are the very embodiment of God in this world, then we ought to reflect Him mostly, and ourselves very little (John 3:30).
His Family: We must pray that God’s family would “conduct [ourselves] in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27), and in so doing live up to the family name.
His Bride: As the bride of Christ, we are being prepared for His glory (Revelation 19:7).
His Army: We are to “put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12) so that we might bring glory to God.
We should pray that God would exalt His church where she reflects His glory, and humble her where she glorifies herself instead of Him. Locally, this may mean that He allows certain efforts or activities of a church to fade away if they no longer serve the purposes of advancing His glory. It certainly means that God’s name would be praised and proclaimed boldly in times of corporate worship. It may also mean that the ministries of the church might be kept and held loosely by the members, allowing for change and growth as God perfects the efforts of His people, and as they decrease and He increases.
On a broader scale, praying for God’s glory in His church may lead us to pray for the efforts of church planting and revitalization by presbyteries, denominations, and other bodies, so that God’s kingdom would continue to advance His glory and truth.
In part two, we’ll look at praying for unity in the church.
J.E. Eubanks, Jr., has written dozens of articles, including others for byFaith. Find more of Ed’s writing at www.edeubanks.com. He has also authored For All the Saints: Praying for the Church (www.prayforthechurch.net), published by Doulos Resources (www.doulosresources.org).