Of the many things about my church for which I’m thankful, one that ranks near the top is the commitment to prayer that is shared by so many in the congregation. I’ll make no grand claims about the power or efficacy of our praying; that’s in God’s hands. But I will say that folks here are faithful; and when we know about a need, we pray about it.
Of course, as devoted as we are to lifting up the needs of others, I wonder sometimes how thoroughly we embrace the “full range” of prayer as we see it modeled for us in the scriptures. Leaving aside for the time being the question of how passionately we praise God, or offer thanks, or confess our sins (which are “modes” of prayer to which many of us could devote some extra attention); I wonder how eagerly we seek the expansion of God’s work within the hearts and lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, as we read the letters of the New Testament it seems that we find relatively few examples of the apostles praying for “Brother Jim’s broken arm” or “Sister Sally’s illness” (although I have no doubt that they did pray about such things). But we find multiple examples of the apostles praying for God to fill His people with power, with wisdom, and with a deeper understanding of His love (just see, for example, Ephesians 3:14-19).
Today’s New Testament lesson (Hebrews 13:17-25) offers an excellent example. After offering his readers important truth about the glory of the new covenant, the author closes with this benediction (emphasis added):
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (vs. 20-21)
Now, reading a passage like this makes it seem fairly obvious. But let’s be honest, when was the last time we prayed for our friends to be more thoroughly equipped for the service of God’s kingdom? How often do we pray — not just for “God’s will to be done” in the lives of our friends — but for “God to work in our friends” (and for “God to work in and among us“) so that what is pleasing to Him (think “holiness” and “witness” and “ministry” and “joy”) may blossom and flourish?
I’m confident that just about anybody who’s taking the time to read these words is also taking the time to pray for others. And I do hope that we’re lifting the illnesses and the losses and the anxieties of those friends into the arms of our Faithful Father. But I hope, too, that we’re asking that Father to “expand the embrace of His kingdom” — in their hearts, in their lives, and (through them) in the world.
May His kingdom come and His will be done in us, through us, and around us. Amen.