|It Seems to Me . . .|
. . . your prayer team needs more fathering.
It had been some time since I had been asked to preach a Father's Day message, and though I welcomed the opportunity, I was a little disappointed I would not be able to focus on prayer as the guest preacher. The text the Lord gave me allowed me to zero in on fathers but as the message unfolded, I realized the actions identified were extremely applicable to every Christian as they sought to disciple not only the children in their family but anyone in their sphere of ministry (small group, Sunday school class, or youth group). Now, weeks after that sermon, I am recognizing how the text has important applications to our role as prayer leaders.
Ever prayer champion, whether the prayer coordinator or the senior pastor, would do well to review their recent ministry (and set their future course!) along the Apostle Paul's teaching in 1 Thessalonians: “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (2:11-12).
Paul challenges us to model our discipleship of the believers in our care (from our own children to small group or ministry team members) on the best practices of a father so that they "live good lives for God, who calls you to his glorious kingdom" (NCT). Like bookends, the admonition to take our discipleship role seriously (“You remember us in those days, friends, working our fingers to the bone, up half the night, moonlighting so you wouldn't have the burden of supporting us while we proclaimed God's Message to you.” (NCT) and the long-term objective ("the kind of life that pleases God" Good News) hold together three strategic components vital to their growth in Christ.
Every prayer champion is going to cast a praying church vision for their team and every prayer leader will diligently train his or her team members in intercession, spiritual warfare, healing ministry, and community impacting praying. Prayer focused retreats, concerts of prayer, solemn assemblies are all calendar staples. Prayer lists, prayer cards, prayer requests are found in every bulletin or Bible. But Paul is reminding us that our job description includes more than planning events or providing resources. As he told Pastor Timothy, “You should teach people whom you can trust the things you and many others have heard me say.” Why? “Then they will be able to teach others” (NCV). Near the top of the list for every church prayer leaders is the responsibility to disciple praying people who can disciple others in all things prayer.
And Paul explains how. By encouraging. Comforting. Urging.
Encourage: The term Paul employs is the same Greek word John uses to describe the Holy Spirit (John 16:6), indicating “one who comes alongside.” Encouraging is more than cheering for someone; it is the intentional act of standing by the person in our stewardship. Prayer leadership is a relationship approach to discipleship.
It is interesting to note that this Greek term is translated in at least half a dozen different ways, as biblical translators seek to capture the fullness of this many nuanced word:
Comforter – one who comes alongside in our sadness, grief
Comfort: The English etymology is a combination of intense force (“com”) and strong (“fort”). To comfort is much more than cheering up someone when they are sad; to comfort is to fortify, to literally build a fort around the person. Prayer leaders work hard to strengthen those in their ministry care.
Urge: Going beyond insisting, this term also infers a father would declare and testify to the truth that would motivate an intercessor to aspire to a God worthy life.
Obviously, these fathering traits and tasks are gender neutral responsibilities of everyone who champions and coordinates prayer. And, equipping the saints in the work of prayer includes encouraging, comforting and urging. Standing-by to fortify so that each one we work with aims to glorify God and His Kingdom.
It seems to me . . . your prayer team might need more fathering.
Church Prayer Leaders Network