I am not much of a bowler but I know that it is virtually impossible to get a strike if the ball does not hit the head pin. Satan is a calculating and destructive enemy of God’s people. He knows how essential it is to eliminate pastoral leaders in order to decimate the church and thwart the work of the Gospel.
Yet, we can all make a powerful difference in opposing the attacks of the enemy. Samuel Chadwick wrote, “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” Oswald Chambers agreed: “The prayer of the feeblest saint who lives in the Spirit and keeps right with God is a terror to Satan.” When we pray for our leaders, we counteract Satan’s attacks and play a vital role in the advancement of Christ’s cause.
Paul’s Word on Why, How, and What
Paul understood this, which is why he often called on the churches to pray for him. In Romans 15:30-33, we find one of the less familiar but most powerful appeals for prayer. This passage offers vital guidance for us all as we intercede for our spiritual leaders.
As Paul wrote to the Romans (probably from Corinth), he reflected on his planned visit with them on his way to Spain. First, he was going to deliver a love gift to the persecuted believers in Jerusalem, which he had been collecting among the gentile churches. He knew his serious need for prayer support in these ministry endeavors so he appealed to the believers to pray for him.
Why We Pray for Spiritual Leaders
In Romans 15:30 Paul writes, “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me.” Most obvious, we see Paul’s basic encouragement to pray when he says, “I beg you.” The Greek, “parakaleo”, simply communicates Paul’s effort to come alongside these believers, urging them to pray. But there is something even deeper here.
Paul writes, “through the Lord Jesus Christ.” Certainly we pray, only because of the finished work and present intercession of Christ (Hebrews 7:25, 10:20-22). Most literally, Paul is urging us here to pray because of our regard for Christ. As the Amplified reads, “for the sake of our Lord Jesus.” Our prayer for pastors and missionaries must ultimately be motivated by our love and worship of Jesus Christ because it is His name, His cause, and His glory that are at stake. When we are Jesus-worshipers we will also be reliable, passionate intercessors for our leaders.
Third, Paul says that we should pray “through the love of the Spirit.” The most literal interpretation of this phrase speaks of our love FOR the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is a vital part of supernatural power and Gospel advancement. Because we love it when the Holy Spirit is working in extraordinary ways, we should commit our hearts to pray for our leaders. If we are dissatisfied with the level of spiritual power in the pulpit or ministries of the church, our love for the Holy Spirit compels us to pray for a greater manifestation of His presence and work.
How We Pray for Spiritual Leaders
Paul’s appeal for prayer intensifies as he continues with this urgent appeal: “Strive together with me in prayers to God for me” (v. 30). This is not a casual word about shallow, short, simple prayers. The Greek work here is sunagonidzomai, which communicates the idea of agonizing with another person in the midst of an intense struggle. Paul is asking them to join him in feeling the weight and warfare of all he is facing. This is a heart of real intercession. Yet, we are so often casual and complacent in our prayers for leaders.
The late David Wilkerson, a pastor and founder of Teen Challenge, spoke about our need for a greater sense of spiritual anguish in a powerful message (see “Anguish” by David Wilkerson on YouTube):
“Whatever happened to anguish in the house of God? Whatever happened to anguish in the ministry? It’s a word you don’t hear in this pampered age. Anguish means extreme pain and distress – the emotions so stirred that it becomes painful; acute, deeply-felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you. Anguish...the sorrow and agony of God’s heart.”
He continues, “We’ve held on to our religious rhetoric and our revival talk, but we’ve become so passive. All true passion is birthed out of anguish. All true passion for Christ comes out of a baptism of anguish. You search the Scripture and you find that when God determined to recover a ruined situation He would share His own anguish for what God saw happening to His people. He would find a praying man and he would take that man and literally baptize him in anguish.”
This month, as we recommit to pray for and support our church leaders, let’s ask Christ for a fresh sense of intensity. He is worthy of our passionate intercession. Our love for His Spirit’s supernatural work compels us to pray. As we do so, we can feel the serious nature of the work of the Gospel and agonize in His presence as He shares His heart with us, for His glory.
(Part two will outline three specific prayer targets to pray for on behalf of every spiritual leader.)
A full sermon on this subject is available at Strategic Renewal. Along with the DVD, you will receive a group study guide and a special interview with Pastor Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals. Go to http://www.strategicrenewal.com/cddvd/your-most-strategic-investment-cd-dvd/