THE MINISTRY OF PRAYER
Preaching the gospel is a great ministry. When the problem of meeting the physical needs of the Grecian widows arose in the church at Jerusalem the apostles said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables . . . but we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry (preaching) of the word” (Acts 6:4).
Serving as an elder in the church and shepherding the flock of God is a tremendously important ministry (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:1-4). Paul exhorted, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” (I Timothy 5:17).
The work of teaching and edifying (building up) those who are God’s children is an indispensable ministry. When Christ ascended back to heaven, He gave gifts “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).
Meeting the physical needs of the poor also is an essential ministry. The local church, as well as every individual Christian, is to be involved in this kind of service (Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 6:1-7; 11:27-30; Galatians 6:10; James 1:27).
There is another ministry mentioned in scripture that could easily be overlooked—the ministry of prayer. Paul wrote: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12). Just as preachers are ministers, just as elders are ministers, just as those who teach the word of God are ministers, just as those who serve the physical needs of others are ministers, just so those who devote themselves to prayer are ministers/servants. They labor in prayer!
As I grow older, prayer becomes an increasingly important ministry. When the time comes that I can no longer preach or teach or write I can still engage in the ministry of prayer!
Currently, as a special prayer project, I am maintaining a growing list of older (I did not say “old,” I said “older”) gospel preachers for whom I regularly pray. They and/or their wives are having to cope with the aging process. Some of them are battling specific health issues. Some of them are facing surgery or have recently had surgery. Some of them have lost their wife of many years and are dealing with grief and loneliness and how to adjust to life alone. When I hear of one I add his name to my prayer list. (If you or any preacher you know would like to be added to my “preachers’ prayer list,” feel free to PM or email me.)
I pray for my son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. I pray for my wife and for myself. I thank God for our good health and ask Him to help us deal with our physical infirmities. Most of all, I pray that we may all enjoy good spiritual health and remain faithful to the Lord.
I keep a list of members of my extended family who are in need of prayer for various reasons—faith issues, family issues, financial issues. I pray for them to be faithful in the midst of life’s turmoil. I pray for those who have departed from the faith to return to the way of truth.
I pray for all the congregations of God that I have had the privilege of serving over the years. I pray that they will continue in “the old paths” of apostolic Christianity (Jeremiah 6:16). I pray for every family and every member of the congregation where I presently serve.
I pray for our Christian schools and colleges to remain true to the word of God and to the principles on which they were founded. (I no longer pray for those schools that have apostatized).
I pray for the growth and expansion of the church, the kingdom of God. I pray for more workers in the kingdom. I pray for friends and neighbors who need to obey the gospel. I pray for those who have been blinded by Satan and who have succumbed to false teaching that they may get the eyes of their understanding opened.
Did I mention that prayer is hard work? Did I mention that it is time consuming? Paul was right when he wrote that Epaphras was a servant of Christ “always laboring fervently for you in prayer, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).
None of the above is written out of a “holier than thou” spirit (God knows!), but as an earnest reminder that while you may not be able to preach or teach or write or serve as an elder you can pray. Will you develop your own personal ministry of prayer? I encourage you—both men and women—to do so. Time each day in prayer can make a big difference in someone else’s life . . . and in your own!
May 30, 2017