SERMON TITLE: Prayer
TEXT: Multiple (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s good to be with all of you this evening. And one thing I always want you to know — is that God loves you and I love you too.
And tonight — we’re going to focus on prayer. Not so much how to pray — we’ve looked at that before — and I’d encourage you to go watch our ACTS series — which focused solely on how to pray — if that’s of interest to you. Tonight, we’re going to focus on the “who” of prayer. Who’s supposed to be praying for who around here at Gateway? And I want that to be clear — we’re taking a look at prayer in the church. This isn’t an “all encompassing everything you need to know about prayer” in one sermon deal. We’re looking at prayer in the church. Who’s supposed to be praying for who in this congregation?
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
And we’re going to be in quite a few different places in our Bible — so if you have your Bible — please turn with me to Romans chapter 15. We’ll begin in Romans chapter 15.
And as you’re finding our first text, let me tell you where we’re headed and what the rest of this sermon is going to be like. We’re going to look at three different praying relationships we each are part of here at Gateway. Three different answers to our question: Who’s supposed to be praying for who around here?
And we’re going to look at some different Bible passages on prayer that show us the importance of these different prayer relationships and then we’re going to pray. This may be the most that you’ve prayed in a worship service in some time — and — yes — we’re all going to be praying. But don’t worry — I’ll give you examples of what to pray. And I understand that we’ve got kids with us — so parents — this is an opportunity for you to teach your kids who they should be praying for and how to pray — using the examples I give you.
PRAYING FOR YOUR PASTORS
So here’s the first answer to our question: Who’s supposed to be praying for who?
You must pray for your pastors. You must pray for your pastors. Paul writes these words to Christians in Rome.
“I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.” (Romans 15:30-32 ESV)
Now I know that Paul wasn’t the pastor of the church in Rome — at this point he’d never visited these Christians — but Paul is a leader in the early church and he’s asking the Christians in Rome to be praying to God on his behalf. And he makes requests like this all the time.
To the Christians in Philippi he writes, “Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:18b-20 ESV)
Paul wrote these words while in prison. Back in his day, you never knew what the end result would be when you went to jail — release or death? So Paul asks the Philippians to pray on his behalf that he would be delivered — released — from prison. But even while in prison, Paul wants to be unashamed of the gospel and knows that through their prayers — and the help of the Spirit of Jesus — that he will be given the courage he needs to honor Christ no matter what happens.
Similarly, to the church in Ephesus Paul writes, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18-20 ESV)
Paul’s just finished a great passage on spiritual warfare and putting on the armor of God. But he ends this section of his letter by mentioning the power and necessity of prayer. He’s in prison — again — and asks the Christians in Ephesus to pray that he’d be given the exact words to speak — words declaring the gospel message — and that he would say those words with great boldness.
Then — to the Thessalonians — Paul gets right to the point. “Brothers, pray for us.” (1 Thessalonians 5:25 ESV)
Paul — an apostle — a leader in the early Christian church — a man whose story is told on the pages of the Bible — is a man that needed others to pray for him. And — like Paul — your pastors — myself, Ben, the elders of Gateway — we need you to pray for us.
So how can you pray for us? First, let me say that I know that many of you do faithfully pray for me — and for us — your pastors. Thank you.
We’re healthier pastors and leaders because of your prayers.
I preach better sermons because of your prayers.
We lead you more faithfully because of your prayers.
But for those who don’t know how to pray for your pastors, here’s a great place to begin — the Bible. There are many passages on the life of a pastor. One is found in First Timothy. “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer (that’s another word for elder), he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)
Looking at this list of pastoral qualifications, we find much to be praying for on behalf of Gateway’s pastors. Pray that we would be above reproach — that doesn’t mean “not sinful” — it means something like “free from sinful addictions.” Pray that we would be faithful husbands. Sober-minded. That we’d practice self-control. You can read through the qualifications and see many ways to be praying for us — and you can do this with many passages in the Bible.
But enough talk about prayer. Let’s pray.
A PRAYER FOR YOUR PASTORS
First things first. If you’re a current elder of Gateway Church, I’d ask that you and your spouse — your kids can come to — if you so dare — come down to the front of the stage. I want the congregation to be able to see you, know who their elders are, have faces in mind as they pray for you.
And as they come forward, on the screen you will see a prayer that you can use during this time.
SAY THEIR NAMES (ELDER/SPOUSE/KIDS)
So let’s spend some time in silence — praying for the leaders of Gateway Church.
WATCH CLOCK (3-4 MINUTES)
Gracious and holy God, I pray for pastor ______. I pray that he would model in a special way the sort of Christian life that you have called all of us to live. We pray for your hand of deliverance when he encounters those who would try to obscure your gospel and turn him away from your true Word. Keep him focused on the truth that is revealed in Jesus Christ so that he may proclaim it boldly, even when the things going on in his life might be weighing on him and feel as heavy as chains. By your Holy Spirit, we ask that you gather up our prayers and use them to strengthen pastor ______ to resist sinful habits and behaviors and to help him embody the kindness, leadership, teaching, and oversight that you require of your servants. We know and trust that ______ has been called by you to lead Gateway Church, and we will continue to pray for him and walk with him as he seeks to do your will. We ask these things as his brothers and sisters in Christ — as his family who loves him, Amen.
Amen. Elders — you and your families — can be seated.
YOUR PASTORS PRAYING FOR YOU
Here’s the second answer to our question: Who’s supposed to be praying for who?
Your pastors must pray for you. Your pastors must pray for you.
Now this isn’t a shocker, is it? I’m thankful for the many of you I get to pray for after worship services each weekend. I’ve prayed for marriages, for wayward children, for engagements, for bodies to be healed. You’ve told me of tumors having disappeared after we prayed together — of knees not being broken — as the doctor had diagnosed. I’ve spent hours in the hospital with you as God answered our prayers through the hands of surgeons — and I’m praying for many of you who are still waiting for God to answer our prayers.
What are some ways that the pastors are to pray for you? We’re to be praying for you to be in harmony — to have unity — with one another. Paul writes, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6 ESV)
We’re to be praying that your love for one another would grow — as would — your knowledge and discernment. To the Philippians, Paul writes, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11 ESV)
Just before his request for them to pray for him, Paul writes to the Thessalonian Christians, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV)
Your pastors are to be praying for your sanctification — that you would be growing in your holiness and Christ-likeness. And we pray for you — with great hope — because we pray knowing that God is capable in accomplishing this in you.
To the Ephesians, Paul writes, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)
Finally, coming to your elders for prayer to be healed is commended in the Bible. James — the brother of Jesus — writes, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:13-15 ESV)
Physical, emotional, relational, mental, spiritual — your pastors are to be praying for you to be healed and you’re to be coming to us for prayer.
Many ways that we — your pastors and elders — are called to pray for you.
A PRAYER FOR THE CONGREGATION
A few minutes ago you spent time praying for your pastors. For the next few minutes, your pastors are going to pray for you. I’m going to ask the elders to find a section of the congregation to pray for. And then I’ll conclude this time with a prayer for you.
WATCH CLOCK (3-4 MINUTES)
Gracious Father, I pray for the people of Gateway. I pray that when conflict and disagreements arise, You would instill in them the same mind — the mind of Christ. I pray that wherever there is division, You would create unity out of disunity, fellowship out of individualism, and harmony out of disharmony. In all of this, I ask that You would give each and every person in this church a spirit of wisdom and revelation to know all that awaits them in Jesus. Let them know that You will never let go or give up on them, and that Your love for us is deeper than we imagine.
For those who are feeling hopeless, tired, or discouraged about all that’s going on in their life, turn them toward You, Lord, and root them in Your love. I ask that those who are struggling with ailments — physical, relational, emotional, mental, spiritual — that You would heal them in Your power and grace. I ask these things in the confidence of knowing that You are a God who answers prayers. Amen.
PRAYING FOR ONE ANOTHER
Now the third — and final — answer to our question: Who’s supposed to be praying for who?
You must pray for one another. You must pray for one another.
Let’s be practical and then we’ll get to the Bible. Two very practical things. First, every week — ad nauseum — we mention during the announcements that we’ve got these things called Connect Cards. And on the back of the Connect Card is a place where you can write down prayer requests. And this is important, because we’ve got a faithful team of men and women who pray for you every week. Yes, the pastors and staff pray for these prayer requests — but so do your fellow congregation members. So please fill out the connect cards with things we can be praying for.
Second, every week — also ad nauseum — we mention that we’ve got prayer teams who are available to pray for you during our weekend worship services. And rarely does anyone take them up on the offer. Now I mentioned earlier that I pray for people every week — but — and please don’t take this as “Josh doesn’t want to pray for me” — because that’s what some of you are going to hear — but that’s not what I’m saying — the prayer teams are just as capable — and qualified — to pray for you as I am. Don’t look at me as some kind of pope-like, “Josh has got a special direct line to Jesus when he prays that others don’t have” or something weird like that. I will pray for you — how about we all say that out loud so there’s no confusion — on the count of three I want everyone to say — Josh will pray for me if I ask him to — one, two three — “Josh will pray for me if I ask him.”
OK. But just know that sometimes I’ve got a prayer line three, four, sometimes five or more deep after a worship service. And our prayer teams are going to start helping me out by pulling you out of line and praying for you. We want you to trust that the people in this congregation are just as called and qualified to pray for you as I am.
Here are some passages to back all of this up. The next few verses in the James passage — about pastors praying for your healing — say this. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours (that means “he was a regularly guy”), and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:16-18 ESV)
You are to be praying for one another.
Paul writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1 ESV)
Paul then goes on to list a bunch of different kinds of people that the Christians in Ephesus are to be praying for. But surely, “all people” includes praying for one another. You are to be praying for each other.
But what kinds of things should you be praying for when you pray for one another?
Paul also writes, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:3-6 ESV)
Now Paul is praying here, but what he’s praying for is something you can have in mind while praying for each other.
You partner in the gospel with one another through the ministry of Gateway Church.
You gather and worship God together as a choir of voices each weekend.
You see spiritual growth in one another in our Life Groups.
You experience the Spirit’s gifts through one another as you serve each other.
And you go with one another — again as partners in gospel ministry — to places all around the world.
You see and experience the good work that God has begun in each other and can pray — with certainty — that He will finish the work He has began.
Other ways to pray for one another. You can pray for each other to have hope and comfort in God. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ESV)
Or that they will have peace. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16 ESV)
Just read the Bible with an eye looking for ways to be praying for one another.
A PRAYER FOR ONE ANOTHER
You’ve prayed for your pastors. Your pastors have prayed for you. And now it’s time for you to pray for one another. On the screen is a prayer you can use during the next few minutes as we silently pray for one another.
WATCH CLOCK (3-4 MINUTES)
Gracious Father, we pray for one another here at Gateway Church. We know that you have called us to pray for one another, and we recognize that prayer has great power, so we pray that if someone here is ill, either physically or spiritually, that you would heal them. We know that you have made us partners in the gospel, and we pray that you would complete the good work in us that you began. God, encourage the people of this congregation, give them hope, strengthen them in all that they say and do. In all of this, Lord, give them peace to know that you are God and that you are with them. We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
GOOD NEWS FOR ALL OF US
Now I want to end, by sharing two pieces of really great news for all of us. First, if you think that you’re not that great at praying — if you feel inadequate — if you feel like maybe you won’t ever say the right words or pray the right way — well here’s some great news: The Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we pray.
Paul writes, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27 ESV)
If you feel weak at prayer — if you don’t even know where to begin or what to be praying for — know that God’s Spirit prays on your behalf and God hears — and answers — the Spirit’s prayers because the Spirit always prays according to the Father’s will.
A second bit of great news about prayer for us is this: Jesus is praying for us.
In John’s gospel, Jesus prays these words. “I do not ask for these only (His twelve disciples), but also for those who will believe in me through their word (those who follow Jesus but are not one of the twelve disciples — that includes us — Jesus prays...), 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26 ESV)
That should amaze you. Jesus prayed for you in the Bible and He’s praying for us right now. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us in prayer — He makes our prayers infinitely better — and Jesus is praying for us — that’s a pretty awesome prayer team praying for us.
And at the risk of someone sending me a text about “putting words in Jesus’ mouth” or something — I want to conclude by putting on the screen a prayer that I can imagine Jesus praying for us — for Gateway. As you read this prayer, may you receive it as if Jesus is praying these words for all of us.
JOSH WILL MOVE TO COMMUNION TABLE WHILE PRAYER SLIDE IS ON SCREEN
Father, I pray for the faithful disciples of Gateway Church, that they would come together as one as we are one. I pray that they would be drawn deeper into the triune life and know more intimately what You are like and who they are in the light of the truth of your word. I pray that their witness would move others in the world to believe in me. In all of this, I pray that Gateway Church would show the world the powerful saving work that has been accomplished through my life, death, and resurrection. May they know that I love them, and that I have loved them unconditionally before the foundation of the world. Amen.
And how did Jesus demonstrate His unconditional love for us? Through His sacrifice on the cross — which is what we gather around the Lord’s Table to remember, spiritually feast on, and celebrate the hope of His promised return.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:24b-26 ESV)
And with these words our Lord commands all believers to eat this bread and to drink this cup in true faith and in the confident hope of His return in glory. In this supper God declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself finished on the cross. (Adapted from the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 75, 80)
Come, therefore, all of you who are truly sorry for your sins, who believe in the Lord Jesus as your Savior, have confessed His name, and who desire to live in obedience to Him. Come eagerly and joyfully, with assurance of faith, for Christ, our risen Lord, invites you as guests to His table. (Adapted from Psalter Hymnal, p. 975) Let’s pray.
Father, we give you thanks for Your Son, Jesus. For His willing obedience and suffering during His life on earth, and especially for His giving up of His body and blood on the cross. Give us assurance that our sins are pardoned through His blood. May Your perfect love drive out fear. Fill our minds with Your peace and turn our eyes to Heaven, where Christ is at Your right hand interceding for us. Enable us to offer up ourselves in service to Christ and to all Your children. Let no trouble or sorrow distract us from this loving service, and unite us with each other through Your Spirit so that we may continue in the living hope of our Savior's coming in glory. Hear us now through our Lord Jesus, who taught us to pray, saying,
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)
Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth — in my life — in this church — as it is in heaven. As we prepare to take communion — and give to the benevolence offering — Father — we pray — “Your will be done.”
At this time, those who will be serving us can take their places. You will come by rows to be blessed with the bread and cup, which you will immediately eat and drink. There are baskets available for you to put your empty cups in before you head back to your seat.
If you’re unable to come forward, please raise your hand — when the ushers dismiss your row — and someone will serve you in your seat after the others have come forward.
So come — let’s feast on God’s grace together.
PRAYER (TRANSITION FOR WORSHIP TEAM)
Heavenly Father, in Your wisdom, You have made all things and You sustain them by Your power. You formed us in Your image, setting us in this world to love and serve You, and to live in peace with one another. When we rebelled against You — refusing to trust and obey You — You did not reject us, but still claimed us as Your own. Then in the fullness of time, out of Your great love for us, You sent Your only Son to be one of us, to redeem us, to heal our brokenness, to cleanse us from our sin, and to defeat our greatest enemies of Satan, sin, death, and Hell. And now, You call us sons and daughters. And in response, we now praise You in song together. Amen.
Gateway, may we go praying with and for one another. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.