Have you ever been reading your Bible and noticed how Paul prays such rich, kingdom-saturated prayers for churches?
- For the church in Thessalonica: “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thess. 1:11; see also 1 Thess. 1:9–13).
- For the church in Colossae: “We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9–10).
- For the church in Ephesus: “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:16–17; see also 3:14–21).
- For the church in Rome (Rom. 15:14–33) and the church in Philippi (Phil. 1:9–11).
Of course, there’s far more where this came from. See Don Carson’s excellent book on the topic, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation (Baker) , as well as TGC’s corresponding eight-session group study curriculum (LifeWay) .
Leading the Charge
It’s comparatively easy for you and me to pray for ourselves, our families, and our friends. But how can we learn how to pray more fervently and consistently for our local churches?
For one, we just need to start doing it—and encouraging others to do so.
To help with that, here are 18 things you can pray for your church. They aren’t as rich as Paul’s since I wanted to keep them simple and Twitter-length. (Also because I’m not inspired.) Still, perhaps you could print out this article and pray two or three of the points below per day for the next week—maybe in your quiet time, maybe at the family dinner table.
Also, consider copying and pasting your favorite prayers below into Twitter or Facebook, led by the phrase “Pray for your church: . . .” Don’t insert my Twitter handle or TGC’s. You don’t have enough room, and it’s not the point. The point is to use your social media platform to encourage others to pray for their church.
Who knows? One day in glory, perhaps we’ll see all the good accomplished from believers being more deliberate about praying for their churches.
What to Pray For
1. That we would have unity amid diversity—loving those with whom we have nothing in common but the gospel.
2. That a culture of discipling would form in which making disciples is viewed as an ordinary part of the Christian life.
3. That faithful elders would use Scripture to train members to do the work of ministry.
4. That a hunger for studying the gospel would form among members so that they can guide and guard one another in it.
5. That transparent, meaningful relationships would become normal and remaining anonymous strange.
6. The preaching of God’s Word—that it would be biblically careful and Holy Spirit imbued.
7. That elders would remain above reproach, kept from temptation, complacency, idols, and worldliness.
8. That the church’s songs would teach members to biblically confess, lament, and praise.
9. That the church’s prayers would be infused with biblical ambitions, honesty, and humility.
10. That adult members would work to disciple teenagers and not just leave it to programming.
11. That the church’s primary teachers grow in dedication to God’s Word even when no one’s watching.
12. That it would grow in being distinct from the world in love and holiness, even as it engages outsiders.
13. That members would share the gospel this week—and see more conversions!
14. That members would be prepared for persecution, remembering to love, not curse, their persecutors.
15. That hopes for political change would be outstretched by the hope of heaven.
16. That giving would be faithul, as well as joyful, consistent, and sacrificial.
17. That more members would use their careers to take the gospel to places it’s never been.
18. That members would be good and do good in their workplaces this week.
Can you think of something I didn’t include? Then pray it and share it! This is hardly the “official list” of the 18 most important things to pray. They’re simply what one guy thought of while sitting in his office chair.
The point is for all of us to start praying more intentionally for our churches, and to encourage others to do the same.
The letters to the seven churches in Revelation reveal Christ’s heart and His concerns for His church. They also provide a basis for us to know how to pray for the church in general and for our local churches in particular. Here are four specific areas where we can intercede:
- In John’s vision in Revelation, Jesus is holding the “angels” (i.e., messengers) of the churches in His right hand (Rev. 1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1). Many believe this term refers to the spiritual or pastoral leaders of the churches.
- These leaders have been given by God as “gifts” to the church (Eph. 4:11–16), to build up believers and to equip God’s people to serve Him. It is both a privilege and a responsibility to intercede in prayer for our spiritual leaders and to lift up their hands as they serve the body of Christ.
- Ask God to meet their spiritual, emotional, and physical needs (1 Cor. 9:14; 1 Tim. 2:1–2; 5:17–18). Ask Him to show you how to minister to them and their families (1 Cor. 16:13–18; 1 Tim. 5:17–18).
- Ask God to help them be faithful in ministering to their own children and mates (1 Tim. 3:4–5). Pray for spiritual protection over their families.
- Ask God to establish your pastors and elders in His Word (2 Tim. 2:15). Intercede for their spiritual protection, growth, and maturity (1 Tim. 1:18–19; 4:12–16; 6:11–12; 2 Tim. 2:21–25). Pray for them to stay humble, dependent on Christ, and aware of their need for His grace.
- Pray for them to have boldness, courage, and perseverance as they stand for righteousness (1 Tim. 6:17–21; 2 Tim. 1:8–14; 4:1–5).
- Ask God to give His vision for your church, for your pastors to have spiritual sensitivity and insight when encountering the lost, giving counsel, and leading the body. Ask for God’s anointing to rest on their ministries.
- Pray for them to have a burden for reaching the lost and a vision for revival in the church (1 Thess. 1:5–8; 2 Thess. 3:1–2), being faithful and trustworthy stewards of the mysteries of God (John 15:1–8; 1 Cor. 4:1–2).
- Ask God to safeguard the doctrinal purity of your church (1 Tim. 1:3–6; 6:3–5; Titus 1:10–11).
- Pray for the church to cultivate mature discernment (Col. 2:8; Phil. 1:9–10). Ask God to establish your church in sound doctrine (Gal. 1:6–7).
- Pray that the Word of God would be honored as the final authority in your church (Ps. 119:105).
- Pray for those who hold teaching responsibilities to be diligent students of the Word, faithful in teaching preparation, careful in their handling of the Scripture (2 Tim. 2:1–7, 14–16).
- Pray for personal purity in your church, that individuals would develop a love for holiness (Ps. 24:3–4; 51:10–13).
- Ask God to develop an atmosphere of repentance, where individuals are quick to acknowledge and confess sin with the commitment to reconciliation, restitution, or any other redemptive actions that may be needed (Ps. 32:1–6; Matt. 5:23–24).
- Pray for the membership to encourage one another in the pursuit of personal holiness, to excel in personal sanctification which fulfills God’s purpose for their lives (2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Thess. 3:13–4:8).
- Ask God to grant His grace for individuals to overcome specific sinful patterns that were part of their lives before coming to Christ. Pray that they would be conformed to His holiness (1 Pet. 1:14–16).
- Pray for believers to love Christ with all their hearts and above all else (Ps. 63; Matt. 22:37).
- Pray that the church and its members will be characterized by fervent love for others (Matt. 22:38–40; John 13:34–35; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:14–18, 23; 4:7–12, 19–21).
- Ask God to give church members His burden for the lost and a desire to glorify God by bearing much fruit (Col. 3:3; John 15:1–17). Ask God to give your church body a sense of urgency for advancing His kingdom (Matt. 9:36–38).
- Pray for your church to operate from an eternal perspective (Eph. 5:15–17), recognizing the brevity of life (Ps. 39:4–5; James 4:14).
- The example of Jesus and the hope of the resurrection provide the church with motivation to persevere, even in difficult times (Heb. 10:36; 12:1–4). The grace of God empowers the church and its members to endure.
- Ask God to raise up prayer warriors who persevere in fervent prayer—individually and corporately (Rom. 15:30–33; Phil. 4:6–7; Col. 4:2–4).
- Ask God to strengthen and prepare your church body to faithfully endure suffering, persecution, and opposition in a manner that glorifies Him (Luke 21:12–19; Rom.12:12; 2 Cor. 1:3–7; 12:7–9; 1 Pet. 2:19–24).
- Pray for God to fulfill all His purposes through your church body (1 Cor. 1:4–9; 2 Cor. 13: 7–9; Col. 1:11; 2 Thess.1:4–7, 11–12; Rev. 21:1–7).
“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation” – (Luke 3:4-6).
We are right now living in desperate days. The Church in many parts of the world needs revival, and God wants to use each one of us to prepare the way for a mighty outpouring of His Spirit. I am sure that you sense the urgency of the hour. It is not hard to see that everything is not right. God is trying to get our full attention. It is truly time to cry out to the Lord and become men and women of fervent prayer. We need God’s intervention in our cities and nations. The valleys of defeat must be filled, the mountains of disbelief must be leveled, the crooked places of dishonesty must be straightened, and the rough places of disobedience must be made smooth.
It was almost 25 years ago on the mission field when I wrote the following two paragraphs in a newsletter. I find that today I must still ask myself the same questions I asked then:
“Am I desperate enough for revival? Do I realize the desperate condition of my country?” And if I trust in religious organization, material wealth, popular preaching, shallow evangelistic crusades, there will never be revival. But when confidence in my flesh is smashed and I realize my desperate wretchedness and emptiness before God, then and only then will God break through. “Lord, make me ready for revival. Revive me.”
I challenge you to join me in prayer for revival for our lives and for the nations. I call for prayer that is strong, prevailing, believing, God-moving, hell-defeating, devil-routing, sinner-saving, believer-sanctifying, Christ-exalting and worker-producing—prayer that takes all that we are and have. God Himself will motivate us to pray these prayers that have extraordinary consequences if we are only willing, willing to pay the price. Pray that God may fill us all with the very passion of Christ, with the power and persistence of the Holy Spirit, with the burdening sense of the Church’s plight and world’s appalling need, that the wheels of revival may be set in motion.
“Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face to shine upon us, that we may be saved” – (Psalm 80:18-19).
How do we Personally Prepare the Way for Revival?
“The coming revival must begin with a great prayer revival. It is in the closet, with the door shut, that the sound of abundant revival will be first heard. An increase in the secret prayer of ministers and members will be the sure herald of blessing.” Andrew Murray
- Prepare yourself in the way of blessing through intensive prayer – Pray with all your heart, asking God to enlarge your prayer and worship life. Make time for God, and practice fasting.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray…” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
- Be serious about personal revival – Instead of watching TV, pray. Don’t get caught up in the ways of the world. Lay aside those worldly pursuits.
“… and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” – (2 Chronicles 7:14).
- Become dissatisfied with sin and ask God to convict your heart – Be sensitive to His conviction.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” – (Psalm 139:23-24).
- Repent thoroughly – Don’t tolerate sin in your own life. Let godly sorrow over your sin touch you deeply.
“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight… Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place” – (Psalm 51:4-6).
- Make restitution whenever possible –Make sure that your relationships are right.
“Live in harmony with one another” – (Romans 12:16).
- Practice living the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5 – 7 is the job description of holy living. Ask God to transform your life and teach you to live to please Him. Prayerfully study the Sermon on the Mount regularly.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” – (Matthew 5:3-4).
- Choose to narrow your interests – If you narrow your interests, God will enlarge your heart. We can so easily be distracted from prayer, but revival calls for a focused vision on what really matters. This is the time to pray and hunger after God wholeheartedly.
“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands” – (Psalm 119:10).
- Make a new commitment to reach out to the lost – Pray an ask God for opportunities, and He will help you. Begin to pray, care and share Christ with those who do not know Him. Follow the example of Jesus.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” – (Luke 19:10).
- Have faith in God – Begin to expect God to move through your prayers. Believe that He does want to pour out His spirit and bring revival.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” – (Hebrews 11:1).
Revival begins with us. It is each one of us getting our lives straight and turning from the crooked paths. Take seriously the need for personal revival. Take seriously the need for prayer. God is dealing with His Church.
“The great work of intercession is needed for this returning to the Lord. It is here that the coming revival must find its strength. Let us begin as individuals to plead with God, confessing whatever we see of sin or hindrance in ourselves or others. If there were no other sin, surely the lack of prayer is matter enough for repentance, confession, and returning to the Lord.” – Andrew Murray
Together in the Harvest,
Intercessors Arise International
International House of Prayer (IHOP) KC Staff
Here is a list help you pray for revival in the church and the further advancement of God’s kingdom.
Paul exhorted the Christians in Ephesus to: “…pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).”
For us this includes being in regular intercession for our world.
Praying for Personal Repentance
“…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…” Hebrews 12:1
John wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives (I John 1:8-10).”
Effective intercession must include personal confession.
Refusing to acknowledge and turn from our own disobedience always results in a form of spiritual self-deception.
As Jesus explained, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5).”
As you pray, put into practice John’s exhortation. Hold your life up to such passages as I Peter 3:8-12.
Praying for the Infilling of the Holy Spirit for Life and Ministry
Jesus commands us, if we are to be his witnesses, to be clothed with his power. Jesus urged his first disciples and us to be clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit for missions.
Paul exhorted the church, “Do not be drunk on wine … Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).”
The seedbed of theological, spiritual, and moral decline in the church is often lifeless, dry orthodoxy. Also, the church’s evangelism and overseas mission often falter because of reliance upon human strength, rather than empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Having a biblical framework of theology is critical. But our head must be connected to a heart ablaze with the life of God.
As Paul instructed the church in Ephesus to be filled with the Spirit, pray for the church to be filled with the presence of God’s Spirit. Pray for yourself to be filled with the Holy Spirit so you may be empowered to do this work of prayer for the church, and to be equipped to do the work of Jesus Christ.
Praying for the World
1. Pray for workers: When Jesus saw the crowds, he instructed his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field (Matthew 9:38).”
In context, Jesus was looking at the sheep of Israel.
In part, he was instructing his disciples to pray for true workers to be raised up to shepherd his people. This should be our continuous prayer as we intercede for the church.
But, it also applies to the vast fields of people stretching around the world. Besides praying for godly shepherds to lead the church, pray for workers to be raised up to minister around the world.
2. Pray for Open doors: Paul wrote the Colossians, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ (Colossians 4:2-3).”
As you devote yourself to prayer, ask the Lord to open doors for the world mission endeavor to proclaim the mystery of Christ among even more people.
3. Pray for the Gospel to Spread and to be Honored: Paul asked the church to intercede for his mission team, “brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored … (2 Thessalonians 3:1).”
How does the gospel spread?
It takes people who are willing to go and share God’s truth.
It also requires Christians who are willing to stand with them in persistent intercession.
How does God’s message come to be honored? In answer to the church’s intercession God will bring the spiritual climate in which the Scripture is honored for what it is: God’s truth.
Our prayer should not only be for workers and open doors, but for the message to spread and find a place of honor in the hearts of people.
Setting the Captives free
1. Pray with Expectation: (Read Luke 18:25-27.) No matter how impossible the situation may look or how entrenched in spiritual darkness may be, God is able to cause his light to penetrate to the heart.
2. Pray for the Father to Draw People: (Read John 6:44) In our sinful state, none of us are capable of coming out of spiritual darkness and drawing near to God on our own. Only through the drawing of God the Father were we able to find freedom in Christ.
As we pray for people, in line with the clear will of God, our prayer should be for God to draw them to the grace, love and truth found only in Jesus Christ.
3. Pray for an understanding of Jesus Christ: (Read Matthew 16:17) Personally grasping the reality and the relevance of Jesus Christ comes only through the Holy Spirit’s work. We come to believe that Jesus is the Christ as the Holy Spirit imparts faith. Pray for the Holy Spirit to bring a true understanding of Jesus Christ to those blinded by sin and Satan.
4. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s Conviction of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment: (Read John 16:9-11.) The Holy Spirit brings conviction to people of sin, righteousness and judgment.
Concerning sin, the Holy Spirit brings an awareness to people of the sin and the spiritual darkness into which their sin has plunged their lives.
Concerning righteousness, the Holy Spirit brings a personal conviction that only through the accomplished work of Jesus Christ can a person be right with God. It is through the Spirit’s activity that people begin to understand their need to be put right with God.
Concerning judgment, the Holy Spirit brings an understanding that to continue in rebellion against God is to embrace the same kind of judgment which the prince of the world has already received.
As we intercede for people bound in spiritual darkness, our prayers should include the request for the Spirit of God to bring his conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment.
Bringing Down Strongholds
1. Focus on Jesus: First we are to focus on Jesus Christ in worship, obedience, and prayer. To let the twisting of truth, idolatry, or any sin to consume our attention is to lose our focus. No matter how great the darkness, our eyes are to be steadfastly on Jesus Christ as Lord.
2. Confession: Next we need to be honest before the Lord in confessing and turning from any idolatry, immorality or rebellion we are harboring within ourselves. This includes sins of omission. James taught, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins (James 4:17).” Have we been in regular prayer for the church and the world? Have we been living our life according to God’s will as revealed through scripture?
3. Pray to be Filled with God’s Spirit, Wisdom, Discernment & Love: Neither our wisdom nor arguments will bring deliverance from the stronghold of darkness revealed. Only by the power of God’s Spirit will the obstruction be removed. God’s wisdom, discernment and love are required if our labor for renewal is to result in lasting change. As you pray, ask the Lord to fill his people with his Spirit and the love, wisdom and discernment needed for effective ministry.
4. In the Light of Scripture: All spiritual activity needs to be evaluated in the light of clear Biblical teaching concerning the true nature of God and his activity in the world.
5. Persistent Intercession: We are to respond with persistent intercession for those perpetuating and those influenced by the stronghold.
God has chosen to work through the intercession of his people to bring convicting, and awareness of spiritual bondage and an urgency for finding true freedom in Christ.
When a block is discerned, we are to pray until the stronghold is removed and those in darkness are finding true spiritual liberty.
6. Resist the Demonic: Peter instructed the church: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith … (1 Peter 5:6-9).” With the praise of God, the Word of God, persistent prayer, the cleansing blood of Jesus, humbling ourselves in obedience and in the strong name of Jesus, we are to resist these spiritual forces of the evil one until they are fleeing.
Rejoicing in the Lord
Paul encouraged the church: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).”
As we pray, our intercession is to be saturated with joy and praise in the Lord. Our God is able and willing to answer.
1. Rejoice in God’s Faithfulness to Answer Prayer: (Read 2 Corinthians 18-20.) As you hear and pray according to the promises of God, of what can we be confident? Our joy in praying comes from the fact that God is faithful.
2. Rejoice in God’s Invitation: (Read Revelation 3:19-20.) How does God deal with those whom he loves? How does Jesus respond to those in the church who repent?
3. Rejoice in the Open Door: (Read Matthew 7:7-11.) As we consistently pray for open doors, what reason does this passage give us to rejoice?
4. Rejoice in our Lord’s Victory: In response to the confession of Peter, Jesus declared: “… you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:18-19).” The strongholds of Satan cannot withstand when those who are grounded on the rock of Jesus Christ move forward in obedience. Because the satanic forces have been bound through Jesus’ victory on the cross, we can take up the keys of the kingdom, step forward in his authority and unlock the forces of spiritual darkness. What are the keys of the kingdom? They represent the authority that Jesus has won to redeem people from spiritual darkness.
What do the keys of the kingdom do? They unlock the gates of hell and enable the captive to find freedom. What are the specific keys? They are the spiritual means through which Jesus administers his liberating power. One of the primary keys by which Jesus brings liberty to the captive is prayer. Whether it be an individual, a population group, or a religious body, a chief means for breaking Satan’s web of deception is prayer.
As we pray for the people and against the spiritual strongholds affecting their lives, we can rejoice even before seeing the results. Jesus has won the victory. Before the forward march of the church, the strongholds must collapse. As we persist in prayer, God will work his deliverance.
Author: Pastor Bill Dean.