Praying for Church and Family

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(Matthew 6:9-13)

INTRODUCTION: We are now entering the second half of our series on prayer. In the first half of the series we studied some of the most important things God tells us to pray for in his word: praying for forgiveness, praying for healing, praying for victory over sin. So, in the first half we looked at some of the most important things. Now in the second half of the series we want to look at some of the most important people God wants us to pray for: praying for church and family, praying for the lost and praying for missions.

Another way to look at this series as a whole and break it down very simply is this – how, what and who. In the introduction to this series we looked at how do we pray for things. Then in the first half of the series we focused on what do we pray for. And now in the second half we will focus on who do we pray for. And the first group of people we will look at under who do we pray for is church and family. (Read Matthew 6:9-13 and pray.)

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So, we’re moving into the second half of our prayer series which will focus on who does God want us to be praying for. And we’re going to start this morning by talking about praying for church and family.

According to the Lord’s Prayer that we just read, our first concern in prayer is that God’s name be honored, that God’s kingdom come, and that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. So how does God actually do that in the world? A large part of God’s kingdom building in the world takes places through church and family.

The family is the basic building block of society. As the family goes, so the rest of society goes. The church is God’s primary means of mission in the world. As the church goes, so God’s mission in the world goes.

The stronger our churches and families, the more God’s kingdom will advance in this world. And so, we must pray for church and family. There are a lot of other people we can and should be praying for. But church and family should be right there at the top of our list. So, let’s talk about praying for church and family.

I. The importance of church and family

First, we need to understand the importance of church and family.

   A. Three primary institutions (family; church; government)
      – Genesis 2:24; Matthew 16:18; Romans 13:1

The church and family are two of the three primary institutions that God has instituted on earth for the good of mankind. The third institution is government.

We read about God instituting the family in Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Jesus instituted the church in Matthew 16:18 when he told Peter: “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18) We read about God establishing governments in Romans 13:1 where Paul writes: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1) Although we will be focusing on praying for church and family in this message, the Bible also tells us we should pray for government and all those in authority.

Why is it so important that we pray for church and family? The church and family are two of the three primary institutions that God has instituted on earth.

   B. The principle of stewardship (praying for responsibilities)
      – Matthew 25:21

Secondly, we also need to understand the Biblical principle of stewardship. We read Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:21: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” (Matthew 25:21)

We are responsible for the things God has given us, and we are responsible for the areas where God has placed us. That means our primary responsibilities for prayer are for our own families and our own churches. As workers we should also be praying for our places of work. As students we should be praying for our schools. As neighbors we should be praying for those in our neighborhood or housing complex. As citizens we should all be praying for our government and leaders. But our primary responsibilities for prayer are our own families and our own churches.

II. Praying for family (Job 1:1-5; Psalm 23; Lord’s Prayer)

So, let’s talk about praying for family first. I was first convicted about praying regularly for my family while reading in the book of Job. We read in the first chapter that Job was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil. Job had seven sons and three daughters, and what did this godly, righteous man do regarding his children? He prayed for them.

We read in Job 1:5: “Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job’s regular custom.” (Job 1:5) Job prayed and made an offering for his children each morning. Now you’ll notice that it doesn’t say anything here about Job praying for his wife – and look how she turned out!

It is so important to pray for your family. Now I pray for my extended family during the week as well, but my primary, daily prayers are for those in my immediate family. I have general prayers I pray for all of them, as well as specific prayers for each one depending on their various needs and circumstances. Your family are those people closest in relationship to you, and if you don’t pray for them, who will? They are your first responsibility in prayer.

You need to pray for your immediate family every day. Spouses, you have a special responsibility to pray for your spouse. Parents, you have a special responsibility to pray for your kids. Grandparents, you have a special responsibility to pray for your grandkids. Young people, how many of you pray for your parents? If you are still at home with your parents, that is your core group and you have a special responsibility to pray for your parents and siblings.

So, if we each have a responsibility as Christians to be praying for our families, what do we pray for them? There are many prayers in the Bible that you can use to pray for your family, but I like to use the model of Psalm 23 from the Old Testament and the Lord’s Prayer from the New Testament as a guide for prayer. Sometimes I will pray one or the other for my family or a combination of both of them together.

But looking at Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer, we learn that we should pray for our family’s physical needs, for their spiritual needs, for God’s protection and care, for family relationships, and for God’s guidance and direction in their lives.

   A. Physical needs (health; work; finances; etc.)
      – Psalm 23:1-2; Matthew 6:11

Let’s look at praying for physical needs first. We read in Psalm 23:1-2 about Jesus taking care of our physical needs: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2) We find the same thing in the Lord’s Prayer when we pray: “Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

We should pray for the physical needs of those in our family – for health and work and finances. Sometimes we think God only cares about the spiritual aspects of our lives, but God made us as physical creatures in a physical world, and God cares about the physical aspects of our lives as well. So that’s the first thing you should pray for your family. Pray for their physical needs.

   B. Spiritual needs (salvation; spiritual growth)
      – Psalm 23:3; Matthew 6:12

Secondly, pray for the spiritual needs of those in your family. In Psalm 23 we see this in verse 3: “He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3) And we find the same thing in the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus tells us to pray: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

Our biggest spiritual need is salvation, so if you have family members who do not know the Lord, then make it your daily prayer to pray for their salvation. We will learn more about how to do this next week when we talk about praying for the lost and for unsaved loved ones.

If they do know the Lord, then pray for their spiritual growth and their walk with the Lord. I often pray straight from Psalm 23. For example, I might pray for my wife, “Lord, be with Rosi today. Restore her soul. Lead her in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.” I might pray for my children, “Lord, be with my kids today. Help them in their fight against sin. Lead them in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. Help them to walk closely with you today.”

   C. Protection (evil; danger; accident; injury; sickness; harm)
      – Psalm 23:4; Matthew 6:13

So, pray for your family’s physical needs. Pray for their spiritual needs. And then thirdly, pray for God’s protection for your family. We read in Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus tells us to pray: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)

I always pray a prayer of protection over my family in the morning. Once again, if I don’t pray this for them, who will? Who else is going to pray for them every day? I don’t want them to walk out into their new day uncovered, so I cover them in prayer.

I usually pray for them something like this. “Lord, I lift up Rosi, Ramon, Sam and Rachael and Tim to you today. I pray that you would watch over them today and protect them from all evil, danger, accident, injury, sickness and harm.” There, that didn’t take long, did it? But unless we build up the discipline of daily, regular prayer, we will leave our loved ones uncovered in prayer as they begin their day.

   D. Relationships (peace; unity; spouse/future spouse; children; etc.)
      – Psalm 23:5; Matthew 6:14-15

So, what do you pray for your family, for your core group? Pray for their physical needs, pray for their spiritual needs, pray for their protection, and then pray for their relationships. We read in Psalm 23:5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5) It’s a beautiful picture of sitting down at the table with your family and loved ones in peace before your enemies.

And then in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus also teaches us to pray for our relationships: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

So, pray for your family’s relationships. Pray for peace and unity and forgiveness. If you’re married, pray for your relationship with your spouse. If you are unmarried and desire to be married, pray for your future spouse. Pray for your kids’ and grandkids’ relationships. If your kids or grandkids are married, pray for their relationship with their spouses. If they are unmarried, pray for their future spouses. Pray they would marry a godly, Christian spouse who will encourage them in their faith and help them raise godly children in the faith.

I currently have one married son and two unmarried sons. So, I pray for Sam and Rachael and their marriage every day, and I also pray for Ramon and Timothy for their future spouses every day. I pray that God would prepare their future spouses for them, and that he would prepare them for their future spouses. I pray that God will lead them to the right person who will love and help them as they walk with God, that they will love and serve God together for his kingdom. Pray for your family’s relationships.

   E. Guidance and direction (God’s will; God’s purposes)
      – Psalm 23:3,6; Matthew 6:9-10

And then finally, pray for God’s guidance and direction in your family’s life. We read in Psalm 23 verses 3 and 6: “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake…. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:3,6) We also find this prayer right at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10) Pray for God’s guidance and direction in your family’s life. Pray for God’s will to be done, and that God would fulfill his purposes in their lives.

So, those are the things I pray for my family every day. I do it first thing when I get up in the morning. I go for my prayer walk. I spend some time praising God, confessing sin, thanking him for various things, and then I get right to praying for my family. I want to cover my family in prayer first thing in the morning before they get up and get going. Now maybe your prayer time is at night. If I was praying at night, then I would pray all these things for them for the next day.

My first responsibility as a Christian is to pray for my family. Moms and Dads, you have a special responsibility to pray for your children as God has entrusted them to your care. And Dads, you have a special responsibility to pray over all your family as God has especially entrusted the spiritual leadership for the family into your care. That’s your first priority as a Christian, to pray for your family every day.

III. Praying for church

So, how about praying for church? What should you pray for your church family? There are a number of things you should be praying here. You should pray for the people in your church, for your church’s leadership, for your church’s ministries, for your church’s growth in various areas, for your church’s witness in the community and for your church’s missions around the world. Let’s take a look at each of these briefly.

   A. People (prayer list; small groups; ministry teams; protection)
      – Ephesians 6:18

First of all, you should pray for the people in your church. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:18: “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18) Remember, the church is the people, not the building. So, you need to pray for the people in your church.

We publish a prayer list each week and have it available in the foyer. Make it a habit to pick one up each week, so you can be praying for the special needs in our church family.

But there are other ways you can pray for people in the church, too. If you’re in a small group, pray for the people in your small group. If you’re on a ministry team, pray for the people on your ministry team. And please, always be praying for God’s protection for every person who steps on this campus every week.

   B. Leadership (pastors; deacons; other leaders)
      – Ephesians 6:19

Secondly, you should pray for the leadership of your church. Right after Paul says in Ephesians 6:18 to pray for all the saints, he immediately adds in verse 19: “Pray also for me.” (Ephesians 6:19)

So, pray for your church’s leaders. Pray for your pastors and deacons and other people in positions of leadership in the church. Pray for their families. Pray for wisdom to make good decisions on behalf of the church. Every pastor likes it when someone comes out after service and says, “I really liked the sermon today, pastor.” But do you know what I really like to hear? “I’m praying for you, pastor.” I’m praying for you. There are no sweeter words to a pastor’s ear.

   C. Ministries (God glorified; people serve; body built up; maturity)
      – Ephesians 4:11-13

Thirdly, pray for the various ministries of your church. We read in Ephesians 4:11-13: “It was he who gave some … to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity … and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Pray for the various ministries of your church that God would be glorified, that people would serve, that the body of Christ would be built up, that we would all become mature in Christ.

   D. Witness (unity; gospel; evangelism)
      – John 17:20-21

Fourthly, pray for your church’s witness. Jesus prayed this in John 17:20-21: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

Pray for a God-given unity in the church that will be a powerful witness to the community. Pray for the gospel to be proclaimed clearly and for each person to share Christ with those around them so that others will come to know Christ and help grow the church for God’s glory.

   E. Growth (spiritual; numerical; financial; demographic)
      – Matthew 13:31-32

Which leads us right into the next prayer request – pray that your church would grow. Churches are supposed to grow. It’s the way God’s kingdom works. Jesus said in Matthew 13: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

I pray for four areas of growth for our church. I pray for spiritual growth for our people. I pray for numerical growth, that we would grow in numbers so we can more effectively do God’s work as a church. I pray for financial growth that we would have the necessary resources to do all the things God is calling us to do as a church. And I pray for demographic growth, that God would grow all the age groups in our church, that we would successfully pass this church on to the next generation.

   F. Missions (see upcoming message: Praying for Missions)

And then finally, you should pray for your church’s missions. This one is so important that we have an entire message in this series devoted to it. We will talk more about it in two weeks when we talk about Praying for Missions.

CONCLUSION: You and I have been given the awesome privilege and responsibility of praying for church and family. And once again, if we don’t do it, who will? If you don’t pray for your own family, who will? If we don’t pray for our own church, who will do it for us?

So, how do we do this? How do we make these prayers a reality in our lives? You have to have a plan. It’s like we said in the first message in this series: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

You already have a plan for what to pray right before you in the outline from this message. Now you just need to make a plan for when you will do this. You need to carve out regular time in your day to pray. Because if you don’t have a specific time to do this, you will not find the time to do this. If I miss my prayer walk at the beginning of the day, it is really hard for me to pray all these things later in the day.

So, make a plan. Start small if you need to. Set aside ten to twenty minutes for prayer and just start praying each day for church and family. Use the sermon outline before you as a guide. You would be amazed how much you can pray for in just twenty minutes.

Can you imagine the difference it would make if everyone here today began praying for church and family every day? Can you imagine the difference it would make in our families? Can you imagine the difference it would make right here in our church?

My prayer for you today is that you will make time in your schedule and have a definite plan for praying for church and family. The world around you literally depends on it.

© Ray Fowler

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