What a privilege to serve on the pastoral staff at Bethlehem! We on the staff all feel that way. There are many reasons. One of the greatest is that we get prayed for so often by so many with such great faith and earnestness. We are deeply thankful.
We are eager for this to continue and for God to multiply our usefulness through your prayers. To that end here are some biblical helps. We feel like the apostle Paul, only way more needy, when he said, “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ . . . that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:3-4).
1. Ask God to give us an inclination to his Word and not to money or fame or power (Psalm 119:36), and to open our eyes to see wonderful things when we read his Word (Psalm 119:18), and to have hearts united in the fear of God rather than fragmented over a dozen concerns (Psalm 86:11), and to be satisfied in his steadfast love (Psalm 90:14). (This is the IOUS acronym I use almost every day in praying for those I love.)
2. Pray for our purity and that we not come into temptation. “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). It is so crucial that our minds, not just our bodies, be pure. Defiled minds dull spiritual sight and make a pastor weak and, in the end, useless.
3. Pray for our biblical, doctrinal faithfulness. An elder “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). “Keep a close watch on . . . the teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16). Pray that a hundred years from now the leaders of Bethlehem will believe and love and teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
4. Pray for solid, joyful, Christ-exalting marriages where dad leads in daily family devotions and where dad leads his wife in times of prayer with just the two of them. “Fathers . . . bring [your children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way. . . so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
5. Pray for our boldness in witnessing to the truth and beauty and necessity of Christ as the only way to escape the wrath of God and enjoy the pleasure of God’s presence. “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people” (Acts 18:9-10).
6. Pray for visionary, creative energy. Some of us are older and have been around a long time. Pray that we not get lazy. Pray that age brings both wisdom and strength and zeal. Pray against any couch potatoes on the staff. Pray that we dream and create and press for more and more impact on this world for Christ. “Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the Lord said to him, ‘You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess” (Joshua 13:1). Yes! No time for coasting, or retiring, or playing. Pray that we dream and work hard till we drop.
7. Pray for converting power. We do not want to counsel and pray and lead and plan and teach and preach powerlessly and without eternal effect. Pray that what happened with Paul and Lydia will happen in our ministries. “On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:13-14). Ask the Lord to open hearts and save people through our ministry.
8. Pray that we would be a small part of a great, global awakening of fully biblical, doctrinally complete, Christ-exalting, God-centered reformation in the church and awakening in the world. “Pray then like this: ‘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). Don’t pray prayers that are too small. Pray that you and we will be swept up by the Spirit in a great new work in our day that has the supremacy of God in all things at the center of it.
With deep gratitude for your prayers,