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Pray For Us! Hebrews 13:18-19

In our text today the author of Hebrews is requesting prayer from this congregation. I would like you to take a moment to consider that statement I just made, “The author of Hebrews is requesting prayer from this congregation.

Think for a moment who is asking for prayer. This is the author of Hebrews. He is a very mature believer but this does not make him self-sufficient. The author of Hebrews has taught this church that they can come boldly to the throne of grace! I am sure that he does this but this does not mean that he does not need the prayers of others! Not only does the author of Hebrews ask for prayer for himself but he asks for prayer for the others who are with him. These ministry partners, like Timothy (23), are all strong men must but they are not to strong to ask for the prayers of this church.

We can so easily forget that the most mature and consistently faithful people in the LORD need prayer. We ought to heed the apostle Paul’s words when he says to the to the Corinthians, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

Next, consider for a moment that the author of Hebrews is asking for prayer from this particular church. This church has been struggling spiritually and theologically. Many in this church had recently considered turning away from Christ. At points in this letter it was clear that the author of Hebrews was concerned that some were going to apostatize. The author of Hebrews told them they were immature and prone to wander away from Christ! They were loosening their grip on Christ, taken their eyes off of Christ, and stopped establishing their hearts in grace. It is from these Christians that the author of Hebrews asks for their prayers! (19)

How many times have you refused to pray because you did not believe we are qualified to pray for someone? The devil loves to make a Christian ineffective by convincing them they are not able to pray for some reason: to sinful, to immature, to weak, to inconsistent, to ashamed to pray, I don’t know how to pray, etc.

Countless books have been written on prayer that give so many reasons to motivate a believer to pray. By asking this congregation for prayer the author of Hebrews encourages average saints, typical saints, normal saints, weak saints and immature saints to pray because God is so gracious, merciful, kind, compassionate and forgiving. Not only does he ask them to pray but he is convince that God will answer their prayers. (19)

Doesn’t this motivate you and I to pray too? Already, isn’t your heart already tugging on you to pray?

  • Are your lips wanting to declare with the psalmist in Psalm 45:1, “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the King; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

  • If you were to stop restraining your lips you would say with the psalmist, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long...Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to You…”. (32:1-3 & 6)

One of the last things the author of Hebrews wants us to think about as we come to the end of this letter is that ‘Christians are to pray’! One of the first things we should do in response to having consuidered this book is to come to the throne of grace through prayer! Our hearts that have been impacted by the LORD’s kindness, love, mercy and forgiveness therefore let us come boldly before the LORD in prayer!

In Hebrews 13:18 the author of Hebrews writes, “Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.” Then in Hebrews 13:19 he makes an urgent plea, “I urge you the more earnestly to do this order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

We are not given many details about the author of Hebrews situation but this congregation probably was aware of these details. Some in this congregation had probably already been praying. Perhaps there were some who were growing weary and impatient in prayer. They may be saying, “What are our prayers really accomplishing?” If you look at Hebrews 13:23 I think the author of Hebrews is trying to encourage this congregation when he says, “You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon.” This news is both an encouragement that their prayers are working and a reminder that their prayers should not cease.

Therefore, the author of Hebrews is giving a command to this congregation. This verb is an imperative, ‘Pray {to God} for us!’. This is not a suggestion or a wishful request. It is not intended to be a proposal or a proposition for them to consider. They are not to neglect to pray for him.

We should also note that the verb ‘pray’ is plural. Everyone is supposed to pray for the author of Hebrews and his ministry team. However, we could ask, “Is this plural verb plural because he is speaking to all of the ‘prayer team’ or because he is addressing the whole church?” In other words, Who is responsible to pray?

Let me use a story from Mark 9 to address this question. In Mark 9 Jesus is coming down from the mountain after His transfiguration with Peter, James and John. When they arrive at the base of the mountain they find that the other 9 disciples are arguing with the scribes, “And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crown around them, and scribes arguing with them.” (9:14) Notice whose being pulled into this argument: Jesus’ disciples, the crowd, and the scribes. (Consider the protests we see happening now in our society. Everyone is getting caught up in it: teachers, administrators, students, viewers on television, etc.)

Does arguing ever help us be effective in ministry? Or we might ask, “What spiritual discipline is being neglected because of this argument that has pulled in so many? How will this neglect render much needed ministry ineffective?

As you read the story you discover that everyone should be praying but they are arguing. How often the devil can distract us from prayer and doing effective ministry by introducing chaos, an arguments, and distractions.

We know the disciples, the scribes, and this crowd should have been praying because Jesus will tell them that their lack of prayer made them ineffective in ministry. Jesus’ disciples ask Him, “Why could we not cast this demon out?” (9:28) Jesus answers, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (9:29)

Perhaps Jesus’ words are pointing out that His own disciples do not have a lifestyle of prayer and this will inevitably hinder them in their ministry. Jesus’ disciples will learn how important prayer is and in Acts 1 after Jesus ascends into heaven they will ‘devote themselves to prayer’. (Acts 1:14)

However, could we not also say that Jesus addresses their lack of prayer in that very moment? When the moment came where prayer was needed the disciples got drawn into an argument and this rendered their ministry ineffective. The father testified of this when he said, “I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” (9:18)

Clearly Jesus’ disciples were ineffective because of their lack of prayer, however, doesn’t Jesus also indict everyone who was present during this event? When Jesus hears that the demon could not be cast out He says to them all, “O faithless (and twisted) generation”. (9:19)

This story then helps to remind us all that it is all of our responsibility to pray. Community Church are we devoting ourselves to prayer? Or are we distracted, negligent, and preoccupied with other things? Are we prone to quarrel and argue instead of going to prayer? If so, would Jesus not say to us, “O faithless (and twisted) generation…”. (9:19)

Therefore, as we read the words, “Pray for us…”, do not say to yourself that this command is only for the prayer team or the missions team and not to me. We do not want to be a faithless generation who is ineffective in ministering to the needs of those around us because we neglected to pray.

With the use of this plural verb the author of Hebrews is saying, “You all pray for us!” He is saying, “Let every one of you in this church pray for us.” No one is exempt. No one is excused from this responsibility.

This verb is also in the present tense which speaks of a continuous action that is to be done. As this congregation comes to the end of this letter in just a few verses you would hope that they would immediately pray for the author of Hebrews and his team. What a tragedy if the author of Hebrews makes this request at the end of this letter but the church neglected to immediately pray. Would not the author of Hebrews one day testify concerning them like the father did in Luke 9, “I asked your disciples to pray but they did not do it.

Perhaps there are some individuals here who would say, ‘I have not seen God answer any of my prayers!’ Perhaps you need to gather with a group of believers and diligently pray. In Acts 12 there is a story that shows that God honors the prayers of His church when they are committed to prayer. In Acts 12 violence broke out against the church (12:1). The apostle James, the brother of John, is killed. Sadly, James’ death pleased the Jews so persecution against the church and its leaders increased. Soon Herod had Peter arrested (12:2-3) and he intended to kill Peter (12:4-5).

You can imagine how scary this was for Peter and the church in Jerusalem. However, the church did not get distracted by these things as the apostles did in Mark 9. Instead, the church gathered together to pray. We read in 12:5, “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” (see also 12:12) ‘Earnest prayer’ means that they prayed fervently and they did not cease to pray.

The word ‘made’ in the words, “...but earnest prayer for him was made [by the church]” is the same tense and voice as the word ‘pray’ in our text this morning. This gives us a sense of the command that is given by the author of Hebrews. He wants the whole church to pray persistently, continuously, and faithfully.

How important does Community Church consider prayer within the context of our worship? As I read the 1689 Confession of Faith I am always reminded of the importance of prayer within the church. In the LBC there is an entire chapter (XXII) entitled “Religious Worship And The Sabbath Day”. This chapter contains eight paragraphs and many of them speak of the importance of prayer. In 4 of the 8 paragraphs prayer is mentioned. Prayer is implied in all 8 sections.

  • 22.1- “The light of nature demonstrates that there is a God who has lordship and sovereignty over all. He is just and good and does good to everyone. Therefore, He should be feared, loved, praised, called on, trusted in and served- with all the heart and all the soul and all the strength.” (Jeremiah 10:7; Mark 12:33)

  • 22.3- “Prayer with thanksgiving is an element of natural worship and so is required by God of everyone.” (Psalm 95:1-7, 65:2; John 14:13, 14; Romans 8:29; 1 John 5:14)

  • 22.4- “Prayer is to be made for lawful things and for all kinds of people who are alive now or will live later. But prayer should not be made for the dead nor for those known to have sinned the sin that leads to death.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2; 2 Samuel 7:29, 2 Samuel 12:21-23; 1 John 5:16)

  • 22.6- “Under the gospel, neither prayer nor any other part of the religious worship is now restricted to or made more acceptable by the place where it is done or toward which it is directed.” (John 4:21; Malachi 1:11; 1 Timothy 2:8)

Next the author of Hebrews says, “Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.” His words let us know that he is confident that these circumstances that he is enduring are not the result of willful sin. On the contrary, he is sure that they all have a clear conscience and they desire to act honorably in all things.

Whatever the circumstances are that are happening to the author of Hebrews he and his team have tested themselves and are convinced that they have a clear conscience and that they are acting honorably. Therefore, when they ask for prayer from these Christians they can pray confidently because there is no sin that could hinder the answer. (1 Peter 3:7) They can pray confidently because they have tested themselves and have come to know that they are asking for the right things with the right motives (James 4:1-10).

Similarly, this church can learn from his example and imitate his faith (Hebrews 13:7). As these Christians begin to pray they should test themselves and repent of any sins in their life so that they can pray with a clear conscience and a heart that desires to act honorably. Both parties should do this so that there is no sin that would hinder the prayers that are being made (James 5:13-18). As a result, they can be confident that God will respond to the prayers by those who ‘walk blamelessly and do what is right and speak the truth in their heart’. (Psalm 15:2)

Today we discussed how arguments and divisions and countless other things can keep us from effective ministry because these things distract us from praying. As we come to the Communion Table we are reminded that arguments and divisions and other sins can hinder the grace of this ordinance as well. Paul writes, “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there divisions among you”. (1 Corinthians 11:17-18)

As we come to the Communion Table we are reminded that it is important to examine ourselves like we learned in Hebrews 13:18. We are told in 1 Corinthians 11:28-32, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the LORD, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

As we come to the Communion Table we have the opportunity to receive much needed grace. Remember Hebrews 13:10-15, do the same thing this morning as we take communion, ‘For we have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought in to the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are brought outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood. Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come’. (13:10-15)

No, here we have no lasting city, but as we come to the Communion Table this morning we look to Christ and remember His return (11:25-26). What a privilege it is to come together as a church and celebrate the fact that Christ has restored us to Himself and He restores us to each other. Let us take some time to examine ourselves and to pray and confess any sin so that we can confess with the author of Hebrews, “we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.


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