Prayer is a central aspect of our individual spiritual journeys, yet it is important to remember that prayer is not only individual but also communal. As we pray for ourselves, we need to be lifting up our churches, our spiritual leaders, and our role within our faith communities. With that in mind, there are three specific prayers that can help us focus during our times of intercession for our church bodies:
1. A Prayer of Dependency – This is where we acknowledge our need for God—confessing that He is Lord and without Him we can do nothing of lasting value. Too often, if we are honest, we do ministry out of our own strength. We make our plans, trusting in our own effort to make things happen, with a trite prayer asking God to bless us. But a prayer of dependency is an acknowledgment that without the Holy Spirit working in and through us, our efforts are limited and nothing of value can occur. It is healthy to surrender our ministries to God, proclaiming that without the Lord we can do nothing. (Psalm 127:1-2; John 15:1-8; Zechariah 4:6)
2. A Prayer of Discernment – This is where we ask God for wisdom, guidance, and direction as we seek to understand the Lord’s will for our church body. Discernment is a continual, never-ending process. Even some of the most prominent leaders in Scripture had to struggle at times to discern where God was leading them (Acts 16:1-5). Too often we are tempted to lean upon our own wisdom and trust our gut instincts rather than seek God and wait on Him for guidance. But discernment is essential if we are to hear God’s calling. Therefore, we must budget time to seek the Lord, asking for Him to give clear direction and guidance for our church bodies. Then we must have the patience to listen and wait on the Lord. (Psalm 31:3; Proverbs 19:21; Isaiah 42:16)
3. A Prayer of Dying – God’s will is sometimes hard to embrace and follow; therefore, we must be willing to die to self in order to live out God’s calling. When Jesus told us that we must take up our cross and follow Him, He meant it. This is not just true in big things; in fact, dying little deaths is often more difficult—dying daily to pride, to preferences (what we want in church), and to fear so that we can better trust in the Lord. We must be willing to die to self in order for God to fully bless our work. Without people who are willing to die to self, the church will never reach its redemptive potential, so a prayer of death should always be on the lips of God’s people. Then, when He leads us down paths we do not want to walk, we are prepared to say yes, and He is able to work in and through us as He desires. (John 12:24; Matthew 26:39, 42; Galatians 2:20).
These three prayers are not easy to pray, but when they are heartfelt, they can be transformational for the body of Christ and for our own personal spiritual journeys.