What we pray for the people to whom we preach reflects the priorities we have for them and will impact what we preach to them. If we are faithful biblical expositors it’s probably safe to assume that our desires for God’s flock are biblical and, hence, are what God also wants for his flock. Praying the Scriptures back to God is the surest way to know that what we pray is in accordance with God’s will and desires. We can be more deliberately biblical in the priorities of our preaching ministry by following this principle of praying God’s own words back to him. One of the best ways I’ve found to do this is to adapt the Spirit-inspired prayers of St. Paul for the churches in his care into prayers for my own congregation. These prayers remind me that as I preach I need to prioritise things like helping my congregation to better plumb the depths of God’s love for us in Christ, the importance of love and reconciliation within the Body, the importance of sound doctrine and of pursuing genuine holiness. Daily praying prayers like this for my congregation not only shapes my priorities in preaching, but gives me focus as I evaluate specific areas in which my congregation particularly needs growth. That in turn helps to prioritise areas of focus in the pulpit. Below are five prayers adapted from St. Paul’s own prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:16-21; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:3-6, 9-12; and 2 Thessalonians 1:4-12. These prayers are only a starting point. I find in my reading and study of Scripture this practice has kept me on attentive for additional passages that address other areas of need in life and ministry.
Pastor’s Prayers from the Epistles of St. Paul
from Ephesians 1:15-23
ALMIGHTY God and Father, I give thee thanks that thou hast established in the hearts of my flock both faith in the Lord Jesus and love unto all the saints; and yet I beseech thee glorious Father, that thou wouldst give unto them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in thy knowledge. Enlighten the eyes of their understanding, that they may know the hope of their calling, the riches of the glory of thy inheritance among the saints, and the exceeding greatness of thy power to usward who believe, according to the working of thy mighty power, which thou hast wrought in Christ, when thou raisedst him from the dead, and settest him at thy own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. Thou hast put all things under his feet, and thou hast given him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. Amen.
from Ephesians 3:16-21
I BOW my knee before thee, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. I beseech thee to grant to my flock, according to the riches of thy glory, that they be strengthened with might by thy Spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith, that they, being rooted and grounded in love, might be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that they might be filled with all fullness of thee. I beseech thee, who art able to do exceeding abundantly above all that I ask or think, according to the power that worketh in me, unto thee be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
from Philippians 1:9-11
O HOLY God, thou art my record, how greatly I long after the flock thou hast put in my charge, that their love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgement: that they might approve things that are excellent; that that they might be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto thy glory and praise. Amen.
from Colossians 1:3-6,9-12
TO thee, O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I give thanks in gazing up on the flock which thou hast entrusted to my care. Thou hast established in them faith in thy Son, a love for all the saints, and a hope for that which thou hast laid up for them in heaven. Thou hast brought forth in them fruit as they have heard the truth of thy gospel and known thy grace. For this cause, O Father, let me not cease to pray for them, and to desire that they might be filled with the knowledge of thy will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding: that they might walk worthy of thee, unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of thee; strengthened with all might, according to thy glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. Amen.
from 2 Thessalonians 1:4-12
ETERNAL Judge, I lay before thee the persecutions and tribulations of thy church, asking that thou wouldst strengthen her with patience and faith. Let her endurance, I beseech thee, be a manifest token of thy righteous judgement, that she may be counted worthy of thy kingdom, for which she suffereth. As she is troubled, let thy church rest in the Lord Jesus when he shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not thee, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from thy presence, O Lord, and from the glory of thy power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe in that day. Wherefore, O Father, I beseech thee that thou wouldst count thy church worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of thy goodness, and the work of faith with power: that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ might be glorified in her, and she in thee, according to thy grace and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
If you find these prayers helpful, you can download a PDF that can be printed (and scaled as necessary) for insertion in your Prayer Book. You can find more information on this topic in D.A. Carson’s excellent book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Baker, 1992).