"I'm praying for you." Have you ever said this to small-group leaders under your care, only to realize that you have no idea how to pray effectively for them? If so, you're not alone. How should you pray for those that God has entrusted to you?
When asked how to pray, Martin Luther's answer was, "Use the Lord's Prayer." Luther saw this prayer as the model, the go-to prayer appropriate for nearly any situation. But Luther didn't merely recite the prayer; he used it as an outline to guide his prayer time. After all, Luther reminds us that Jesus said, "This is how you should pray," not "This is what you should pray."
In his book, Kneeling with Giants, Gary Hansen summarizes some of Martin Luther's teachings on the Lord's Prayer. Both Hansen's and Luther's teaching can help us develop a simple yet complete outline for praying for our small-group leaders. Keep in mind that only the Lord's Prayer itself is inspired—not this application of it! Feel free to tweak these ideas to fit your small-group leaders.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
In the first phrase, we recognize a balance in our relationship with God. He is our Father, which signifies an intimate, personal relationship made possible through Jesus' death on the cross. At the same time, he is in heaven, while we are on earth. We are meant to be intimate, but not familiar, with this God who is both our Father and the Lord of the Universe.
The next phrase is both a statement and a petition. God's name is honored because he is worthy. But we also plead for his name to be honored. This duality is mirrored in Revelation 5:13: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"
So here we both express praise to God and pray for his name to be honored through the praise, Bible study, fellowship, and outreach of the small groups in our care. We pray for unity in each group (John 17), and we ask that God's love and grace shine through the groups to those around them.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
God's kingdom comes in the lives of his people as we reflect the character of Christ. His kingdom comes in community through worship, the study of his Word, and relationships among his people. His will is done as we seek his direction in decisions and as we act in accordance with Scripture.
A few passages that are helpful when praying for God's kingdom to come in and through small-group leaders are:
- John 15: Pray for your small-group leaders to remain in the vine and for God to bear fruit through their lives for his glory.
- Galatians 5:13-26: Remembering the fruit of the Spirit, pray that your leaders will walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh.
- 1 Corinthians 13: Pray for an outpouring of God's love in and through your leaders.
- Philippians 2:1-11: Pray for Christ's humility to be reflected in your leaders.
Praying for God's will for the small groups in our care can mean praying for our small-group leaders to have wisdom in choosing studies, discernment regarding group relationships, and favor in the eyes of the small-group members. We can pray also for groups to grow in their knowledge of God through his Word, through the practice of prayer, and through seeing his image reflected in other members.