Back in my second year preaching class, I can remember Ravi Zacharias telling us how our sermons need to be ‘bathed in prayer’ – which he said with a dramatic gesture. Throughout the time of seminary preparation, there were also a number of dramatic and forceful calls to personal prayer as part of the pastoral ministry. I don’t recall much, though, practical instruction as to how, when, where and why prayer was to be a part of the pastoral ministry. I wasn’t personally at a loss, though, since I had long since developed the habit of tying my personal Bible reading and study and prayer life together and seeking the guidance of Christian authors for such matters.
Here are some books which deal with the personal prayer life that I would recommend:
- E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer.
- Wesley Duewel, Ablaze for God.
- Dick Eastman, The Hour That Changes the World, The: A Practical Plan for Personal Prayer.
- Elmer Towns, Praying the New Testament.
- Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer.
- Andrew Murray, The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer.
Certainly no pastor has such a straightjacket on either finances or schedule that time and money cannot be found to go through one of these books during a year or two, particularly in the early years of ministry. The formation of a personal prayer life in accord with the scriptures will be something that can carry through for a lifetime of ministry. It’s noteworthy that the great pastors in earlier generations, such as Charles Haddon Spurgeon, were known much more for being men of prayer than for being great organizers, motivators, speakers, life coaches or fundraisers. And it’s also hard to doubt that that’s why their ministries were also known as ministries of spiritual power, and not human organization, ability and persuasiveness.
That phrase – the personal prayer life in accord with the scriptures – was a great focus of my own life during my time in seminary and ministry, and continues to be a great part of my life today. It isn’t something that I’ve ever shared much with anyone, except to guard quite jealously my time alone in prayer and prayerful study of the scriptures prior to the ministry of the Word. Over the years, though, I developed and refined lists of promises and guidelines from the scriptures which I’ve followed in prayer for myself and my ministry, for the church I’ve been serving with, and for the world as a whole. Below is one of these lists, with the scripture references. (My current list is about 1/3 longer.)You’ll have to look up and reflect on the scripture itself to see how it relates to how I am praying. Sometimes I pray according to scriptural patterns and promises, such as praying for deliverance like Daniel in the lions’ den while claiming the promises of Psalm 91. I just have references below, since these lists were developed during the last years of the typewriter, before copy and paste was available in word processing software. Some of the promises I had already memorized, but I personally was familiar with what the verses I gave references for were talking about.
Prayer for the ministry of the Word of God in preaching and teaching, and in personal evangelism and edification:
Purity of own life and heart (Psalm 19:14, 139:23-24), to be a fit vessel to receive the Word into my own heart (James 1:19-25, I Peter 2:1-3), for the Word to come forth in the right occasion (Isaiah 50:4), to be filled with the wisdom of God to understand spiritual realities and life consistently (Ephesians 1:15-20, I Kings 3:9, Psalm 86:22).
In preparation for the illumination of the scriptures in study and application (Psalm 119:27, 33-34, 125, Ezra 7:10), for words to be prepared and taught by the Spirit of God to express spiritual realities (I Corinthians 2:13), to be spiritual weapons against the sinful thought patterns of this world (II Corinthians 10:3-6), and to be words of comfort (II Corinthians 1:3-5, Psalm 119:50, 71).
In actual delivery for the power of the word to be demonstrated through the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17, I Corinthians 2:1-4, Jeremiah 23:29).
For prepared hearts among those who hear the Word of God and their edification to maturity and stability in Christ and to be equipped to ministry for him (I Corinthians 4:2, II Corinthians 13:8, Ephesians 4:11-12, II Timothy 3:16-17, Romans 15:4).
For the Word of God to be delivered in the love of Christ (Ephesians 4:15, James 3:17-18, II Timothy 1:7).
For the gospel of Christ to be shares with the witness and conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11, 15:26-27, Acts 1:8, I Thessalonians 1:5, Acts 4:29, 5:32).
For there to be eternal results from the preaching and teaching of the Word, and personal evangelism and edification (Isaiah 55:11, Colossians 1:28, I Peter 1:23, I Thessalonians 2:13).
For the removal of the hindrances and obstacles of the enemy (Luke 8:12, 10:19, II Corinthians 4:4).
For all this to be to the glory of God through Jesus Christ (John 16:14, 14:13).
Prayer for personal needs in life and ministry:
Personal stand of entire consecration of my life to God through Jesus Christ, as someone who is alive from the dead in Christ, dedicated to do everything for the glory of God (Jeremiah 29:13, John 14:21, 23, Romans 6:11-13, 14, 12:1-2, Colossians 3:17) and for the constant awareness of his companionship and blessings of his presence; forgiveness for all known offenses against God (I John 1:9, Proverbs 29:13).
Fruitful life and ministry to glorify God (John 15:8, Matthew 5:13-18).
Wisdom and guidance in ministry and in personal life (James 1:5, John 16:12-15, Joshua 1:8-9, Psalm 1:1-3, 25:8-10, 119:8-10).
Provision for personal financial needs (Matthew 6:11, 33, Proverbs 30:7-9, Philippians 4:13).
Forgiveness for all hurts and offenses, love to cover all offenses, and blessings upon any and all detractors and adversaries (Mark 11:25, Matthew 6:12, 14-15, Luke 6:27-28, Ephesians 4:32-5:2, I Corinthians 13:5-6, I Peter 4: 8.
Protection from the enemy, anointing of favor before men (Matthew 6:13, Psalm 5:12, Proverbs 16:7, Psalm 9:9-10) with discernment between the truth and the lies of the enemy (Ephesians 5:11-14, II Corinthians 10:3-6) with wise use of the authority of Christ (Luke 10:19).
Health for continued endurance in ministry, for healing and physical strength through the death and resurrection life of Jesus (Matthew 8:17, I Peter 2:24, Romans 8:11)
Prayer for the entire worldwide church, the church in North America, my own denomination: Edification of the church of Jesus Christ, to be glorifying to God, unified in the love of Jesus, full of the power of the Holy Spirit (follow with specific requests for specific parts of the world from a source such as Operation World or other sources of prayer requests worldwide)
Spiritual leadership: for pastors, teachers and leaders to receive fresh, renewed vision, purifying and power in ministry (Proverbs 29:18), to be grounded in the Word of God (II Timothy 4:2), to be full of the Spirit and of power and of wisdom and of prayer (Acts 6:30); to be prepared, tested, able to lead and guide in righteousness by word and example
Purifying and empowering revival among the people of God, to be cleansed by the Word of God (Ephesians 5:26-27, John 17:17-18), purified through the Spirit of God (Isaiah 4:4), unity of love among the people of God (John 13:34-35, 17:20-23, Ephesians 4:15), revived in heartfelt worship and joy (Psalm 85:6); burden for the lost and empowering for witness among the church (Psalm 67:1-2, Acts 2:27, 4:39-30, Matthew 9:37, John 15:26-27, Acts 1:8, John 16:8-11); protection from spiritual deceit, distraction, strife and worldliness (Matthew 6:13, John 17:18)
Spread of the gospel worldwide (Matthew 9:38, 24:14, 28:18-20); spiritual awakening and hunger among the unconverted (Isaiah 9:2, Luke 1:78-79, II Corinthians 4:6), the light of the gospel to destroy spiritual darkness (II Corinthians 4:4, Luke 8:12, Colossians 3:15, Ephesians 6:12, II Corinthians 1o:3-6)
National governments: for an atmosphere of freedom for the gospel (I Timothy 2:2-3), favor for believers (Psalm 5:12), wisdom for government officials, justice, peace and restraint of evil in the world
Prayer for the local church: for the glory of God through the salvation and edification of men and women in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit; for a local outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church, for a spiritual awakening among the unconverted in the surrounding communities
Leadership of the church: for the calling and edification of Spirit filled leaders, with wisdom and insight, to be Christlike servants and responsible heads of stable families
Congregation: for the edification and establishment in the Word, in faith, in love and in witness and worship (II Thessalonians 1:11-12, Colossians 2:6-7); for their growth to maturity in Christ, in life, service and fruitfulness (Ephesians 4:11-16, John 15:8 ), to be receptive to the Word, filled with spiritual insight and knowledge and to be growing in the knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:15-23, Philippians 1:9, Colossians 3:15-17), Spirit empowered and guided love and encouragement (Ephesians 3:16-21, Philippians 1:9, I Thessalonians 3:12, Hebrews 10:24-25), fullness of prayer through the Spirit in the name of Christ (Ephesians 2:18, 3:12, 6:18)
Fully open door for the gospel (Acts 2:47); leading to open hungry hearts, for the glory of God (John 14:13), salvation of many through the gracious desire of God himself (Ezekiel 18:23, John 3:17, I Timothy 2:4, II Peter 3:9), the bearing fruit of the death and resurrection of Jesus (John 12:23-24, I Timothy 2:6, I John 2:2, II Corinthians 5:14-15, Romans 14:9); manifestation of Christ in the gospel through the Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 4:6, Isaiah 9:2, John 6:44, 15:26-27, 16:8-11, I Thessalonians 1:5, Psalm 83:16) for witnesses to be sent and met ready and prepared hearts at the right time (Romans 10:14-15, Isaiah 50:4)