Praying for the Women in Your Church – A Simple Guide

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION FROM PROVERBS 31
1. Make them women of noble character (31:10— ‘An excellent wife, who can find? For her  worth is far above jewels.’) Make our women virtuous and morally excellent. May they hate sin and love Jesus more each day.

2. Develop our women into diligent workers (v.17— ‘She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.’) Give them strength for their tasks and the ability to discern the best from the good (Philippians 1:9 – making the excellent choice).

3. Sensitize them to meet the needs of others (v.20— ‘She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.’)

4. Give them a proper perspective of the future (laugh and smile at it) (v.25— ‘Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.’) Free them from undue anxiety and slavish fear.

5. Develop our women into faithful, wise and kind teachers (v.26— ‘She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.’) The word ‘kindness’ is the Hebrew word ‘hesed.’ It means covenantal, steadfast, loyal, unfailing, and persistent love.

6. Make those who have families faithful wives and godly mothers whose children bless them: ‘Many have done nobly, but you excel them all.’ (vv.28-29)

7. Cause our women to grow in their knowledge and fear of the Lord (v.30b – ‘But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.’) Give our women an affectionate reverence for You that would cause them to delight to do what you command.

8. Help our women to have a proper perspective on their outward appearance (v.30a— ‘Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain.’) Free them from the tendency to compare themselves with other women. Liberate them from an undue focus on externals for God does not look on the outward appearance but on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

John Murray’s Counsel to Church Leaders

John Murray

“Spend at least fifteen minutes every day meditating on some word of God

connected with His promises to His church —

and then plead with Him for its fulfillment.”

 

A great place to start might be Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16:18b:

I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

With what would you be satisfied?

Here’s a question I have asked myself on occasion while raising my children in terms of my desires, hopes and dreams for them. It comes from Susan Hunt in her book Your Home: A Place of Grace:

“Would you be satisfied with children who are well behaved, who avoid drugs, who graduate from college, marry well, and make you proud? Or is the passion of your hearts to see your children love and serve Jesus with all their hearts?” (p.80)

Like C.S. Lewis said, all of us parents at times “are far too easily pleased.” There are three Scriptures that I pray through on occasion for each of my children that remind me what God desires for them.

First of all, the Apostle Paul writes to the churches in Galatia and sets forth a graphic analogy that reflects how he views his role as a discipler and also his ultimate objective and hope for those whom he has invested his life. He says in 4:19, “my dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.”

The Apostle John writes to his disciples in 3 John 6 that “I have no greater joy that to see my children walking in the truth.” This ought to serve as a bullet point for prayer for our children… that they might conduct their lives in the truth of the gospel… that nothing else would be more beautiful, engaging, and inspiring that “God’s grace in all its truth” (Colossians 1:6).

Lastly, I pray for our children “to serve the purpose of God in their generation” just like King David did according to Acts 13:36. By the Lord’s empowering grace, may they find and fulfill God’s purpose for their lives. Nothing else will satisfy and give life meaning and true joy.

May the Lord use this short post to stimulate your thinking about what you most desire for your children… whether they be your physical children or spiritual children in whom you are investing. Also, may these short Scriptures provide specific prayer requests for you to pray on your children’s behalf.

Priming the Pump to Pray for Your Church – Acts 24-26

Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagi...

Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Pray that someone you know would be confronted with the reality of the resurrected Christ and that Jesus would change the whole direction of his/her life.
  • Pray that we would become a church who daily repents and turns to God and performs deeds in keeping with repentance – honesty, integrity, purity, generosity, hospitality, etc.
  • Pray that we might see radical transformation of lives in our church and community: A change from darkness to light, from death to life, a change from spiritual complacency to spiritual fervor and love for Christ.
  • Pray about how the Lord might be calling you to testify to Jesus Christ. Pray that He would give all of us opportunities to share our testimony.
  • Pray for the Lord to give our missionaries opportunities and divine appointments to testify to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Pray for the Lord’s will to be done in the upcoming elections in our country.
  • Pray that we would live as good citizens in our community and that we would treat our neighbors with both humility and hope.

We treat them with humility because the gospel tells us we are saved by grace alone–thus our non-believing neighbors may have moral sense and wisdom that we do not have. We should expect to learn from them. The gospel of grace leads us to look at “unsaved” people witht this kind of respect, while a religion of works would not do so. We treat them with hope because the gospel tells us that our salvation is a miracle. We were not saved because we were so wise and rational and spiritually open. Therefore we can have hope for anyone–even the most closed and seemingly alienated from Christ. So if we treat all around us with respect and hope, and if we involve ourselves in the human community, not just the Christian community–then we will turn away the charge that Christians are not good citizens. 

– From Redeemer Church’s Fellowship Manual on Acts.

If You Ever Wonder What To Pray for Our Church

Here’s a bullet point list of things we prayed for our church at this week’s vespers service.

  • Paul’s words to the Sanhedrin in Acts 23:1 remind us that a “clean conscience” is available to even the worst sinner who trusts in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the cleansing of his conscience. Pray that the Holy Spirit would move among us in a powerful way cleansing guilty consciences and that He would write God’s Word on our hearts (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
  • Pray that we would cultivate a balanced view of the character of our God (101:1a). “I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, To You, O LORD, I will sing praises.”
  • Pray that our congregation would take time to worship God personally. This fosters a life of integrity (101:1b).
  • Pray that we would commit ourselves to a lifestyle of personal holiness (101:2). That we would give heed to the blameless way, i.e. The way of integrity. That we would abstain from even all appearances of evil (Ps 101:3a, 4b, 1 Thessalonians 5:22).
  • Pray that we would be so overwhelmed by our own inadequacy that we would ask the Lord to make known His presence and power in a dynamic and transformative way.
  • Pray that we would “walk within my [our] house in the integrity of my [our] heart” (Psalm 101:2b). Make this especially true of all of our husbands, fathers, wives, and mothers.
  • Pray that we would actively seek out relationships of accountability so that we live lives of integrity (Psalm 101:6-8).
  • Pray that people in our congregation would actively look out of themselves to encourage others during our corporate gatherings as well as unstructured times.
  • Pray for the Lord to give you opportunities to encourage others with the promises of His Word. Pray for the resolve to heed John Murray’s sage counsel: “Meditate for at least fifteen minutes every day (okay maybe five minutes) on some word of God connected with His promises to His church and then plead with Him for its fulfillment.” You can’t share His promises unless you know them.
  • Pray that when life hurts that God would encourage you and all of His people at Trinity by revealing Himself as the God of infinite wisdom, the God of sovereign power, and the God of perfect love. This is the simple outline of Jerry Bridges’ book entitled Trusting God When Life Hurts.

Praying Psalm 1 and 2

Psalm 1 –

Father, oh to be the blessed and fulfilled man of this Psalm.  May this portrait of a life of wisdom be the compelling desire of all of our hearts.  Free us from conducting our lives and making our decisions based upon the advice of those who are hostile to you.  May we be kept from the downward spiral of walking, standing, and sitting with those who are called “wicked” … those who oppose Your rule and your Word.

May we have a growing discomfort with sin — in our own lives, in the lives of our family members, and our church, and our culture.  May our delight be in Your Torah.  Ignite our hearts with a desire to meditate upon Your Word with regularity, with intentionality and with resolve.  As a result, may our lives look like the tree and not the chaff.

May we not be driven about by the winds of our circumstances and emotions, but may we be rooted and watered by the streams of Your abundant goodness and steadfast love.  Would you prosper O Lord all that we do today?  May our lives be fruitful for you…godly character and lips that are quick to express thanksgiving and praise to you. May others be brought into the kingdom of Your dear Son through our influence.

Give us the assurance that we will stand on the last day in your presence only because another was judged on account of our sin – Jesus Christ the truly blessed and righteous One. For Him we give you thanks and praise, AMEN.

Psalm 2 –

Gracious Father, thank you for the future hope that all the nations that rage against You will become the inheritance of the Messiah. You have given to Your Son our Savior the ends of the earth as His possession.

He declares triumphantly that all authority in heaven and on earth is rightfully His.  Based upon that authority, we pray that you would supernaturally cause a massive ingathering of souls who would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Have mercy upon them, open blind eyes like you did long ago, pour the wine of your love and Word on calloused, stony hearts.  Raise up a group of young people throughout the world who devotedly kiss Your Son as Savior and Lord. May they serve You with fear and rejoice with trembling as they contemplate your loving reign in their hearts as King, but also as a just judge who will come again with a rod of iron to break all those who resist Your reign. AMEN.

9/11 and the Imprecatory Psalms: Two Opinions

Here’s a list of the Lament Psalms known as Imprecatory (Psalm 7, 35, 52, 54, 55, 58, 59, 79, 83, 94, 129, 137, and 140).

Claus Westermann claims that these imprecatory Psalms “have once and for all been taken away from Christ’s congregation.”[1] Some of them[2] appear rather bloodthirsty, pre-Christian and inappropriate for believers to use.  These Psalms call down divine curses upon the enemies of God and express an intense need for justice.

C.S. Lewis claims that it is these Psalms that “have made the Psalter largely a closed book for many modern church-goers.”[3] He did not accept the Imprecatory Psalms as God’s Word. He wrote, “The hatred is there—festering, gloating, undisguised—and also we should be wicked if we in any way condoned or approved it or (worse still) used it to justify similar passions in ourselves….They are indeed devilish.”[4] He would claim that the intolerant, vindictive spirit that animates the imprecatory Psalms resists domestication and not even the most reckless allegorizing can Christianize them.

May I share a contrary opinion. The Imprecatory Psalm prayers are “God’s own gift, providing us the words to express to God our rage, to cry out for God’s own justice against those who attack [His people], to take seriously a presence of evil that stands opposed to God’s own love and mercy.”[5] At the bare minimum, these prayers “serve as important reminders of God’s concern for justice in this world and of his judgment on those who [persist in practicing] evil.”[6]

It is evident from redemptive history that there is one who can perfectly and rightfully pray the Imprecatory Psalms – Jesus Christ, the righteous one. We are not disappointed since Jesus did not avoid the Imprecatory Psalms during His earthly pilgrimage. One of the most severe of them (Psalm 69) seems to have been one of His favorite Psalms.  Jesus drew guidance, courage and self-understanding from this Psalm.

He asserts from Psalm 69:4 that “they hated me without cause” (John 15:25). He announces from Psalm 69:9 that “zeal for your house has eaten me up” (John 2:17).  He laments from Psalm 69:21 that “they gave me gall for my food” (Matthew 27:24). Indeed, we do not have to resort to reckless allegorizing for we have the clear statements of Jesus himself to guide us. When we view these Psalms as prayers of Jesus Christ, our understanding of His heart and His sufferings on our behalf deepens and our hearts are filled with gratitude.

There are several helpful guidelines for praying the Imprecatory Psalms. We offer the following four guidelines.[7] First of all, a believer’s prayer should never include the motive of personal revenge (Psalm 109:21). Secondly, vengeance belongs only to God (Romans 12:17-19). Thirdly, in rare cases, it is acceptable for believers today to pray for God to defeat those who oppose His kingdom work – if they do not repent (Psalm 59:13; Acts 13:10-11). Fourthly, the foremost prayer of a believer for his enemies should be that of intercession that they might be changed and converted (Psalm 83:16-18; Matthew 5:44).

What are some of the benefits of praying the Imprecatory Psalms? They help believers by channelling these emotions to God rather than expressing them either verbally or physically at others”[8] It is truly a step of faith to only ventilate your anger to God and let him take care of justice against those who have insulted or abused you.

The pandemic of AIDS, the mass murders on American high school and college campuses, and world-wide terrorism have brought about human evil and suffering on such a pervasive scale that frail, human hearts are vulnerable to despair. If the Holy Spirit is to stir believers to concrete acts of justice and mercy, we must hear the cries of the suffering, the persecuted, and the oppressed. To that end, the Imprecatory Psalms may be a timely gift of the Spirit rather than an embarrassment as they awake us to real injustice, abuse, persecution, and suffering.

What will result in the church if we pray them? James Adams declares that “when these prayers are prayed in the power of the Holy Spirit and with understanding, there will come unsuspected power and glory to the church of Christ.”[9]

Raymond Surburg spells this out in greater detail:

When all is quiet and peaceful in the Church, many may not feel very keenly the need for the use of the Imprecatory Psalms…However, when persecution bursts upon the Church, as has been the case in communistic China, in Cuba where Christian pastors and their flocks have been subjected to torture, inhuman indignities and death, when the faith of God’s people is severely tried by the enemies of the Lord, Christians have instinctively turned to these Psalms. Some people may have considered the Imprecatory Psalms an offense in better days, but their relevancy has been brought home to them, when the forces of evil have persecuted and tortured them because of belief in God and faith in the Lordship of Christ.[10]

Derek Kidner reminds us that the Imprecatory Psalms should not be cut out of the Bible. They serve as an important foreshadowing of a dreadful day in the future when the glory of God’s perfect justice will be magnified:

There is “sorer punishment” revealed in the New Testament than in the psalms, simply because the whole scale of human destiny has come into sight. This is very clear from a comparison of Psalm 6:8 and Matthew 7:23, where the words “Depart from me, all you workers of evil” are transformed from a cry of relief by David into a sentence of death by Christ. The principle is the same: truth and lies cannot live together. “Outside” will be “everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” But it is one thing to be driven off by David; quite another by Christ, to the final exclusion which is also the climax of almost every parable in the Gospels.[11]


[1] Claus Westermann, The Psalms: Structure, Content, and Message, trans. Ralph Gehrke (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press, 1980), 66-67.

[2] Fourteen Psalms have been classified “imprecatory.”  Psalm 69 and 109 are the most significant.  Other Imprecatory Psalms include:  7, 35, 52, 54, 55, 58, 59, 79, 83, 94, 129, 137, and 140. A brief, introductory treatise on the Imprecatory Psalms can be found in Derek Kidner’s commentary, Psalms 1-72:  An Introduction and Commentary, 25-32. James E. Adams has written a small but insightful book on the Imprecatory Psalms entitled, War Psalms of the Prince of Peace: Lessons from the Imprecatory Psalms, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1991). A more recent treatment of the Imprecatory Psalms is John N. Day’s, Crying for Justice, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2005).

Several Helpful Journal Articles:  J. Carl Laney, “A Fresh Look at the Imprecatory Psalms,” Bibliotheca Sacra 138 (January-March 1981): 35-45; John N. Day, “The Imprecatory Psalms and Christian Ethics,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 159 (April-June 2002); 166-86 and Chalmers Martin, “The Imprecations in the Psalms,” Princeton Theological Review 1 (1903) 537-53; Alex Luc, “Interpreting the Curses in the Psalms,” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society, (42.3, September 1990) 395-410.

[3] Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, 18.

[4] Ibid, 22. Here Lewis seems to embrace the neo-orthodox heresy that the Bible is not the Word of God but rather that it contains the Word of God. Lewis has great difficulty in reconciling the imprecations found in some of the Psalms with the Biblical view of a loving and just God.

[5] Frederick J. Gaiser, “Deliver Us From Evil,” Word & World, (22:1, Winter 2002), 3.

[6] Luc, “Interpreting the Curses in the Psalms, 409.

[7] These guidelines come from Laney, “A Fresh Look at the Imprecatory Psalms,” 35-45 and Greg W Parsons, “Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming the Psalms, Bibliotheca Sacra, 147, (April-June 1990), 178.

[8] Parsons, “Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming the Psalms,” 178.

[9] James Adams, War Psalms of the Prince of Peace, xiii.

[10] Raymond F. Surburg, “The Interpretation of the Imprecatory Psalms,” Springfielder, 39 (1975), 100.

[11] Kidner, Psalms 1-72, 30.