Pray for the Flock: Ministering God's Grace Through Intercession

Pray for the Flock: Ministering God's Grace Through Intercession

by Brian Croft, Ryan Fullerton

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310519379
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Series: Practical Shepherding Series Series
Pages: 112
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Brian is the founder of Practical Shepherding, a non-profit organization committed to equipping pastors all over the world in the practical matters of pastoral ministry.


Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Brian is the founder of Practical Shepherding, a non-profit organization committed to equipping pastors all over the world in the practical matters of pastoral ministry.

Read an Excerpt

Pray for the Flock

Ministering God's Grace Through Intercession


By Brian Croft, Ryan Fullerton

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2015 Brian Croft and Ryan Fullerton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-51937-9



CHAPTER 1

A CALL TO PRAYER


IF YOU'RE READING this book, you likely have a desire to pray for your people. Sadly, desire is rarely enough. When our Lord Jesus Christ asked his faithful inner circle of disciples to "stay here and keep watch with me" (Matthew 26:38), I'm sure they had a desire to stay with him and to support with their prayers the One they loved. Unfortunately, that desire was not enough. Instead, they became a memorable illustration of a painful truth that every pastor has experienced when it comes to prayer: "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (26:41). How many times have you made a fresh resolve to pray for your people only to find yourself fast asleep because your "eyes were heavy" (26:43)?

The goal of this book is to cultivate a passion for prayer in every pastor's heart. Every pastor needs to resonate with the focus of the New Testament apostles: "[We] will give our attention to prayer" (Acts 6:4). Specifically, we want to encourage you to pray for the people God has placed under your care as their shepherd and pastor. In the following chapters, we will paint a picture of how God's promises fuel our prayers, how we can fight to grow in prayer, and how we can plan to pray for our people proactively through the many different opportunities God gives us to intercede for them. But before we take any action, we need to be willing to confront our idols of busyness and sleepiness and commit to the great work of prayer. We must arm ourselves with a biblical understanding that will draw us into prayer.

It's my hope that this chapter will remind you that it is God who calls you to pray and that this high and holy calling should be among your top priorities as a pastor. With this in mind, I want to arm you with six biblical truths that can lead you to make prayer a priority.

1. Not praying for your people is a sin. Prayerlessness is sin. We need to be honest about this. A pastor who fails to pray for his people is as unbiblical as a pastor who refuses to preach God's word. One of the sweetest realities of being a Christian is that we're now "slaves to righteousness" (Romans 6:18). Despite "the desires of the flesh" pulling us toward sin (Galatians 5:16), believers have an insatiable desire to do what is right. Because God has written his law on our minds and in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10), we desire to love righteousness and hate wickedness (Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9). The Spirit never permits Christians to tolerate sin in their lives. Like the congregants they serve, pastors can never be happy tolerating prayerlessness in their lives, because prayerlessness is sin.

The prophet Samuel made this abundantly clear when he promised the people of Israel that he'd pray for them: "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you" (1 Samuel 12:23). Samuel recognized that a failure to pray for God's people was a sin against God. Samuel was a leader among God's people. How could he claim to care for them when he didn't bring their needs before Yahweh-Yireh (Genesis 22:14), the One who alone could care for those needs? And how could Samuel claim to lead God's people if he didn't lead them to seek the Lord in prayer? To leave God's people unprayed for is to leave them uncared for, unprovided for, and unled — "like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). As pastors, we're called to flee sin and to pursue righteousness. We must learn to flee the sin of prayerlessness and to put on the righteous and wonderful habit of praying for our people.

2. Praying for your people glorifies God. One of my favorite verses in the Bible on prayer is Psalm 50:15 (ESV): "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me." One of my ministerial mentors used to say, "The Christian life is full of trouble. You are either just coming out of trouble, in the midst of trouble, or on your way into trouble." Indeed, the Christian life is not supposed to be easy. Jesus promised that in this life we will have trouble (John 16:33) — and this is even more certain when we are called to lead God's people. And yet every day of trouble is a day we have the opportunity and privilege of glorifying God. In comforting the sick, discipling new converts, and counseling people in difficult situations, we can sometimes feel like we are being distracted from our true calling, but to think this way is a mistake. Each and every trouble that comes our way is an opportunity to honor God as we call on him for help — and he helps us! When he answers our prayers and works in the lives of the people we're praying for, he gets the glory. When he comforts the sick or fixes the logistical issues we've been having, he gets the glory because he did the work. Follow the advice of John Newton (1725–1807), who wrote these words in one of his hymns:

    Come, my soul, thy suit prepare,
    Jesus loves to answer prayer;
    He himself has bid thee pray,
    Therefore will not say thee nay;
    Therefore will not say thee nay.

    Thou art coming to a King,
    Large petitions with thee bring;
    For his grace and pow'r are such,
    None can ever ask too much;
    None can ever ask too much.


If we ask the Lord to work in the midst of our troubles, we'll give him the glory he deserves.

3. We are called to imitate leaders who pray for their people. Hebrews 13:7 urges us to think about the great leaders in the church: "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." If you survey the great leaders of the Christian church, one thing they have in common is this: they were committed to prayer. We see this in the life of the apostle Paul, who told the Colossians that he and his partners in the ministry "have not stopped praying" for them since the day he heard about them (Colossians 1:9). What an example of perseverance! Nonstop prayer since the first day he knew about the Colossian sheep. Consider that, brothers, and imitate this way of life. Consider also the example of Epaphras, "who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus," and the one Paul tells us was "always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured" (Colossians 4:12). Remember the example of godly men like Paul and Epaphras; they were men of prayer.

4. Praying for your people reflects the priority of the early church. Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God's people, was an answer to prayer. The earliest Christian leaders, along with slightly more than a hundred followers of Christ, were praying and waiting when God suddenly moved in power (Acts 1–2). The earliest Christians "devoted themselves ... to prayer" (Acts 2:42), and as the church grew and the demands of leadership increased, the leaders realized they needed to reset their priorities. The neglect of some of the widows had helped them realize they couldn't do everything. But what should their focus be? Should they focus on benevolence or administration? These were good and spiritual options (Romans 12:6–8), but the leaders of the early church knew that one thing was best. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, they proclaimed, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:2–4).

Did you notice what made the cut? For the leaders of the church of God there could be no neglecting of prayer and the study and teaching of the Scriptures. The corporate church couldn't leave the widows to starve, of course. But the leaders realized they would lose everything if they gave up on prayer. All the generosity required to care for the widows would have dried up if the leaders hadn't continued to dip their buckets into the well of God's mercy through prayer for God's people. If we want to have New Testament ministries, then we must understand and practice the New Testament priority given to prayer.

5. Praying for God's people will lead them to change. As pastors, we long to see our people growing and changing. This is one of the reasons we do what we do. We long to see the Lord Jesus Christ make his people more Christlike by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because we long for this, we do what we think will help our people grow. We prepare sermons because we believe in the life-changing power of the Bible. We set an example for the flock because we know people follow their leaders. But do we pray? Do we believe that the power of God on our efforts is unleashed through prayer? To be clear, we need counseling, preaching, and training opportunities. But we must confess that all of these are useless without the power of God unleashed through prayer. The apostle Paul saw prayer as one of the primary means of promoting the sanctification of God's people. That is why he prayed:

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.

Colossians 1:9–11


Knowledge, wisdom, understanding, life change, fruit bearing, strength, power, endurance, patience — for the apostle Paul, all of these came to God's people through prayer.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:9–11).

Love, knowledge, depth of insight, discernment, purity, blamelessness, the fruit of righteousness to the praise and glory of God — here we see again that all of these blessings came through prayer. Do the congregations we serve manifest these characteristics? Perhaps they don't because we "do not ask God" (James 4:2). Oh, Lord, move us to pray!

6. Prayer is how ordinary men do extraordinary things for God. For years, the elders at the church I serve have sought to be obedient to God's call to pray for the sick in accordance with James 5:14. Each time we gather with one of God's suffering saints to ask the Lord to heal them, I'm encouraged by a single verse in the book of James. James reminds us that "Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years" (5:17). I've always felt that it is a tender mercy of God to place this verse near the end of chapter 5.

Think about this. James has just told the sick to call the church elders to pray over a sick person in the hope they will be healed. James seems to think healing won't come once in a blue moon, but that it is something we should expect God to do. He writes, "The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up" (5:15). What a promise! The elders are asking God to do a miracle. James knows how the average pastor is going to think: "Who, me? I'm just an ordinary man!" James anticipates this objection and writes, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit" (5:17–18 ESV).

James is saying, "Look, elders, you're just like Elijah, the one whom God used to change the weather patterns for three and a half years. Surely God can use an average man like you to do extraordinary things." What an encouragement! We don't need to be extraordinary for God to do extraordinary things through our ministry. Instead, we should fully and joyfully embrace our ordinariness and grab hold of the extraordinary promises of God.

Brothers, it is my hope that these six truths will shape your conscience and move your heart toward deeper passion and resolve to pray. Give yourself over to prayer for your people. Our obedience flows out of minds that are transformed by God's word (Romans 12:1–2). So let your renewed mind lead you to a fresh resolve to pray. Prayer gives glory to God, follows the example of great men of the past, reflects the priority of the early church, changes our people, and is used by God to allow ordinary men to do extraordinary things. May God help us to pray!

CHAPTER 2

UNDERSTANDING INTERCESSION

Brian Croft


THE BIBLE IS an amazing story, a fact we sometimes forget. It tells us the story of our Creator, the Lord and sustainer of the universe, who is working to redeem his rebellious creation. By understanding the story of the Bible, we better understand how God works in history and consequently obtain a better grasp of who he is and what he is saying to us.

In the biblical narrative, we see that God created a pristine world; it was good and perfect (Genesis 1–2). We learn that Adam and Eve rebelled against God (Genesis 3), corrupting God's creation by introducing sin into the world. One consequence was relational separation between God and those he created in his image. Yet all was not lost, for God had a plan to reconcile his creation from this separation and renew his marred image in his image bearers. One of the ways God implements this is by appointing leaders who love and care for his people in many ways, including pleading with God for the needs and concerns of the people. The word that best describes this particular role of godly leaders is intercession.


Abraham, the Intercessor on Behalf of Sodom

God determined that his chosen nation would come through Abraham, and, as a result, all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 18:18). God chose Abraham for a specific purpose: "so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him" (18:19).

Immediately following these words, God demonstrates his righteousness and justice by declaring judgment to come on Sodom and Gomorrah for the grievousness of their sin (Genesis 18:20). As God reveals his intent to judge the wicked in Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham pleads to God on behalf of any righteous who may exist in the city:

The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

The Lord said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."

Genesis 18:22–26


What continues through the end of the chapter is this dialogue between God and his chosen servant, who appeals to God to spare the city if just a few righteous are found. God answers Abraham's appeal; and though the wicked city was still destroyed, Abraham's prayer saved the few righteous who remained, including Lot (Genesis 19:19). Abraham establishes before his descendants are even born that God appoints leaders to whom, when they intercede on behalf of others, God listens.


Moses, the Intercessor on Behalf of Israel

As the story of God's redemption continues, God's promise of a great nation to come from Abram's offspring is fulfilled (Genesis 15). In God's appointed time, the future generations of Abraham's offspring multiplied and formed a great nation — Israel. And one of the most significant leaders of Israel was a man named Moses. Moses was appointed by God to lead his people and to play a mediating role between Israel and God. Moses regularly spoke to God on behalf of the people, bringing their needs and concerns before the Lord. His intercessory role is seen when he led the people out of the bondage of Egypt. And then, as they made their way through the wilderness, the Israelites made a golden calf and committed idolatry against the Lord, inciting God's anger:

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go down [from Mount Sinai], because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Pray for the Flock by Brian Croft, Ryan Fullerton. Copyright © 2015 Brian Croft and Ryan Fullerton. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Foreword Don Whitney 11

Introduction (Brian Croft) 13

Part 1 What Does the Bible Teach? (Ryan Fullerton)

Chapter 1 A Call to Prayer 19

Chapter 2 Understanding Intercession (Brian Croft) 28

Chapter 3 Prayer and the Word 40

Chapter 4 Prayer and Faith 49

Chapter 5 Prayer and Experience 58

Chapter 6 Prayer and Obstacles 67

Part 2 The Practice of Prayer (Brian Croft)

Chapter 7 Pray Deliberately: Intentional Prayer for Each Person 79

Chapter 8 Pray Publicly: Corporate Prayer in Public Gatherings 83

Chapter 9 Pray Pastorally: Praying with Fellow Pastors 89

Chapter 10 Pray Globally: Praying beyond Your Local Church 93

Chapter 11 Pray Sacrificially: Combining Prayer with Fasting 98

Chapter 12 Pray Occasionally: Praying at Special Occasions 103

Conclusion (Brian Croft) 107

Acknowledgments 109

Appendix 1 Prayer Guide Template (Brian Croft) 113

Appendix 2 Reflections on My Forty-Day Fast (Ryan Fullerton) 115

Notes 126

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