Christians, Pray For Your Church:
5 Reasons From Matthew 16:13-23
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man" (Matthew 16:13-23).
This rich passage offers us five reasons why Christians ought to pray for their churches.
1. Pray for your church because there is Confusion (vs. 13-14)
The church is in the world. So, naturally there is going to be confusion from within and from outside of the church. Just as Matthew reveals in the text, people have different opinions as to who Jesus is. And that's not it. The world simply doesn't understand what the church is, how it is to function, the truth in which it stands, the sin it takes issue with, the Savior we worship, the gospel we proclaim, etc. There is confusion. And this confusion is not helped when churches also experience and show confusion within.
Christians need to pray for their churches because confusion abounds. Pray that God will grant unity, doctrinal clarity, gospel focus, and mission-mindedness. Pray that God raise up pastors and teachers that clearly preach and teach his word. Pray that God illumine and give understanding to the people of your church. Pray that God remove any confusion and bless with harmony.
2. Pray for your church because it Confesses Christ (vs. 15-17)
Your church needs prayer, hopefully, because it confesses Christ. Confessing Christ separates us from the world and other religions. We who confess Christ invite persecution, animosity, and enmity. When Christ is confessed, it narrows the playing field. Churches that confess Christ are essentially saying that there is salvation only in Christ. All other religions and systems are false. This opens the door for charges of hatred, bigotry, pride, exclusivism, and judgmentalism. As the text teaches, Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. He is building his church. It follows then that if you are not in the church that Christ is building and do not confess him as the Son of God, you are not in the true church and have no part with God.
Christian, pray for your church because in these dark days, persecution is coming. Pray for your church leaders that they remain faithful to the word of God and do not bow down in the face of opposition. Pray that God give his church boldness to proclaim the truth of the gospel no matter the cost. Pray that Christ would be preeminent, trusted, obeyed, and loved above all else. Pray that your church confess Christ not matter what the government says or threatens.
3. Pray for your church because of spiritual Conflict and Conquest (vs. 18)
The church is fighting a spiritual battle. It is waging a war against everything that opposes God. Christ is building his church, what a precious promise, but it does not come easy to believers. The idea in this text is that Christ is doing his work of building his church or saving sinners. Christ does this by the heralding of his gospel. People proclaim the saving message of Jesus. So, naturally, unchristian people oppose our work. Sometimes believers are killed for their faith. Other times they are ridiculed. But, Christ proclaims that hell will not prevail. People will be saved by Christ when we proclaim his gospel. The attacks of the evil one will not stop Christ!
There is something else in this text. It is the idea of gates. Gates protected cities; they are defensive in nature. Gates keep people out. So, when Jesus says that the gates of hell will not prevail, he was saying that the church is on the offensive. We, through the aid of the Spirit, are attacking hell and the evil one and plucking sinners from damnation by preaching and teaching the gospel of Christ. It is not only hell and sin and evil attacking Christians, it is Christians attacking hell and sin and evil with the gospel!
Christian, pray for your church. The church is attacked by the world and needs to be bathed in prayer. But the church is also on the attack. We are making raids against the enemy. We are at war. This war is spiritual in nature so we must not use fleshly weapons. One of our chief weapons is prayer. Pray that God remove obstacles. Pray that God would unstop deaf ears in order for sinners to hear the gospel. Pray that God give sight to the blind. Pray that God make effectual the gospel in your church and community. Pray that God would strengthen his church against attacks. Pray that God bring revival to our land.
4. Pray for your church because the gospel is Controversial (vs. 19-22)
The gospel is controversial. The unregenerate hate the good news that Christ saves sinners who repent and trust in him alone for salvation. Sinners do not like to be called sinful. The lost do not like to be told that they have offended a holy God and that his wrath abides on them. The gospel is controversial because it confronts. It is offensive to natural man. It reveals the truth about God and man's sin condition. It tells of judgment and hell. Of course it also proclaims the glorious grace of God in sending his Son to bear the sin and guilt of sinners, bear his wrath, and die in the stead of his enemies.
In this text we see controversy. The church, through the preaching of the gospel, binds and loosens things on earth. This is controversial because the church has authority in the gospel ministry. Through the proclamation of the gospel, the church declares people to be forgiven or unforgiven. Keep in mind, the church has no power to forgive. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. The church only has the message. It proclaims the gospel and based on the authority given to the church by Christ, recognizes those that repent and trust Christ are saved. Those who do not, are separated from Christ and are not members of his church.
Christian, pray for your church. Pray that it remain steadfast on the truth of God's word when under doctrinal attack. Pray that the church be faithful to its calling in proclaiming the gospel. Pray that your church take seriously its authority to discipline its members out of love and a desire to see the church purified and sinners restored. Pray that God bless the preaching of his word by edifying the saints. Pray that God bear fruit through your church, that it penetrate your community and souls would be added. Pray that controversy be used by God to sanctify his own. Pray that God give boldness and courage in the face of controversy.
5. Pray because of inward Corruption (vs. 23)
The church is filled with sinners. We are redeemed by the blood of Christ but we are still in the flesh. The church remains imperfect until Christ comes back for her. We see this in our text. Immediately after Peter confesses Christ, he rebuked Christ for saying that he is to be killed in Jerusalem and raised on the third day. Peter essentially tells Christ that he is wrong, that he is not going to die, that he is not going to do what he came to do. Granted, Peter did not know all of the ins and outs of the gospel yet. But, he still rebuked Christ. He showed the inward corruption of his heart. He showed that he did not understand the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus up to this point. He showed that he trusted in his own understanding.
The church is made up of sinful people. Often our sin comes to the surface in the most unbecoming and unChristlike ways. We manifest pride, selfishness, greed, hatred, unforgiveness, immaturity, ungodliness, and faithlessness. We often gossip, slander, and avoid people we don't like or we think have wronged us. We may even not pray for others, harbor ill-will toward others, not seek reconciliation, not give of our time and money because we are angry or hurt, and a host of others things. We are corrupt! But, thank God because he is not done with us yet.
Christian, pray for your church because it is corrupt. Pray that God convict your church of sin and grant it repentance. Pray that God begin with you! Pray that God change hearts and attitudes. Pray for reconciliation between offended parties. Pray that God would work to bring about maturity. Pray that people will go to those who have offended them and not gossip or try to gain the favor of others. Pray that God would reveal pride, slothfulness, apathy, hard-heartedness, gossip, faithlessness, immaturity, and other sins to yourself and your church. Pray that the Lord pour out his grace transforming your church into Christlike vessels fit for his use. Pray that God would remove the corruption and humble people.
Pray that God would show his glory and make himself known. Pray that God change the desires and passions and affections of your church so they long for God above all else. Pray that your church come to hate sin and love holiness. Pray that God glorify himself in your church in spite of all its flaws and weaknesses. Pray that God be magnified and glorified and sought and treasured and obeyed and prized and exalted! Pray for your church. By God's grace and for his glory, he will work, he will change hearts, he will reform his church, he will purify his bride.