Think about the last time you were in a group prayer time. What kind of needs were prayed for most? I would guess physical needs. The illnesses and financial provision among others.
It is very appropriate and right to pray for these requests, but my fear is that we too often neglect praying for spiritual needs. Recently I wrote about praying specifically, and now I want to focus on the content of those specific prayers.
“If anyone sees a fellow believer committing a sin that doesn’t lead to death, he should ask, and God will give life to him—to those who commit sin that doesn’t lead to death. There is sin that leads to death. I am not saying he should pray about that.” (1 John 5:16, CSB)
This verse is clearly about a spiritual need–a believer sins. We can confidently pray for wayward sinners because God will restore abundant life. John has written much about sin in First John. He is clear that believers will still sin (1:8), but that they will not be characterized by a lifestyle of sin (3:8-9; 5:18). Jesus (he who was born of God) protects his followers and Satan cannot overtake them (5:18).
One of the blessings of being part of the family of God is that when we sin, we have a community of people who should prayerfully encourage us back to righteousness.
“We naturally pray for those who are ill, and we should just as naturally pray for those who are straying away from God. It is just as natural a thing to pray for the cure of the soul as it is to pray for the cure of the body. It may be that there is nothing greater that we can do for the man who is straying away, and who is in peril of making shipwreck of life, than to commit him to the grace of God.” ~William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 138.
When we see a brother committing a sin, we are to approach God on his account. We are to pray that he would find the fullness of life again. We are pray that whatever is trying to steal, kill, and destroy him would be bound from him and that he would be restored to Christ. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, ESV)
What do you do when you see a brother committing sin?
- Ignore it? Maybe you worry about offending him by pointing it out.
- Gossip? If your first response is to gossip rather than pray, you need to get rid of the log in your eye first (Matt. 7:5).
How can you make a practice of praying for spiritual needs?
- Change your prayer list. In your personal list, add a category called “spiritual requests” or something similar and add these kind of requests: those who need salvation, those who need to turn from active sin, and those who are struggling to keep their eyes on Jesus through difficult times (spiritual needs are almost always present in times of suffering).
- Our church recently changed our weekly prayer list in our Ministry Guide to include these three categories: thanksgiving, mission, intercession. This is a way of teaching people how to pray. The “mission” section is like our spiritual requests (not for specific people usually but more church-wide requests related to our mission of carrying out the Great Commision).
- Actually get to know people. Praying for spiritual needs will probably require you to get beyond the how are you/I’m fine passing conversation that requires no attention to the person. Be interested in him. Get to know his soul. Talk about struggles and real life situations. Be authentic.
- Ask a better question. If you are leading a group time, don’t open prayer time asking does anybody have any prayer requests? Most people will go into default mode of sharing about Grandma’s stubbed toe. Instead, ask: who can we pray for that is struggling spiritually or needs their soul strengthened through difficulty right now? Your responses won’t be so much about that toe now.
Pray for spiritual needs and experience the abundant life that Christ offers.