This is a very serious and important question, and more especially in our time and age with its many demands. As I think about the question before us, two passages of Scripture come to mind. In 1 Tim. 2:1–4 the apostle Paul records, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God our saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Then in Matthew 6:9–13 we read Jesus’ response to the request, “Lord teach us how to pray.” He says we should pray, saying, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” In both cases we are not getting a prescription of what to say but principles of how to pray.

Both passages are giving us a charge on how to pray for people regardless of class, group, nationality, and age. In our prayers, we are to have a generous concern for others as well as for ourselves. We are to pray for all men and to give thanks for all men. And we must not confine our prayers nor thanksgiving to families or ourselves only. Suffice to say, prayer is not only essential to Christian living but we are also guided from the Bible on what to pray for. Here are some specific areas that we should be praying for:

  1. Salvation of lost souls (1 Tim 2:4; Matt 6:10)

As we think of praying for all people, we should in the first place be concerned with the salvation of lost souls. In 1 Tim. 2:4, Paul states clearly that we should be praying for all people because God desires all kinds of people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. In Matt. 6:10, Jesus stated that we are to pray for God’s kingdom to come, that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Let me say that these two phrases are about the salvation of souls in the first place. W Phillip Keller, in his book A Layman’s Look at the Lord’s Prayer, had this to say,When Jesus uttered the simple request to His Father, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ He was not only thinking of the Messianic kingdom, but also implied that He was inviting Him to establish His Kingship in the hearts and lives of men…The petition is the expression of a wish that God may ‘reign’ everywhere; that His laws may be obeyed; and especially that the gospel of Christ may be advanced everywhere, until the world is filled with His glory.” Since lost people matter to God, they must matter to us as well.

The Lord has no pleasure in the death and destruction of the wicked. He desires that they turn to him (Eze. 33:11; 2 Pet. 3:9). God is a God of mercy, seated on a throne of grace, whom we may approach boldly with our petitions and prayers. Prayer is a powerful weapon! This is not because we are powerful but because when we pray the almighty God of the universe moves his hand to act on behalf of mankind, to bring salvation and to demonstrate his glory. Brethren, this must be our cry!

  1. We should be praying for the pastors and missionaries who are on the battlefield

In the second place, the burden for lost souls as we saw in 1 Tim. 2:4 and Matt. 6:10 should lead us to be praying for pastors and missionaries. We cannot talk about salvation of lost souls without preachers—primarily pastors and missionaries. These men, humanly speaking, play a big role in the salvation of souls (Rom. 10:13–17). Robert C Shannon writes, “Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where real action is—where life and death, sin and grace, heaven and hell converge.” Let me mention that pastors and missionaries are the targets of the evil one and they are neither extraordinary nor superstars. They are ordinary people. One may ask, “What aspects of pastors’ and missionaries’ lives can I be praying for?” Let me suggest some areas:

  • Pray for the pastors’ and missionaries’ families.
  • Pray for the pastors’ and missionaries’ health.
  • Pray for the pastors’ and missionaries’ protection from sin and all manner of evil (Matt. 6:13).
  • Pray for the pastors’ and missionaries’ provisions (Matt. 6:11).
  • Pray for the pastors’ and missionaries’ wisdom (Eph. 1:17).
  • Pray for the pastors’ and missionaries’ courage and boldness as he proclaims the gospel (Eph. 6:18–19).
  1. We should ask God to send out more pastors and missionaries into the field

  God’s desire to save people and bring them to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4 and Matt. 6:10) should cause us to pray to him to send out more pastors and missionaries into the field. Jesus Christ told the disciples to pray for more labourers because the harvest was plentiful but the labourers were few (Matt. 9:37–38). J C Ryle observes thatIf we know anything of prayer, let us make it a point of conscience never to forget this solemn charge of our Lord’s. Let us settle it in our mind that it is one of the surest ways of doing good…”

Personal work for souls is good and giving money is good but praying is best of all. By prayer we reach him without whom work and money are alike in vain. We obtain the aid of the Holy Spirit. Money can pay agents, universities can give learning, bishops may ordain, and congregations may elect but the Holy Spirit alone can make ministers of the gospel and raise lay workmen in the spiritual harvest who need not be ashamed. All who love Christ and souls should show it by their earnest prayers to God, especially when the harvest is plenteous. They should pray that he would send forth more skilful, faithful, wise, and industrious labourers into his harvest. Yes, they must pray that he would raise up such as he will own in the conversion of sinners and the edification of saints.

  1. We should be praying for the planting and establishment of more biblical churches in our nation and beyond

 God’s desire to save people and bring them to the knowledge of the truth and his desire for his will to be done on earth should, in the fourth place, push us to pray for the planting and establishment of more biblical churches in our nation and beyond. As I think about the mess and the mischief going on today in most of the churches in Zambia and Africa at large, my heart bleeds.

There are many self-appointed ministers who form man-centred ministries. The true gospel is not preached in these churches and people are being misled and manipulated. There is a high level of wickedness and immorality in most of these places. What is the remedy for this mess? This is what I am strongly contending for here. I believe that the remedy is planting and establishing biblical churches across our nation and beyond.

Conrad Mbewe writes, “The apostles initiated the new believers into the church and nurtured them there. They did not just hold crusades and count the heads of those coming forward after the sermon, claiming that hundreds had committed their lives to Christ. No! I repeat, they initiated these individuals into local churches. They nurtured these churches until they could leave them behind with mature Christian leadership in the form of a well-trained eldership…. These churches remained as lampstands for all to see the light of the gospel.”

  1. We should be praying for our civil governors (1 Tim 2:2a, Jer. 29:7, Ezra 6:10)

In the fifth place, the passion for lost souls and the wellbeing of both Christians and non-Christians should prompt us to be praying for our civil leaders. This exhortation holds good whatever form of political system Christians may live under and whether these rulers are Christians or not. It is interesting to note that few of the Roman rulers were Christians at the time Paul wrote this letter. However, he urges Timothy to teach believers to be praying for the rulers. We should pray asking God to change their hearts.

We should pray for wisdom for them as they govern and make decisions. They need our prayers because of the many difficulties they encounter and the many snares to which their exalted stations expose them. The reason we should be praying for our governors and all those in authority is in order that we may live peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way (1 Tim. 2:2b). John Calvin alluded to this fact. He said, “The first is a peaceful life; for magistrates are armed with the sword, in order to keep us in peace. If they did not restrain the hardihood of wicked men, every place would be full of robberies and murders.” We should be praying for them because they hold such positions of influence, hence they can affect the whole society for good or evil. Let me state that through our prayers to the only Ruler and King of king and Lord of lords we can influence political leaders.

Matthew Henry observes that though the kings at this time were heathens, enemies to Christianity, and persecutors of Christians, yet they must pray for them, because it is for the public good that there should be civil government, and proper persons entrusted with the administration of it, for whom therefore we ought to pray.” We should pray for them because as rulers they are under God and accountable to him (Rom. 13:1–4 and 1 Pet. 2:12–17). God is able to use them to further his greater purposes in the world (Prov. 21:1), as the examples of such rulers as Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar and Pilate show.

  1. We should be praying for daily necessities (Matt. 6:11; Prov. 30:8)

 Because our natural being is necessary to our spiritual well-being in this world, therefore, after the things of God’s glory, kingdom, and will, we should pray for the necessary support and comforts of this present life, which are the gifts of God, and must be asked of him. As Israel required daily manna, so we must ask for our daily “bread”.

We confess that we are poor, weak, needy creatures, and beseech him who is our Maker to take care of us. We ask for “bread,” as the simplest of our needs and that word includes all that our bodies require.

  1. We should be praying for God’s protection from sin and all manner of evil (Matt. 6:13; Gen. 20:6; 1 Cor. 10:13)

As Christians, we are prone to sin against God and ourselves. We sometimes succumb to all sorts of evil. This is the reason we should be praying to God to restrain us from sinning and deliver us from Satan’s power, snares and temptations. We must cry thus, “Lord deliver us from the evil of the world, the corruption that is in the world through lust; from the evil of every condition in the world; from the evil of death; from the sting of death, which is sin: deliver us from ourselves, from our own evil hearts: deliver us from evil men, that they may not be a snare to us, nor we a prey to them.”

Conclusion

Let me conclude with these words. The Bible promises us so many wonderful benefits of prayer (2 Chr. 7:14; Matt. 7:7–8; and 1 Jn. 5:14–15). Samuel Zwemer beautifully writes, “The history of missions is the history of answered prayer”. We can reach the world if we desire to. The greatest lack today is not people or funds. The greatest need is prayer. Therefore, let us pray!

 Bibliography

Calvin, John. 1858. Commentary on 1 Timothy. Translation Society.

Dolan, Bonnie Lou. 100 Missions quotations. Center For Christian Missions

Henry, Matthew. 1961. Commentary on the Whole Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Keller, P W. 1976. A Layman’s Look at the Lord’s Prayer. Chicago: Moody Press.

MacArthur, J. 1997. The MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Mbewe, Conrad. 2011. Foundations for the Flock. Hannibal: Granted Ministries.

Milne, Douglas J W. 2012. Focus on the Bible 1.2. Timothy & Titus. Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications.

Ryle, J C. 2009. Expository thoughts on Matthew. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth.

Wells, T. 1985. A Vision for Missions. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust.