People like to hold up the apostle Paul as some kind of super saint. Paul never saw himself that way. He saw himself as quite the opposite. He referred to himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). It’s why he penned verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:25 – “Brethren, pray for us.”
None of us is above the need of prayer from others. Not even the apostle Paul. If he thought he needed prayer, how much more do the rest of us? One of his greatest fears was that he would become what he called a “castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27). He understood how that with all the gifts and abilities God had given him that he could become full of himself and like Samson assume that the gifts God gave him were his own. Paul knew he had a pride problem. When God saved him on the road to Damascus, the Lord literally knocked him off his high horse to address his pride (Acts 9). When the apostle described his thorn in the flesh, he recognized it as a check on his pride:
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. (2 Corinthians 12:7)
Twice in that one verse he mentions how he did not want to be “exalted above measure.” That God was answering his prayers for humility is evident in the words: “Brethren, pray for us.” He makes this request in both of his epistles to the Thessalonians. Only a person with a humble heart would ask for prayer like that and mean it.
When Paul made this request, he was not just asking as a fellow believer. He was also asking this in his capacity as a called minister of God. We look to our pastors for leadership, guidance and strength. On the flipside of that for preachers is the burden of shepherding a flock, direct responsibility to God for what they are teaching and preaching from the pulpit and the overwhelming need for grace to fulfill their office. James warns against taking the office lightly:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1, ESV)
People who serve in the pulpit or even in the Sunday School class put themselves under greater scrutiny before God than the average believer. They need prayer because their words bear a much greater weight of judgment (James in the KJV calls it “condemnation”) than anyone else. Think about when you were in school. How much did it affect you when you heard either praise or ridicule from one of your teachers? It may have been years ago that you heard those words and still they have an effect on you either positive or negative and that might have just been a second-grade teacher. How much greater effect are the words that come from someone who is called to be a preacher or teacher of God’s Word? The Lord understands the weight of responsibility on them. The apostle Paul understood the weight of responsibility on him. Is it any wonder that he said: “Brethren, pray for us?”
Our greatest need is the prayer of others. The greatest need of those who minister God’s Word to us is our prayers for them. How often do we ask for prayer? How often do we pray for others? How often do we pray for those who minister to us?
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