NASHVILLE – A high agenda item on my daily prayer list is prayer for my family. In every family, some are unsaved. Their greatest need is to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Many wayward wanderers have been wooed to faith in Christ through faithful prayers of a mother or father, brother or sister, son or daughter, husband or wife, or grandparent.
Family members who are already saved are not immune to the struggles of daily life, the relentless pull of the world and its values, or the crosshairs Satan has painted on their backs. Satan wants to blind us, bind us and grind us in his mill just as he did Samson of old. So, how do we pray for our family? What is a good model to follow?
The paragraph-long prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 is an example of how to pray for loved ones who are already followers of Jesus. This short but pithy prayer contains three purpose clauses, followed by a statement of certainty. These four elements of Paul’s prayer reveal a dynamic, positive illustration of how to pray for those we love the most.
Pray for a deepening devotion in matters of conscience. Paul’s prayer was that the Philippians would grow in their love, that their love would abound. But he did not pray for an unfocused love; he prayed that their love would “keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment” (1:9).
As we pray for our families, we don’t pray a syrupy prayer from a shallow love measured in terms of mere sentimentality. We pray that our loved ones will reflect a robust love, a Christ-like love that grows, stretches and deepens until it matures “with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Ephesians 4:13).
Pray for a discerning spirit in matters of choice. The fear of the Lord is still the beginning of wisdom. The Preacher wrote, “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
Those we love will be confronted with a wide range of choices. Our prayer is that they will make wise choices, that they will test the various winds of doctrine, the various codes of behavior, the dominant worldviews – and choose God’s way!
The enemy of the excellent is not always the bad; it is often a willingness to settle for what is merely good. Knowing that we will stand before God to give an account, Paul teaches us to pray that our loved ones will “approve things that are superior” (1:10).
Pray for steadfast obedience in matters of conduct. Blamelessness in this context does not point to perfection; it points to the surrendered obedience of a genuine Christ-follower that results in personal holiness.
The word translated “pure” in verse 10 strengthens the concept of blamelessness. It is the word for “sun-tested.” When our lives are held up against the bright light of the sun, does the sun reveal serious cracks in our character? Or is our “jar of clay” a seamless piece, a vessel fit for honor in the Master’s hand? We are to pray that our loved ones will pass the sun-test, but even more, that they will pass the Son-test.
Give thanks for the righteous fruit that transforms our hearts and our homes. One of my mentors has often said, “In all our asking we must remember to give thanks.” The only way one’s life can reflect the character of Christ is when that one has been “filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ.” In other words, we cannot work up the Christian life; we can merely live out the life of Christ within us.
When we see the character of Christ reflected in the lives of those we love, we bow our heads in gratitude, thanking the Savior of the world that He has brought our daughter, our son, husband, our wife, our father, our mother into a faith-relationship with Himself.
Paul’s model of prayer serves as a great model for us as we pray for those we love. Let us pray for them … today and without ceasing!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee.)