Praying in Elders’ Meetings
Widows were being neglected. That is a big problem, big enough for the apostles to encourage the church to find seven men to address the matter. For themselves, however, the apostles were adamant: they would devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:1-6).
Assuming the apostles’ example is instructive for elders, we can say that prayer is one of the main duties of an elder. Unfortunately, just like prayer is often neglected in our personal devotions, it’s too often neglected in the life of an elder and in the business of elder’s meetings.
When the elders gather to shepherd the church, shouldn’t a major part of the meeting be spent in prayer? After all, deacons should be laboring on other matters to free the elders to pray. Certainly, elders come together to make decisions, but shouldn’t those decisions be soaked in prayer? As elders often deal with difficult cases, shouldn’t we pray for wisdom before acting? In short, prayer should be a primary part of any elders’ meeting.
But what should we pray for, and how should we pray? Here are 7 categories to pray for at elders’ meetings, accompanied by a brief description of how to pray.
1. Pray for humility and wisdom.
Begin your meeting by praying for humility and wisdom. This will set the tone and remind every elder there that Christ is the chief shepherd, and elders are merely under shepherds (1 Peter 5:4, Acts 20:28). James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Begin meetings by obeying this command and asking God for wisdom on all the matters on your agenda.
2. Pray through a passage of Scripture.
Prayer should be biblically informed. Thankfully, we have countless examples of saints praying in the Bible. We also have lots of instructions from Paul’s letters on what to pray for. And who could forget the Psalms?
We can reliably take any portion of Scripture and use it to guide our prayers. To help root the meeting in Scripture and to provide a guide for what and how to pray throughout the meeting, consider reading the Bible together as you begin, and choose a few brothers to praise God for something they see in the text.
In our meetings, we read the passage that will be preached on the following Sunday. Meditating on who God is and what he has done also helps reinforce that the meeting is about God’s church, not ours.
3. Pray for each other.
In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul tells Timothy: “Watch your life and doctrine closely.” Galatians 6:9 implores us to “not grow weary of doing good.” James 3:1 says, “We who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” In 2 Corinthians 3:5–6, we’re reminded that “we are [not] sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant.”
These and many other verses remind us that elders need prayer, too, if we are going to persevere in our labors as undershepherds. Again, at the beginning of the meeting, consider having a few elders share briefly about how things are going in their life and ministry and then choosing a few others to pray for them. This practice encourages elders to care for each other by not bearing the burden of the office alone. It also helps to foster awareness, unity, and sympathy.
4. Pray for deacons, staff, and supported workers.
Recently, our elders started inviting one deacon or staff member to share about their role in the church and to request prayer. When supported workers are in town or others who have been sent out come back to visit, we often take time to hear from and pray for them during an elder’s meeting.
This practice has multiple benefits. The person prayed for is encouraged, and the elders are more informed about that person’s ministry. If you’re systematic about it, each area of the church’s life can be heard and prayed for in a year or so.
5. Pray for the sick.
James 5:14 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” As the need arises, invite sick members to meetings (or go to them), lay hands on them, and pray for them. Invite and pray for those with cancer, chronic pain, and other sicknesses.
6. Pray for church members by name.
Set aside a significant portion of your meeting to pray for the members of your church. We usually pray for about 30 members by name per meeting, working our way through our church’s directory. We contact the individuals or couples we plan to pray for several days beforehand in an effort to solicit specific prayer requests. These requests go into a master document that the elders use as a prayer guide during our meeting. With this prayer guide in front of us, and the Scripture passage we read earlier on our minds, our elders prays through these names.
We also have a section on our agenda to pray for members who are in need of extra attention and care. We call this our “care list,” which is a list of members who are going through extremely difficult circumstances or are dealing with significant sin. After reviewing and talking through the list, we usually assign a few brothers to pray for the individuals on the list—that God would allow those struggling to persevere and those in sin to repent.
7. Pray spontaneously as needed.
Often, we don’t know what other prayer needs may arise until we get into the throes of a meeting. So we must be willing to pray spontaneously as needed. If an unexpected decision before the board is unclear, pray for wisdom. If a contentious issue has brothers upset, pray for humility and unity. I can’t think of a situation where it wouldn’t be wise to just stop and ask God for help—and if we’re honest, these situations occur often.
So, fellow elders, when we meet together, let us do the job the Lord has given us. Let us praise God, seek wisdom, ask for help, and intercede for others in prayer.