It was indeed a special blessing of our Lord that we could witness, as part of our church camp, the ordination of Donald dela Cruz and Sujith Samuel into the pastoral ministry last Thursday (16th June 2022). Both of them had completed their theological training at Far Eastern Bible College, during which time they attended and participated in Gethsemane BPC’s ministries. Rev Donald dela Cruz started the Gospel mission work in Pangasinan, the Philippines, in June 2014, while Rev Sujith Samuel began his evangelistic work in Vizag, India, in June 2017. Knowing the need for ordained ministers in both of their places of ministry, our Board of Elders recommended that they should be ordained. We thank God for the Ordination Council that had been convened, which was made up of Rev. Dr Jeffrey Khoo (True Life BPC), Rev. Ephrem Chiracho (Gethsemane BPC, Ethiopia), Rev. Reggor Galarpe (Gethsemane BPC, Cebu, the Philippines), Rev. Paul Cheng (Bethel BPC, Melbourne, Australia) and myself. The presence and exhortations of each of them, as well as the prayers for the ordination of both men, were most encouraging and much appreciated.
Having witnessed the ordination of the two men, let our thankful hearts endeavour in prayers for them. The Word of God expects us to support them in constant prayer. 2 Thessalonians 3:1 exhorts us, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you”.
The apostle Paul often requested brethren to pray for him and his fellow labourers in the work of the Gospel. On many other occasions in his letters, Paul asked for prayer. In Romans 15:30–32, he asked for prayer for continuing and extended ministry, as well as for fellowship with them. In 2 Corinthians 1:11, he mentioned their prayers as integral to his ministry. In Ephesians 6:17–21, he sought their prayers, that he might speak boldly for Christ. In Philippians 1:15–20, he affirmed their prayers as a source of strength in his witness in and through his imprisonment in Rome. In Colossians 4:3–4, he solicited their prayers for an open door for his preaching (see also 1 Thessalonians 5:25; Hebrews 13:18).
Though the apostles were called, equipped and endowed with the Holy Spirit and extraordinary miraculous gifts, they humbly beseeched the people of the church, both young and old, to pray for them. If Paul (with all his unique, miraculous apostolic gifts) required the prayers of God’s people, how much more preachers and pastors of our time need the prayer support of the church. Those who lead the church should not forget their need for spiritual support from the congregation. One’s office of leadership in the church, or spiritual gift, or past successful service, does not make one self-sufficient for the work of the ministry. Mutual support, particularly prayer support, is vital for the success of one’s service.
Every member of the church, being joined with one another as the body of Christ, is to supply each other that which is needed. The eye cannot say unto the hand, “I have no need of thee”; nor the head to the feet, “I have no need of you” (1 Cor 12:21). Mutual support, according to the ability that God has given, is vital for the efficient operation of the whole church.
The apostle desired prayer, particularly for the ministry of “the word of the Lord”. Prayer, both requested and offered to God, recognises God as the Source of the progress and success of preaching. It is a great danger to attribute the success of preaching to the preacher’s talent and not to rely on God’s help, as that would ascribe to man the glory due unto God alone. Every Christian who hears the preaching of God’s Word must remember that he is in the presence of the preacher’s God, rather than the preacher himself. The blessing he receives through the preaching of the Word is God-sent. So, when he prays for the preacher and his preaching, he links the pulpit to the throne of God, the true fountain of all spiritual blessings.
The object of praying for the preacher is that the Word of God “may have free course, and be glorified”. Paul is here using Greek words that evoke the memory of the ancient Greek runners’ success and honour. Christians must desire and pray for great success through the faithful and fervent efforts of the preachers in turning sinners to Christ and establishing faithful churches for the edification of saints (cf. Psalm 67:1-3).
The prayer request for the ministers of the Word has nothing to do with personal well-being as an end in itself. The request is made that the ministry committed to them might continue and expand. Paul could not separate his ministry from the prayers of his brothers and sisters in Christ. Regular prayer support from caring friends is a great asset to every minister of the Word. Blessed, indeed, is the pastor who receives the continuing prayers of the people.