Online Bible Commentary
Pray for Spiritual Leaders
Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. 17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. 18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon. (NIV)
The writer of the book of Hebrews is writing to the first century Hebrew Christians. He is encouraging them in their Christian faith, while, at the same time, discouraging them from returning to Judaism. In this chapter he has been exhorting them to obedient living. Here, he is exhorting them to obedient living in their spiritual life. These rules for obedient living not only apply to the first century Hebrew Christians, but also to today’s Christians.
Christians are called to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise”, “through Jesus” (v. 15a). Jesus is our intermediary. Our prayers go through Him to God the Father. He may alter or change our prayers for the best, in order to be suitable for the Father. So we are to continually offer our praise to God. That means that we should praise God through all that we do. We should praise Him in prayer and worship. But we should also praise Him as we go about our daily activities.
Our praise is from “the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (v. 15b). This is a reference to His people, Christians. We should “not forget to do good and to share with others” (v. 16a). This is the way we praise Him with our works, by doing good and sharing not only our treasure, but our testimony, with others. “For with such sacrifices God is pleased” (v. 16b). Through our sacrifice of praise, we please God.
The next rule of obedient living is to “have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority” (v. 17a). This is a reference to our spiritual leaders, those who teach us the word of God. Christians should place their confidence in the teaching of their leaders. They should also submit to the authority of their leaders. These leaders are ordained by God to teach. They are accountable to God for their teaching and for us. They “must give an account” to God (v. 17b).
The reason for having confidence in and submitting to our spiritual leaders is so that “their work will be a joy, not a burden” (v. 17c). It would not “benefit” (v. 17d) us, or our leaders, for their work to be a burden for them. However, just as with our government leaders, Christians should never submit to any authority that contradicts the teaching of the Bible.
The third rule for obedient living, given in this passage, is to pray for our spiritual leaders. The writer specifically is asking for prayers for “us” (v. 18a). He is referring to himself and those who are helping with his ministry. I believe that the writer is Paul. He had several ministry associates helping him during the 60’s A.D., while he was in and out of prison. For example, this letter itself was likely transcribed by Luke, or Apollos. Paul did not use professional scribes, amanuenses, to write his letters. Instead he used personal ministry friends who knew his theology.
In asking for prayer for he and his friends, Paul attests that they are worthy of such prayer. He writes that “we are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way” (v. 18b). Paul even has a personal prayer request, “that I may be restored to you soon” (v. 19). This may be a reference to him being released from prison.
Whether or not the writer is Paul, the message is to pray for our spiritual leaders. Spiritual leaders need prayer as much or more than anyone. They are at the top of Satan’s hit list. They can cause more damage to Christianity than anyone else. So Satan specifically targets Christian leaders. Please include them in your prayers daily. Please pray for me, and for this ministry.