The global church and the world may seem an odd pair for which to pray, but the theological relationship between them means that we can hardly pray for the one without praying for the other. The church is drawn from the world and is not of it (John 17:6), but despite their radical difference and the world’s opposition to its message (v. 14), the church can accomplish its mission only in the world (vv. 15, 18). The world cannot be saved apart from the church, for God has chosen the church as His instrument to proclaim the gospel (Rom. 10:13). Our prayers for the church, like those in Scripture, should focus on what the church needs to discharge its mission faithfully: knowing the triune God in all His greatness and the salvation found in Jesus Christ in all its glory and fullness (Eph. 1:15–23; Col. 1:12); fidelity in trials (Rev. 2:10); a faithful, clear, ready proclamation of the gospel (2 Tim. 4:2); and a lifestyle (Matt. 5:16) and unity (John 17:20–21) that do not undermine the gospel message. Those of us not living under persecution should make a special point of praying for those who suffer for their faith (Heb. 13:3). Finally, all these requests align with the ultimate goal of the church, the glory of the triune God (Eph. 3:20–21).
When we pray for the world, we are praying that God would be glorified by those who currently refuse to do so (Matt. 6:9–10; Rom. 1:28), as we once did (1 Cor. 6:11). Since the world was created for God’s glory, we may pray with boldness for God to receive the worldwide worship He is due (Ps. 67:3, 5; Rev. 4:11). Whatever the form and intensity of the world’s opposition (Ps. 2:1–3; John 15:18–19; Rev. 12:1–6), God is King (Pss. 2; 24; 96–99; Rev. 5:13–14), and nothing can hinder His plans or resist His power.
Last, our prayers for the progress of the gospel and for the removal of all obstacles to it should be filled with compassion for the lost (Matt. 23:37), and for wisdom, love, and trust in the power of the gospel as we bear witness to Christ in the world (Matt. 5:13–16; Phil. 2:12–16; 1 Peter 3:15).
When we pray along these biblical lines, we are praying for God to fulfill the promise made to Abraham that through his seed He would bring blessing to the entire world (Gen. 12:1–3). The church’s mission and the world are bound together in the mission conferred to the church by the resurrected Christ, who holds all power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18–20). May the gospel run swiftly (2 Thess. 3:1), in His power and to His glory.
Dr. Daniel Timmer is professor of biblical studies for the Ph.D. program at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is a ruling elder in the Reformed Church of Quebec and serves at the Faculté de théologie évangélique in Montreal.