Hebrews 13, we have seen, addresses the practical outworkings of faith in Christ. When we trust that Jesus has made the final, effectual atonement for our sins, that trust manifests itself in how we serve other people and follow the commands of our Savior (vv. 1–17; James 2:14–26). The practical admonitions we have covered thus far focus on what we may call universal Christian duties—things that all Christians everywhere and in every era should do. In today’s passage, however, the exhortation becomes specific to the original audience of Hebrews. The author tells his audience to pray for him (Heb. 13:18–19).
Properly speaking, the author asks his readers to “pray for us” (v. 18), indicating that he was part of a group with whom the audience was acquainted. The author of Hebrews, like other Christians throughout history, ministered alongside others. Moreover, today’s passage indicates that the author had great affection for his audience. The reason they were to pray was so that he could be restored to them “the sooner” (v. 19). He missed the face-to-face fellowship with his readers. Apparently, this request means that something was hindering the author from visiting his audience, but we do not know what that was.
In asking for prayer, the author states that he and his fellow workers “have a clear conscience” (v. 18). Likely this refers to the warnings that he has given his readers. Like Ezekiel, who was a watchman for old covenant Israel, the author of Hebrews was tasked with encouraging his audience away from apostasy and with telling them what would happen if they abandoned the Lord (see Ezek. 3:16–21). Having fulfilled that role with this letter, the author and his fellow workers could rest, knowing that they had done their duty.
Finally, commentators note that the request for prayer indicates that the author of Hebrews believed that his audience had not apostatized, or at least not all of them. He hardly would have asked for prayer from them if he knew that all of them were unbelievers. No, he was confident that at least some of his readers would persevere, so he turned to them for spiritual assistance. His readers, in turn, were to pray for him and his fellow workers, believing that God just might allow the author to visit them sooner. After all, we know that prayers do much in the purposes of God, and through our prayers He often works out His will (James 5:13–18).