Scripture prayer 3: for honorable living
The author of Hebrews remains anonymous. All the speculation and research about this writer doesn't diminish, however, the profound devotion to Christ which is so evident in the Epistle. There are also a few intimate glimpses into his personal life, and Hebrews 13:18-19 is one of them. In these two verses he asks the recipients for prayer. It is a prayer that I often requested of the believers entrusted to my spiritual leadership. He wrote---
Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act
honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may
be restored to you the sooner.
The consistent tone of the Hebrews correspondence is one of great expectations. This writer raised the bar of Christian living in the chapters about he superiority of Christ, his priestly governance, his once and for all atoning sacrifice, and the Kingdom to which we are called. While there are many references about the roles of spiritual leaders the final chapter challenges the Hebrews to consider the outcome of their leaders lives (v.7) and to obey and submit to their leaders. When he asked for prayer, it was a very directed prayer with two expected outcomes: (1) that the leaders would lead honorable lives (v.18), and, (2) that their union could be restored sooner (v.19). This writer understood that he could not live this exalted, honorable lifestyle, without the prayers of the people.
It is interesting to note the author's phrasing. The word that is most often translated "honorable" is the word kalos, usually meaning "good", or "beautiful" or perhaps "worthy". Keeping with the high view of the Christian life because of the superiority of Christ the Hebrews author asked for their prayers so he could possibly attain the standard of life consistent with what he had written in verse 7: "...consider the outcome of their way of life...". In Scripture, spiritual leaders are expected to live what they preach, as in "...those who spoke to you the word of God..." (v.7). In what is a very transparent confessional moment this writer was asking the Hebrews to lift him in prayer so he could live that "honorable, beautiful, or worthy" life.
Of course the entire Bible is about living that life. Leaders are expected to imitate Christ, follow his direction, and walk in his steps. Integrity in leadership is when the walk equates to the talk and the leader lives what he or she teaches. But, it's not oblique or obscure or relative in any sense. It is the high standard of becoming like him, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Spiritual leaders are usually on public display. Yesterday, covering Paul's request for the Ephesian believers to ask prayers for boldness in mission (Ephesians 6:19-20) there was mention of the whole armor of God to defend against the "schemes of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11). One of the adversary's strategies is to trip up leaders, to make them fall, to take aim at their human weaknesses and create confusion in the Christian community. News headlines always find an audience when a Christian leader is compromised by less than honorable behavior. The testimony of Scripture is that living this life is hard for every professing believer. But, there are unique temptations and burdens that attend spiritual leadership. For instance, when the Apostle Paul was writing about his personal challenges in ministry he listed a litany of physical demands, personal frustrations, hard work, imprisonments, beatings, ship wrecks, and then added, "And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches..." (2 Corinthians 11:28). Leading is a demanding calling. In our increasingly secular world, spiritual leaders are on the firing line.
So, the writer of Hebrews asked for prayer. He wanted them to pray that he could live an honorable life, one consistent with his teaching and the high mark of Jesus Christ the Lord. It is a prayer that every believer should pray every day for those spiritual leaders who touch their lives. Pray for them by name. Go pray over their Sunday School rooms, their chairs, or their places of service. I will never forget walking into the worship center one day to see people praying over the pulpit, where the musicians stand every Sunday, the places marked for the praise team, the sound booth, and the front of the church where decisions would be announced.
Ask God to guide and guard them for honorable living.