It is generally understood among evangelical Christians that God’s heartbeat is for His disciples to make more disciples of the Lord Jesus. This vital task is accomplished, primarily, by Christian fellowship with other believers in what is commonly referred to as “life-on-life discipleship.”
However, what can be done to have a lasting influence even when the spiritual mentor and his disciple are not in physical proximity? How can a spiritual mentor have a penetrating influence long after the coffee gets cold and each have gone their respective ways? Perhaps the forgotten element of discipleship is prayer. The truth is, more is accomplished internally by the Spirit of God toward spiritual maturity than any amount of life-on-life alone.
The Apostle Paul shows us in Ephesians chapter one that life-on-life must be supplemented by focused prayer for those to whom we have the privilege to influence for Christ. The mentor’s spiritual reach and influence is enhanced when he or she kneels in prayer. Paul gives his readers a revealingly clear prayer list for those to whom he is ministering. How can you pray for Christians that you are discipling? Please allow me to give you three thoughts that are drawn our from Paul’s prayer.
1. Thank God for those whom you have the privilege to influence for Christ.
Wherefore I also, . . . cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:15-16).
What a privilege it is to join with God in the pursuit of spiritual maturity, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others. Having this opportunity implies that the Gospel is working in a powerful way in the souls of all those whom God has saved. Making disciples for the glory of Christ is what every believer lives for, so be thankful for every opportunity to fulfill your purpose and be actively looking for people to befriend, encourage, and build up for the sake of the Gospel—that is our common goal as Christians, to disciple more Christians.
“Father, thank you for the spiritual work that you are doing both in my life and in [Roger]’s life. Thank you for ordaining our paths to cross. Thank you for the platform that you have given me to use the spiritual growth that I have experienced to now invest in [Roger]’s life for the advance of the gospel.”
2. Pray for your disciples to grow in their knowledge of God’s person.
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” (Eph. 1:17).
This is not just a general, shallow knowledge that Paul desires for his disciples. This is not the kind of knowledge that it is superficial information about the Bible. Paul’s prayer was that God would give to those under his sphere of influence a depth in their knowledge of who God is. Think of those close friendships formed in high school, or college, or in the workplace. As the years go by, with how many of those are you still close? If there is a distance now, what happened? Very simply, lack of mutual knowledge happened. Lives grow apart in distinct pursuits and the lack of close contact causes relationships to wane.
Now think of the people with whom you are close right now. That closeness is inevitably the result of time spent in similar endeavors. Rather than a lack of knowledge, there is a wealth of knowledge, which translates into a closer relationship. Paul’s prayer is that those he is praying for will experience a deeper, closer relationship with God. Specifically, Paul is praying for a spirit of wisdom in the knowledge of God, which is the practical application of our knowledge of God to the circumstances of life.
Pray for your disciple to have an attitude for application of God’s Word. Coupled with this spirit of wisdom is a spirit of revelation (apokalypsis). This spirit of revelation in the knowledge of God has to do with understanding the previously veiled workings of God. In other words, Paul wants his disciples to know God in a practical, unveiled way. Pray for your disciple to have an attitude of investigation to better see God’s working in history. Pray for your disciple to feel a dissatisfaction for a mediocre understanding of God and a hunger and thirst for a deeper, more detailed, and more vibrant knowledge of God.
“Father, you and I both desire that [Roger] grow up to the measure of the fullness of Christ. My prayer for [Roger] is that his knowledge of you be more than just information, but rather an applied knowledge to his daily life as he walks through this world. Produce in him a dissatisfaction of being content with his present spiritual level. Help him to have an attitude of both application and investigation as he gets to know you through your Word.”
3. Pray for your disciples to grow in their confidence in God’s plan.
“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe.” (Eph. 1:18-19).
The result of a practical, unveiled knowledge of God is to see spiritual realities more clearly. Every spiritual mentor’s desire is that his disciple may view the world through spiritually-enlightened eyes. Paul specifically asks that God help his disciples to see three things: 1) God’s purpose from time past; 2) God’s promise for the future; and 3) God’s power for the present.
Does it help for your disciple to understand God’s purpose from time past? Absolutely! “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). God’s predetermined plan is to conform each believer into the image of Jesus Christ. What God starts, He also finishes!
Is it helpful for your disciple to understand what his future holds? No doubt about it! In Christ we have obtained an inheritance in a glorious future that no one can take away. That perspective will help any believer face the difficulties of this life! Is your disciple struggling to break the bonds of past sins and vices? God provides power for the present, as demonstrated in Christ’s resurrection from the dead. We can explain these things to our disciple, but how much better would it be to pray for God to show him these truths through spiritually-enlightened eyes as a result of a deeper knowledge of God?
“Father, as [Roger] grows in his knowledge of you, give him spiritual eyes to see what you are trying to do in him. Give [Roger] the desire to submit to your calling for him to be conformed to the image of Christ and help him to rejoice in your purpose for him from eternity past. Help [Roger] to see the glorious future that awaits him as your child. This will help him make it through these days of rejection from former friends and the relentless attacks of Satan that he is facing. I pray that [Roger] will experience your resurrection power as he makes conscious choices to deny himself and follow your will. He needs your power to break the power of past addictions. He needs your power to forgive those who have hurt him and love as Jesus loved.”
Discipleship is indeed a task for all Christians. Discipleship is more than going through a particular curriculum. Discipleship is doing life together—as a community. So, let’s pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. But let us do it in a purposeful meaningful manner. For the sake of His glory and for the fulfillment of His great commission.
Matt Goins is a missionary church-planter living in El Progreso, Honduras with his wife and three sons. He administrates a multi-faceted ministry centered around the local church, but with strategic partnerships for childrens ministry and medical outreach as well. His passion is teaching in the local Bible institute training future laborers for Christ.