Hebrews 13:18-25 – Vaya con dios! Pray!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 10, 2013 AM
Saying “good-bye” is always tough with those you love and care about in life. Roger Ebert, the film critic, who has had multiple surgeries for cancer and was once declared dead agrees. He wrote in an e-mail interview that death scenes in movies put unrealistic pressure on the rest of us to be profound. “After all,” he wrote, “those scenes are well-written, directed, and performed by professionals.” Last words have an almost mystical significance in both Eastern and Western cultures, in part because they hold out the possibility of revealing a deep insight or lifting a veil on the meaning of life. Japanese poets wrote haiku at the moment of their death; Jesus related his forgiveness for those who murdered Him. What would you say if you knew the words you uttered could be the last thing the folks you are saying “good-bye” to were your last.
We know the Bible tells us that, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV) And we are told repeatedly to pray for one another. But what if you could only pray for one thing, what would you pray? Now bear in mind this is not a wish, like the wishes from a magic lamp. This is conversing with God and having Him answer your prayer. I am so glad that we can pray anytime and anywhere. In fact, we should “not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present (our) requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV) The author of Hebrews understood this as well. Let’s discover what he asks for in prayer and the prayer he asks for!
In these last few verses, we read some very heartfelt concerns by the author of Hebrews. In saying his final good-bye, the author of Hebrews gets very personal. We discover…
I. He asks for prayer! (v. 18)
1. It is interesting to note that many of the writers of the New Testament asked for prayer for themselves. Paul would request, “Brothers, pray for us.” (1 Thessalonians 5:25 NIV) In fact, Paul would get very specific in what he wanted his brothers and sisters in the Lord to pray for him about, he would tell them to, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” (Colossians 4:2-4 NIV) Requesting prayer from others was a part of Jesus’ life as well. Not only did His disciples ask Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1), but later they were asked by Jesus to pray that they would not fall into temptation (Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38; and Luke 22:46)! Jesus taught them, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:5-7 NIV) So, we know prayer is not aimless babbling or begging. We also know Jesus, “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV) and He related, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19 NIV) Prayer is conversing with God. The author of Hebrews knew, from Jesus’ own example and from those who had walked with Him that prayer was to be an intrinsic part of the believer’s life. He asks, “Pray for us.” Notice what he remarks, “We are sure that we have a clear conscience.” I believe he is tacitly asking them to examine him and yet to pray that he would indeed have pure motives and a “desire to live honorably.” For him as a pastor, providing the word of truth, without any regard to how people viewed him was extremely important! He desired to be a good steward of the mysteries of God “in every way!” What a wonderful prayer to ask for. In his final remarks, he asks for prayer!
EXAMPLE: I have discovered that a lot of Christians have a distorted view of what prayer truly is meant to be. While I am always humbled when folks ask me to pray for them, sometimes I get the feeling it is because they think my prayers will be heard when theirs have not been! This is a faulty notion, God always hears the prayers of His people and He always acts on them. What we may forget is that the example that Jesus gave of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) was not that we should “beg” or plead with God until He relents, but rather God is not like the earthly judge who needs to be bugged. Instead, God “will see that they get justice, and quickly!” (Luke 18:8) Nor do certain Christian individuals have God’s ear more than any other believer does. Instead, it is “The prayer of a righteous man” that is both “powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV) We often forget we are to pray within the will of God, plus, we forget God answers prayers in several ways: Yes, no, wait, or not at all. Not at all, because we already know the answer and possibly hope that by our praying we might change God’s mind. However, we are to ask for prayer and this is exactly what the author of Hebrews does.
Prayer is to be our continual life’s conversation with the Living Lord, not some mantra or method whereby we gain God’s ear. It is our personal time with our God. Continuing in his theme of prayer, we discover that the author of Hebrews not only asks for prayer, we also find out about…
II. The prayer he asks for! (Vv. 19-21)
1. The author of Hebrews continues by asking his listeners to pray specifically for him as well. He states that, “I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.” He was doing the ministry God had called him to and was absent from them. He desired again to be a part of their lives and he is worried for them. He therefore cannot end his letter before he restates just who they are to depend on whether he is there or not and so he asks for “the God of peace” to assist them. Jesus brings us peace, not as the world gives so it is not a peaceful kind of thing but rather peace between God and us. Paul would write that it is “Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10 NIV) As Paul would again state, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:9 NIV) This is God’s “eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep!” Hebrews tells them that he prays to our Lord Jesus to “equip” them “with everything good for doing his will.” The wording means to “make you perfect” or to literally, “put you completely in joint.” He did not want their lives to be disjointed with what God desired, which is holiness. Paul would tell those he wrote, “…our prayer is for your perfection.” (2 Corinthians 13:9 NIV) He wanted them to be fit or to readjust their dislocated limb to its proper place! The author’s meaning was perhaps they were dislocated and out of joint as church members, and they should be joined together in Christ. He wanted to be restored to them and he wanted them to be restored to one another as well! He also humbly prays, “…may he work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” He knew that without Christ, they could do nothing, but through Him giving them strength, they could do all things! Lest we forget, man cannot do any good work well by himself, unless he already has the good work of grace fashioned in him first! Grace is an internal work of God not an eternal good deed of man! He continues by telling them, “Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter.” Perhaps we discover his sense of humor in this ending, or he really thought it was a short letter! Whatever the reason, his earnest desire was that his words were meant as encouragement to them to live godly lives in an ungodly world. This, then, is the prayer he asks for, “Grace be with you all!” He desires the grace of God through Jesus be evident in their lives, in all that they did. This is the prayer he asks for!
EXAMPLE: It is a unifying and beautiful thing for a church to pray for one another. The first thing we learn about the early church is the fact that, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42 NIV) and that we are to be “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 NIV) Paul also later states, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2 NIV) and Peter would remind us, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12 NIV) In fact, the wonderful truth is that “if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him.” (1 John 3:21-22 NIV) The author of Hebrews knew if he asked for prayer from his fellow believers, he would be strengthened and encouraged. He wanted them to be joined together in the cause of Christ and so he ends his sermon by praying for them, “Grace be with you all!” This was his “good-bye,” his final Vaya con dios! This is the prayer he asks for!
In his final remarks, the author of Hebrews asks for prayer and ends with the prayer he asks for!
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.