Sometimes it’s hard to be a Christian. We falter in our dedication. People don’t appreciate our faith, or worse, persecute us because of it. In such situations we need reassurance and hope. It was just such Christians that the book of Hebrews addresses. Hebrews concludes with a prayer of blessing that describes the nature of God and Jesus Christ.
The writer prays, “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for every and ever. Amen. After reminding discouraged disciples that God brought Jesus back from the dead, the writer prays that God will equip these disciples with what they need to do his will.”
This mentoring prayer assures its readers that the God who brings peace still cares for them. The writer of Hebrews reminds them through this prayer that God brought Jesus back from the dead. He has already taught them that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). Jesus also is the great shepherd, who having redeemed his flock, will not desert them. Despite their discouraging experiences in following him, Jesus will prepare them for their mission and give them (and us) what is needed to succeed. As Paul noted in his letter to the Ephesian church, “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
Christian leaders pray for their people. To pray for them, they must know them and appreciate their needs. One of my most moving experiences as a local church preacher was when the elders and I took our congregation’s directory one evening and after discussing each family or individual’s needs, prayed for that family or person before moving on to the next one. The prayer of Hebrews 13:20,21 grounds its petition on behalf of these Christians in the nature of God and work of his Messiah and Son. In addition to knowing their people, Christian mentors must know the word of God. This prayer, like the letter it concludes, is steeped in covenantal language and also requires an awareness of biblical teaching about the role of the spiritual shepherd. Jesus described himself as the good shepherd, but the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel proclaimed that the shepherds of Israel had failed God’s people. The New Testament also describes elders as shepherds(1 Peter 5:1-5). Ezekiel’s words certainly should guide them as they seek to lead well.
When events and relationships shake our faith, when we want to give up, when the people we lead want to surrender, this prayer reminds us that although all seems lost, we have a Shepherd who still cares, who still leads, who still guides us through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23). This prayer reminds us again that disciples need mentors and that those mentors must be people who know when and how to call for fire.