The writer of Hebrews is a leader in his own right. And the difficulties associated with Christian leadership now moves him to ask for prayer for himself. He wants them to pray because he definitely needs help personally because of a current situation which has kept him away from the believers he is writing to, but also he asks for prayer for “us” which appears to be a request for himself and other leaders. Hebrews 13:18 says, “Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.” Nothing is more desirable for Christian leaders than to have the people believe in the leadership and trust that they sincerely have the best interest of the people at heart and desire only the best in the most honorable way possible. He is arguing that they do have a clear conscience that they are not attempting to lord it over the church for personal gain, but only desire the welfare of the entire body.

This kind of prayer is something every leader prays. Leadership in the church is the most difficult form of leadership possible. It’s all voluntary. There are no salaries to hold members faithful to the leadership. It’s just the opposite. Members give to support the ministry. There’s nothing quite like Church leadership in the first century and even more so today. That’s why Kent Hughes writes, “So, we see that leadership is difficult in the modern church because the ever-present radio has inbred in some an implicit disregard for local pulpits. The disregard has been further fed by a worldly business mentality that regards bigger as worthy of more respect. Mix in the anti-authoritarian strain of American individualism and subjectivism, and it all adds up to a leadership crisis for the modern church and an entire generation of beat-up clergy. No wonder that in so many places the church is awash, drifting aimlessly, and at the mercy of the hostile seas of neo-pagan culture.”[1]

Now verse 19 is a change in requesting prayer for “us” to requesting prayer for himself. It reads, “I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.” We don’t know the reason he was prevented from coming to them. The Preacher’s Commentary suggests that, “A thought of imprisonment comes quickly to our mind, but this is probably not his situation, as he says he hopes to come with Timothy if he arrives in time for an imminent departure. Some other cause for which he sought relief must have detained him, perhaps sickness.”[2] We don’t know what that was but what is really important is what Kistemaker says, “What is important, however, is that we realize the significance of the author’s special request: he desires that the church ask God for a speedy reunion of pastor and people. When this happens, the writer knows that the bond of peace and harmony is strong. He prays for unity in the Lord.”[3]

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, vol. 2, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 234.

[2] Louis H. Evans Jr and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Hebrews, vol. 33, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1985), 247.

[3] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of Hebrews, vol. 15, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 429.