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Obeying Godly Leaders and Praying for One Another

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. 18 Pray for us, for we are convinced that we have a clear conscience, wanting to conduct ourselves honorably in everything. 19 And I urge you all the more to pray that I may be restored to you very soon. (Hebrews 13:17-19)

In verse 17, the author encourages the believers to “obey your leaders and submit to them.” We have previously spoken about how the believers were challenged to imitate the faith of past leaders who have passed away. Now, they are challenged to listen and obey their present leaders without grumbling. It seemed as if there was some need for instruction on this point, as the rest of the verse suggests that there may have been some contention due to the mention of “grief.” Leaders have a responsibility to guide and maintain watch over those whom God has placed them in care of and will be judged with greater strictness, as seen in James 3:1, “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we will receive a stricter judgment.” So, if the leaders are obeying God’s Word and teaching sound doctrine, the author tells the believers to obey and submit so that both the leaders and the believers would experience “joy” and grow together; win-win versus “unprofitable.”

Then, in verses 18 to 21, the author focuses on praying for one another. The language of verse 18 suggests, in light of verse 17, that the author too was experiencing some criticism, individuals questioning their behavior and conscience. The author asks for prayer in this regard, asking for encouragement as they have a “clear conscience” and desire to “conduct ourselves honorably in everything.” As Lea wrote, “We find it easier to pray vigorously for others when we see unquestioned spiritual integrity in their actions.”

Finally, in verse 19, the author requests a specific prayer to be able to have the opportunity to “be restored to you very soon.” We do not know the specific circumstance of why the author cannot immediately attend to the readers, but we can see that the author truly believes that the situation can change through prayers to the Lord. There is power in prayer to change what may seem humanly impossible.


Isaac De Guzman


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