Prayer For Fellowship With Other Believers
What is the Meaning of Fellowship in the Bible?
When I was a young believer, I thought that Christian fellowship simply referred to a group of Christians coming together to share some common interests, possibly eating together and enjoying one another’s company.
Later, I had an additional thought that fellowship referred to conversations among believers in seeking to know God’s will and understand spiritual matters.
But whether an activity can be considered genuine “fellowship” according to the Bible depends on something deeper. That is, is the spiritual nature of the divine fellowship as revealed in God’s Word actually there?
In this post we’ll consider what is the genuine Christian fellowship revealed in the Bible. Then we’ll focus on how we can experience such a fellowship in our daily Christian life and church life.
What is the meaning of fellowship in the Bible?
First John 1:2-3 says,
(And the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and report to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us); That which we have seen and heard we report also to you that you may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
1. Real fellowship is of God’s eternal life.
The genuine fellowship revealed in the Bible is the fellowship of God’s life:
First, real fellowship is the flow of eternal life in all of the believers in Christ—1 John 1:2-3.
Second, fellowship is the imparting of the Triune God as life—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—into us, the believers in Christ, to be our portion for our enjoyment—2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Cor. 1:9.
Third, to be in the divine fellowship, we need to put aside our private interests and join with the apostles and the Triune God for the carrying God’s purpose–Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:3.Fourth, real fellowship is carried out by the Spirit in our spirit and is called the fellowship of spirit—Phil. 2:1.
Fifth, real fellowship is realized by the sense of the divine life in our spirit and is preserved by this sense—Romans 8:6.
2. Real fellowship is the flow of the divine life within us as illustrated by the circulation of blood in our body.
Consider. Your physical life is in your blood and your blood is not stagnant. It’s continuously flowing and circulating. Every minute or so, your blood circulates throughout your entire body. It’s this normal circulation that keeps you physically healthy.
Similarly, the fellowship of life is the flow of God’s life within us. The Lord Jesus promised that whoever would believe into Him would have the flowing of His life, that is, His Spirit flowing within them. The Lord Jesus said,
“He who believed into Me, as the Scripture said, his innermost being would flow rivers of living water. But this He said concerning the Spirit…” (John 7:38-39a)
3. Real fellowship issues from our receiving Christ as the eternal life.
The Gospel of John reveals Jesus Christ is the embodiment of the eternal, divine life. Jesus said,
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes into Me, even if he should die, shall live.” (John 11:25).
From the moment we believe into Him, we receive this divine life into us. In 1 John 5:11-12 it says,
“God gave us eternal life and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life…”
You can receive Him right now!
If you haven’t yet received the Lord Jesus as the eternal life, please take a moment to pray,
“Lord Jesus! Lord, I believe into You as the eternal life given by God. Lord, I thank you for dying for my sins and becoming a life-giving Spirit in resurrection to impart Your eternal life into me. Lord, I receive You as my Savior and life. Forgive me of all my sins and fill me with Yourself as life.”
Anyone who receives the Lord Jesus, believing into His name is born of God with His divine life and has the authority to become a child of God (John 1:12-13).
The entering of God’s flowing life into us brings us into the fellowship of this life.
4. Real fellowship is both vertical and horizontal.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, 1 John 1: 3 says,
“…that you may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
“The fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” is vertical. While “fellowship with us” is horizontal—with the apostles who proclaimed the eternal life to them and with the other believers who also have received this same life.
We can illustrate this vertical and horizontal fellowship by the flow of electricity within the electrical lamps in our home. On the one hand, the lamps have “fellowship” with the power plant “vertically.” On the other hand, they have “fellowship” with all the other lamps “horizontally.” Though they are all separate lamps, the flow of electricity makes them all one.
How can we experience this genuine divine fellowship?
1. Spend a personal time with the Lord each morning to strengthen your “vertical” fellowship with the Lord; here are ten short morning prayers to help you enter into such a fellowship with the Lord (Matt. 6:6).
2. Spend regular times each week with other believers to practice “horizontal” fellowship, the “fellowship of spirit”—your spirit touching their spirit (Eph. 5:18-19).
3. Care for the inner flowing of life in your spirit by going along with the sense of life and peace in all the details of your daily life (Romans 8:6).4. Confess and deal with any sins or offenses so that neither your “vertical” fellowship with the Lord, nor your “horizontal” fellowship with your fellow believers is interrupted (1 John 1:7-9).
Have you been helped to know this genuine fellowship of the divine life? Share your appreciation in a comment or join in the conversation on the Holding to Truth page.
References and Further Resources:
Prayer Lesson 6: Praying for Other Believers
Lessons from the prayers of Paul
How do we learn how to pray? Many of us have learned from our parents. We may have learned from older, more mature saints in prayer meetings at church. Maybe some of us have learned how to pray by listening to the pastoral prayers on Sunday morning. It is probably safe to assume that most people have learned how to pray from life examples.
While imitating mature believers is a great way to learn to pray, one ought to study the prayers found in the Bible. Paul’s prayers provide clear, directly applicable examples for how we should pray.
It was Paul’s practice to continually pray for other believers
In nearly every book that Paul wrote, he speaks of praying for other believers. Often these prayers are included at the beginning of his books. We find essentially four ways Paul spoke of praying for others in his writings.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1.3–4)
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1.3–11)
These are passages where Paul tells his readers that he is praying for them and for what he is praying:
I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (1 Corinthians 1.4–9)
Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1.8–11)
These are passages where Paul refers to God in the third person. Often this prayer takes the form “May the God of all peace….”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15.13)
Exhortations to prayer
I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.
Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. (Romans 15.30–33)
My point in identifying these various forms speaks to Paul’s understanding of the nature of prayer. He not only prayed for other believers, he thought it necessary (and edifying) to tell other believers he was praying for them (listing the things for which he was praying).
Further, he exhorted them to pray for himself and others who needed prayer.
It should also be noted that Paul saw prayer as such a vital part of his ministry that every book he wrote (God-inspired) has at least one passage relating to the topic of prayer.
Paul made God the focal point of his prayers
We see that most all of Paul’s recorded prayers began with God. In many cases, his prayers begin with a statement of thanksgiving/praise to God:
- First, I thank my God … (Ro 1.8f)
- May the God who gives endurance … (Ro 15.5f)
- May the God of hope fill you … (Ro 15.13f)
- I always thank God for you … (1Cor 1.4–9)
While Paul’s pattern usually begins with a statement of thanksgiving/praise to God, he will also begin by identifying the relationship fellow believers have with God:
I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Ro 15.30)This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (2Co 9.12)
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. (Eph 1.15)
Paul prayed love for the people of God
Paul did not pray discriminately. That is, Paul did not pray only for the “good, fun-to-be-with saints.” Paul prayed for all the saints – the pleasant and the difficult. He states that clearly.
I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge – because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.
Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (1Co 1.4–9)
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Th 1.2–3)
He prayed for their spiritual growth
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Php 1.3–6)
He prayed for the good of others
So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker a in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials.You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith.
I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless….
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. (1Th 3.1–5, 9–10)
Paul did not tell the Thessalonians that he was praying to be with them so that he would be personally blessed. Paul’s sense of ministry was sincerely others-oriented.
Paul was well-d by most believers and well-respected. He did not give any hint in his that he enjoyed ministry because of personal advantage. Instead, Paul enjoyed the ministry because it was ministry. It was serving others that he enjoyed, not the being served. For Paul, the goal was “How can I be most useful?” not “How can I feel the most useful?”
Those who are engaged in praying for the good of others will seek ministry opportunities for God’s sake. For a particularly good treatment of this subject, one should read D.A. Carson’s, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Baker, 1992). Much of this lesson has been extracted from his chapter “Praying for Others” pp 63–77.
Praying to Have Fellowship with Other Believers
One evening, years after we were married, Michael and I had a heated argument as we were getting ready to go to a friend’s house for dinner. We had misinterpreted each other’s intentions and said words that were hurtful and pain-provoking. I was reduced to tears and he to silence.
Great! I thought. The last thing I want to do feeling this is be with other people. I silently ran through a list of reasons we could possibly cancel, but they sounded too feeble so I resigned myself to the evening.
During the entire drive to our host’s home we sat in silence, except for Michael’s asking, “Are you not going to speak to me all night?” To which I cleverly replied, “Are you not going to speak to me all night?”
I started thinking about the couple we were going to visit. Bob and Sally Anderson were one of the first Christian couples Michael and I had befriended after we were married. We had a lot in common, including our children.
Their daughter, Kristen, and our son, Christopher, were born about the same time and had become good friends.
We loved being with them because they were solid in their relationship as well as their faith, and we knew there weren’t going to be any weird surprises in store for us.From the moment we arrived at their home I felt the tension between Michael and me dissipate. Throughout the evening our hearts softened, and by the time we went home we were laughing.
It was as if the goodness of the Lord in the Anderson family had rubbed off on us and we were strengthened by it.
This kind of thing happened so many times that when Pastor Jack exhorted us to “be in fellowship with other believers” and waved his hand across the congregation as if to get his sheep moving, I understood the need for it.
More Than Just Friendship
The word fellowship sounded strange and “churchy” when I first heard it. It reminded me of tea and cookies after a missionary meeting or a potluck dinner in the church basement.
I’ve since discovered it’s much more than just coffee hour. The dictionary definition is “companionship, a friendly association, mutual sharing, a group of people with the same interests.” In the biblical sense, it’s even more than that.
“Fellowship has to do with a mutuality in all parts of your life,” Pastor Jack taught us. “You bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.
You pray for one another, you love one another, you help one another when there is material need, you weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
It’s growing in an association with people who are moving in the same pathway you are and sharing with each other in your times of victory or need or your times of trial or triumph. It’s growing in relationship.”
Fellowship is instrumental in shaping us.
The Bible says that we become those we spend time with and good friends sharpen one another just as iron sharpens iron (Prov.27:17).
This is reason enough to spend time with other believers, but there is even more to it.
Inside the Church
First and most basic of all, it is very important that you find a church home and spend time with that body of believers in Church.
I certainly understand if you have been hurt or burned out by a church, but please hear me out. No two churches are a. Each has its own personality. Some are great, some good, and some not quite what you hoped they’d be.
Somewhere there is a church that is right for you, and you need to ask God to help you find it.Contrary to what some people think, the church doesn’t have to have a fancy building. You can find a good church wherever a body of believers meet with a pastoral leader who is also submitted to other pastoral leadership. They must believe the Bible is the Word of God and offer good, solid teaching from it.
The next important indication of a good church is that you sense the love of God there and you receive it in abundance from the people. Some churches make an outgoing display of love, yet others who are more reserved may be just as genuine.
If you pick up feelings of pride, competition, selfishness, self-righteousness, or coldness, determine whether that is the overall atmosphere or an isolated case. Remember that in any church you could find someone to exemplify these traits. Ask yourself if you generally feel love and acceptance there.
You also need to be aware that you can’t go into a church and demand that people love and care for you. You can communicate your needs, but you can’t dictate how others should relate to you.
If you go to a church that doesn’t believe in being born again or being baptized, you need to find a church that does.
If the pastor can’t bring himself to talk about the Holy Spirit working in power in your life and the members of the congregation don’t praise and worship the Lord, you haven’t found the right place yet.
God can’t work as powerfully in a church that limits Him and doesn’t practice certain basic steps of obedience.
Continue to look until you’ve found a solid church you can call home.
If you are in a church where you’re miserable, get out. It’s hard to receive God’s love and life from a church you detest. This is not license to “church hop” whenever the pressure to grow is on, but don’t fall for the “Now we gotcha!” trap either. Leave any church that tries to control your every breath.Ask God to lead you to the right place. When you find it, make a commitment to stay and watch yourself grow. Go as often as you can. If once a week feels a major commitment, start there. If once a week is easy, then go to midweek services also.
Once you accept Jesus, you have eternal life whether you ever go to church or not, but I’m talking about living in the fullness of all God has for you. I’m talking about expelling the pain from deep within and living in love, peace, and joy. I’m talking about doing God’s will.
Certain visitations of God’s power happen only in the midst of such gatherings of believers. Make it a point to be a part of that.
Outside the Church
There is also strength in being with believers outside the church. When you make friends with people who follow the Lord, there is a strong bond of love that makes other relationships seem shallow. Such friendships are the most fulfilling and healing. They can also be the most frustrating because we expect Christians to be perfect when in reality only Christ is perfect.
It’s helpful to think of all fellowship with believers as beneficial: the pleasant encounters are healing and the unpleasant ones are stretching. When you run across believers who stretch you more than you feel you can handle, don’t turn away from God. Remember, He is still perfect and good even if some of His children aren’t.
God always loves and respects you, even if a few of His offspring don’t. I know that nothing hurts worse than a wound inflicted by a brother or sister in the Lord. Having been wounded many times that myself, I am forced to remember that we will be imperfect until we go to be with Jesus. So we need to be merciful to those who “stretch” us and forgive quickly.
Besides, we are probably stretching others ourselves.
The Bible says we should “not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14), but this doesn’t mean you have to avoid them.
It just means that your closest relationships, the ones that deeply touch and change your life, need to be with believers. Ask yourself, Am I a godly influence in the lives of my unbelieving friends? If so, then consider the relationship good.
However, if they influence you away from God and His ways, then cut off the relationships immediately.
If your spouse is not a Christian, don’t let his or her negative response to Jesus keep you from receiving the Lord’s restoration for you. Check around for a Christian prayer group, Bible study, or a group with similar interests. I know someone who joined a Christian arts and crafts group and found great healing.Start somewhere. Make a phone call to another believer and ask for prayer. Meet someone for lunch and talk about what the Lord has done in your life. Open up and extend yourself in some way. You may feel you don’t have anything to share, but if you have the Lord, He’s all you need.
If our first goal in any relationship is our own fulfillment, we will ultimately be let down or disappointed. As painful as it is, we have to give up that desire and lay it at Jesus’ feet.
However, there may be times when we have done all we can do in a relationship and it is still filled with problems. As hard as we try to make things good, a certain person may always leave you feeling depressed, angry, insecure, frightened, or hurt.
When that happens, it is best to let the friendship go and give it to God to restore or remove as He sees fit.
Fellowship is a step of obedience that expands our hearts, bridges gaps, and breaks down walls. It encourages, fulfills, and balances our lives. All of this is necessary for spiritual well-being and a fruitful life in the will of God.
Lord, I acknowledge my need for other people. I ask You to lead me to relationships whereby I might grow in You and Your will might be fulfilled in me. Show me what steps to take to see that come about.
Tools of Truth
Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another. — Hebrews 10:24-25
Practice hospitality. — Romans 12:13 NIV
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. — 2 Corinthians 6:14
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. — 1 John 1:7
Excerpted with permission from Praying God’s Will for Your Life by Stormie Omartian, copyright Stormie Omartian.
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We need the fellowship of other believers in our lives! Do you have a church home? Church family? If not, start today! Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily
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