How to Pray for Your Pastor (Series): Your Pastor is a Desperate Man
How to Pray for Your Pastor (Series): Why Should You Pray for Your Pastor?
Praying for Your Pastor in Light of His Qualifications, Part 1: The Necessity of a Qualified Ministry
Praying For Your Pastor According to His Qualifications, Part 2: A Holy Ambition and a Holy Life
Praying for Your Pastor According to His Qualifications, Part 3: Self-Control, Family, and Money
Praying for Your Pastor According to his Qualifications, Part 4: Humility and Teaching
Pray for Your Pastor in Light of His Responsibilities, Part 1: The Pastor as Shepherd Leader
Pray for Your Pastor in Light of His Responsibilities, Part 2: Feeding the Sheep
Pray for Your Pastor in Light of His Responsibilities, Part 3: Protecting the Sheep
Pray for your Pastor In Light of His Responsibilities, Part 4: Leading the Sheep
How to Pray for Your Pastor in Light of His Pressures and Temptations, Part 1: Anxiety over the Flock and Attacks from Professing Christians
How to Pray for Your Pastor in Light of His Pressures and Temptations, Part 2: Family Life and the Battle Against Sin
When I think over my pastoral roles and responsibilities, there are few things that comfort me more than knowing that folks in my church are praying regularly for me, my wife, and my children. I hope you take to heart what has been written in these pages and consider the necessity and overwhelming benefit of praying for your pastor, for I trust he feels the same.
In the previous posts I noted that Scripture not only calls us to pray for our pastors, but that such prayer is a vital means of grace for those who shepherd your local congregation—for they are desperate men in need of strength, wisdom, and spiritual power. When you make it a priority to pray for your pastor, you are serving not only your pastor; you are serving your whole congregation and anyone else who benefits from your pastor’s ministry.
Cultivating Love for Your Shepherds
Prayer for your pastors also nurtures a heart-felt love for the men who lead your church week in and week out. Pastors experience much grief from the hands of prayerless church members whose raw words of suggestion, correction, or rebuke have yet to be refined by genuine supplication to Jesus on their behalf.
It may be right for you to suggest large or small-scale changes in the church. It may be time to correct your pastor on something he mistakenly says nearly every week from the pulpit. And there may be occasions when it is entirely appropriate to rebuke your pastor in private for the careless word he spoke at the deacon’s meeting last week. But unless we are in regular prayer for our pastors, we will rarely offer our suggestions, corrections, and rebukes in a way that benefits our pastors or furthers our own sanctification.
Consistent prayer for our shepherds according to the biblical categories outlined in these posts will purify our motives and season our speech when it comes time to offer our ideas or admonishments.
The Need for Perseverance in Prayer
I would be remiss, however, if I did not end this series with a brief word on perseverance in prayer. God has designed genuine spiritual growth to occur slowly, even imperceptibly, which is why Scripture often uses agricultural and physiological examples to illustrate individual and corporate progress in the Christian life (see, for example, Matt 13:18-23; 1 Cor 3:6-7; Eph 4:12-13; Col 2:19). Indeed, it is the quick-growing plant that should give concern that it’s growth is superficial and unlikely to endure seasons of drought (Matt 13:6, 21).
This means we must be willing to think long-term with regard to praying for our pastors. You might, after reading through this series of blog posts, be encouraged to begin praying earnestly for our pastors and include them in your daily devotions. After a few weeks or even months, however, we could be tempted to give up our new resolution because we don’t see the biblical changes we hoped to see. But don’t give up. For the sake of your pastors, your brothers and sisters in Christ, and your own walk with the Lord, keep on praying.
When we are weary of praying, our Lord encourages us to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking because our heavenly Father loves to give good gifts to his children (Matt 7:7-11). He knows that we are tempted to stop praying for requests that don’t receive immediate response, so he gave parables to His disciples “to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (see Luke 18:1-7). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul echoed Jesus’ exhortation for endurance: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9). Note that the reaping is conditional on our perseverance in well doing. If we desire to enjoy the fruit of our prayers for our pastors, we must, by God’s grace, continue in prayer for them.
Praying According to God’s Will
The primary reason I structured these posts around the pastor’s qualifications, roles, and specific pressures and temptations is because I desire our prayers for our pastors to be effective. There are two essential components to effective Christian prayer. The first is given in 1 John 4:21-23.
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us.
The first component to effective prayer is a clean conscience. That is what John refers to when he says, “if our heart does not condemn us” (v. 21). We are able to keep a clean conscience by regularly confessing our sins (1 John 1:5-10), trusting in Jesus’ atonement on the cross (1 John 1:7; 2:2) and walking in righteousness and love (1 John 2:5, 15-17, 28-29; 3:11, 16-18). When we “keep [God’s] commandments and do what pleases him” we can have confidence that “whatever we ask we receive from him.” The second component to effective Christian prayer is found a little later in 1 John 5:14-15.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
The second element to effective Christian prayer is praying according to God’s will. John does not hesitate to make the astounding claim that those who pray according to God’s will “have the requests that we have asked of him” (v. 15). If we want God to hear and answer our prayers for our pastors, then we must make sure that we are praying according to God’s will in the matter. And the only way to pray for our pastors according to God’s will is by praying according to God’s Word. Framing our study around the pastor’s qualifications, responsibilities, and unique temptations helps us think according to God’s Word on this vital topic and grants us the confidence that God hears our prayers and delights to answer them.
So Now What?
So how might you use what you’ve learned in these posts most beneficially? Let me offer you a few suggestions before we conclude.
(1) Determine today to pray regularly for your pastors. If God has impressed upon your heart through His Word the importance of praying for your shepherds, do not neglect this encouragement from the Holy Spirit. Our hearts grow numb to the truth if we do not act on these spiritual experiences of conviction and admonish-ment. Make a plan to pray for your pastor and put your plan into action.
(2) Set reasonable goals. It is possible, however, in your zeal to make the most of what the Lord has taught you through his Word, to establish lofty, unrealistic goals for prayer. But if you usually don’t pray for a total of an hour each morning, then planning to pray for an hour each morning for your pastor probably isn’t going to happen. Instead, plan to include your pastor in your prayers for a couple minutes a day. If you pray for certain people on specific days of the week, set aside a day when you pray for your church and for your pastor.
(3) Pray through each biblical category in these posts. As you pray, it might be helpful to guide your time of devotion by praying through the biblical categories outlined in these blog posts. For example, you could pray for one pastoral qualification, responsibility, or temptation on a given day as you work sequentially through these posts.
(4) Gather other church members and regular attenders around you. As you plan to pray for your pastor, involve others at your church so that many people in your local congregation might devote themselves to praying for the life and ministry of your shepherds. You might establish a once-a-month prayer group or meet regularly with a good friend to pray specifically for your overseers.
(5) Inform your pastor. As you begin to pray more intentionally for your pastor, let him know. He will be encouraged to hear that he can rely upon your prayers to keep him qualified, to empower his ministry, and to aid him in fending off the devil and his many schemes.
(6) Help others pray for their pastor. As you grow in your understanding of what a biblical ministry entails and how such understanding should inform your prayers, it is possible that you turn inward and think only of your particular congregation. Yes, we should desire that God richly bless our local church with spiritual growth and health. But it is easy to turn even this good desire into a kind of competition where we look down on churches that are not as healthy as ours. You can counter this temptation to corporate self-righteousness by actively helping others pray for their pastors. As you meet with friends and relatives from other churches, share with them what you have learned from Scripture about praying for your pastor, and encourage them to pray according to biblical categories for the good of their local congregation, the community, the world, and even their own walk with Jesus.
(7) Don’t give up. I’ve said it already, but it bears repeating: don’t give up praying for your pastor. As you practically apply the truths we studied in this series, you will find that your flesh, the devil, and the world will conspire to discourage you from persevering in prayer for those who serve as your shepherds. Our indwelling sin and slothfulness will entice us to abandon our resolutions once we meet with spiritual struggle, mental tiredness, or simple busyness. A biblical ministry is a force for tremendous, eternal good in the world, and Satan will not rejoice at the prospect of stronger pastors and spiritually healthy churches. And the predominant, anti-supernatural worldview that pervades much of our culture will tempt you to think your prayers are little more than superstition. But don’t give up. Remain in the Scripture, remind yourself at what is at stake by considering the biblical categories we have studied in this series, and keep praying for your pastor.
Your pastor is a desperate man. Christ has entrusted to him a task that made even the formidable apostle Paul cry out, “Who is sufficient for these things” (2 Cor 2:16)? He needs grace to remain qualified; he needs wisdom and perseverance to carry out his responsibilities; he needs power in his preaching; he needs patience in his counseling; he needs holiness in his personal life; and he needs authenticity in his walk with Jesus. He needs your prayers.
Pray for your pastor.