If you want a great church and a strong spiritual life, here's the best way to make that happen.
Posted in , Jan 29, 2018
Everyone wants a stronger, more vibrant spiritual life, right? And Christians everywhere want their church to be stronger and more vibrant, right? If that’s your desire, one of the best things you can do to make that happen is to pray for your pastor.
Being a pastor is among the most demanding, most stressful jobs in our modern world. A recent Forbes Magazine article listed “pastor” and “minister” in the top five toughest leadership roles. I’ve been there myself, having pastored four churches over a couple decades. And I have dozens of pastor friends, including my own pastors. Pastors are on the front lines. They juggle numerous tasks, most of which are behind the scenes. They present easy targets for comparisons and complaints. Their spouses and families often suffer from unrealistic expectations. And they often feel alone and misunderstood.
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Some people, of course, wish their spiritual leaders were more dynamic leaders or better preachers or more sensitive shepherds. Some resort to criticizing their pastor or bemoaning the state of their church. But few things will accomplish as much as praying for your pastor. Doing so simultaneously draws you closer to God and makes you a partner with God in the work He wants to do for you, your spiritual life, your church, and your church’s leaders.
What—and how—should you pray? I offer eight suggestions:
1) Pray for your pastor’s marriage and family
No pastor wants to neglect his or her spouse and family. But it is too easy to let the demands of others crowd out the priority of marriage and family. So pray for your pastor’s marriage and children to thrive. Pray for your pastor’s aging parents or other relatives. Ask God to make his or her home a place of beauty and joy that sets a good example for the flock of God.
2) Pray for your pastor’s spiritual life
No one can draw water from an empty well. Yet too often pastors try to preach and teach, counsel and comfort, lead and support to the neglect of their own souls. So pray for your pastor to keep company with God in prayer, to experience blessing and growth in Bible reading (not only to prepare for preaching and teaching), and to find and seize opportunities to worship himself or herself.
3) Pray for your pastor’s physical health
The demands of ministry often compete with healthy lifestyles. In the U.S., people in ministry now suffer from obesity and hypertension at higher rates than those to whom they minister. So pray for your pastor to be protected from sickness and disease. Pray for your pastor to take good physical care of himself or herself, to develop and maintain good diet and exercise routines. Pray for physical strength and stamina, particularly during demanding ministry seasons (such as Advent, building campaigns, etc.).
4) Pray for wisdom and vision
Leaders often face incredibly challenging situations and decisions. Seasons of growth, stagnation, and decline in the church all demand much from a pastor. So pray for God to grant wisdom and vision to your pastor. Pray for wisdom to say “yes” and “no” at the appropriate times. Pray for wisdom in scheduling and hiring and firing. Pray for vision to lead the church as it needs to be led and where it needs to go.
5) Pray for your pastor’s friendships
Being a pastor can be a dangerously lonely job. Few understand the pressures they face and many criticize the decisions they make. Pray for your pastor to make and maintain healthy, strong friendships that will build him or her up, relationships that allow your pastor to be himself or herself, and enjoy an occasional respite from the responsibility of being “all things to all people.”
6) Pray for your pastor’s finances
Many people in ministry are over-committed and underpaid. They make sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel, and often serve churches where funds are tight. But of course Scripture says, “The worker deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18, NIV), and debt and other financial pressures make effective ministry all the more difficult. So pray for your pastor’s financial well-being.
7) Pray for rest
As a pastor, I never realized how tired I was until the first day or two of vacation. I would often collapse in exhaustion and frequently got sick. Eventually, I learned to take a weekly Sabbath, but I was still often “running on fumes” by the time my Sabbath arrived. Many pastors are the same—or worse. So pray for your pastor to get the necessary rest, to be regularly and completely refreshed and revived by sleep, recreation, time off and vacation.
8) Pray for ministry effectiveness
Nothing revives and restores a pastor like a spiritual victory—a grateful response to a sermon, new converts, new members, baptisms, etc. So pray for your pastor to feel useful and effective in his or her efforts, to see the fruit of his or her labors, and to experience the blessing of making a real and lasting difference in people’s lives.
These are not the only prayers you can pray for your pastor, of course. There are too many to list. But these represent a great start, and each will make a discernible difference in your own prayer life—and that of your faith community.