The Last Dance, a recent ESPN documentary about Michael Jordan, has been captivating the quarantined in recent weeks. Following the story of Jordan’s superhuman drive to success, we have been reminded why every kid on a court since 1984 has wanted to “be like Mike.” While our enchantment with champions...
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)
There’s rarely a day that I don’t pray. At 5:30 in the morning, en route to the gym, I praise God for his fresh mercies and steadfast faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23); I pray for my wife’s safety (Psalm 91:1-2) as she departs for school to teach a group of spirited first-graders; and together, we pray for our son each night before bed (Proverbs 22:6).
What I don’t do enough is pray for our pastor.
Prayer tends to return to the same people and petitions, except for those times when an urgent request is brought to our attention; it holds our focus for a few days or weeks until we hear otherwise, or the prayer fades from memory. Likewise, we often think someone else is praying for the pastor. Surely, he has a dedicated group of people that are praying for him and his family on a daily basis, right?
While this may be true, whether the church size is 100, 1,000, or or 10,000 people, every pastor will benefit from the faithful prayers of every soul he is responsible to steward. In short, your pastor needs many prayers from his congregation—including you—but three readily stand out:
1. Pray for your pastor’s humility and wisdom.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
There’s an eloquent simplicity about this verse. Ask God, and he will give generously. He will bestow the pastor in pursuit of wisdom a generous portion of it. “If you should say you want a great deal of wisdom, a small portion will not serve your turn, the apostle affirms, he gives liberally,” says Matthew Henry.
In addition to drawing near to Christ through the Scriptures regularly, wisdom comes through conversations with trusted people. An elder board. A deacon board. Fellow pastors. Laypeople. “You will seldom rise above the quality of people who surround you,” says Bob Merritt, Senior Pastor of Eagle Brook Church. A wise pastor asks others for their thoughts before making decisions that impacts the church as a whole.
The desire for wisdom implies humility. James says that the man who lacks wisdom will ask God; conversely, the prideful man, puffed up and arrogant, will likely shirk from kneeling before the Almighty. He will go his own way. Consequently, pride precedes his destruction (Proverbs 16:18). But the Lord will lift up the humble pastor (James 4:10).
So pray for your pastor’s humility and wisdom! Pray that he would spent time in God’s Word and with wise people. Pray for his fight against pride.
2. Pray for your pastor’s mental and physical health.
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12)
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had an anxiety disorder within the past year, and an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point. Meetings with elders and deacons and members, budget sessions, counseling others through hardship, visits to the hospital, presiding over funerals, and preparing for the week’s sermon can induce major stress upon the pastor.
Consider the apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 11, he spoke of imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks, hunger, and exposure to the elements. This man feared for his life, but still felt “anxiety for all the churches” (v. 28). To know that a man like Paul struggled mentally is a boon for the weary pastor as he faithfully navigates mental and physical hardship through the power of God.
Your pastor needs the prayers of your whole church for fresh strength. “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength,” writes the prophet Isaiah (40:29). “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,” he adds two verses later. Regular prayers from your church body for an increase in strength will help your pastor keep fighting the good fight of faith against the enemy’s schemes.
3. Pray for protection against the enemy.
A few years ago, my pastor spoke of a family trip in the mountains of north Georgia. During a bike ride, his wife tumbled to the ground after losing control downhill. She struck her head, and the next 24 hours became crucial. Needless to say, that was a long night for him. He prayed—how he prayed. Others prayed. Thankfully, she fully recovered, and quickly at that.
Whether Satan played a role in the fall of the pastor’s wife is not for me to say, but make no mistake: The devil despises every follower of Christ, especially those who want to advance his glorious message of redemption.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
But through fervent prayers for our pastors, we (and he) can stand firm, submit to God, and resist the enemy’s deceptions and lies (James 4:7).
God Works through Your Prayers
In the words of 18th century minister Gardiner Spring:
Let the thought sink deep into the heart of every church, that their minister will be such a minister as their prayers make him.
Surely God will lift up ministers to be effective and far-reaching in spite of churches with minimal prayer. Yet, the pastors who lead a regularly praying church will see God work powerfully as he expands his kingdom and draws many to his Son. Spring also writes:
How perilous is the condition of that minister then, whose heart is not encouraged, whose hands are not strengthened, and who is not upheld by the prayers of his people!
Will you help your pastor with the Great Commission (see Matthew 28)? Pray for his wisdom, physical and mental health, and his protection against the enemy. Pray that God will give generously to him, because your pastor prays for you.
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