How to Pray for Your Pastor
Brethren pray for us.— Paul the Apostle - 1 Thessalonians 5:25
Pastors need our prayers
To most Christians it is a given that our pastors pray for us. We often say, "Pastor, please pray for me because..." and like any good pastor, he does so, because you are sheep in his flock and praying for you is one way to tend you. But how often do you pray for your pastor? It's something to think about, and something every member of the church needs to do.
Throughout Paul's epistles he tells the churches that he is praying for them. In fact, it almost sounds like that's all he did while he was in prison. But a little study through those same epistles reveals how many times he asked for the churches to pray for him, with him, for his ministry, and for his ministry partners. Take a look:
Paul asks for prayer
- Rom. 15:30, 31 - Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints...
- 2 Cor. 1:10-11 - ...who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.
- Eph. 6:19-20 - ...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
- Col. 4:3-4 - And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
- 1 Thes. 5:25 - Brethren, pray for us.
- 2 Thes. 3:1-2 - Finally brethren, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith.
- Heb. 13:18 - Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.
Paul Sought Prayer for Open Doors
Aaron and Hur Support Moses
In Exodus 17:8-16 we read about the Israelites first war since crossing the Red Sea. When they settled in Rephidim, the formidable Amalekites decided to attack. Moses commanded Joshua to gather an army and fight the battle. When Joshua went to follow orders, Moses went up on a hill overlooking the battle to intercede for the Israelites as they fought the Amalekites, holding up the rod of God in his hands. He stood there for hours, holding up his staff and praying that God would protect his army and help them win the battle. As you might imagine, his arms got mighty tired. Listen in:
As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle (vs. 11-13).
What we see is the leader of the flock of Israel, serving God and His people, under a very serious and stressful situation. He obeyed God's call to intercede for a battle that God told them to fight, and to do it beyond what he was able to physically do. What a gift from God Aaron and Hur were to Moses. They came alongside of him in his weariness, and supported him so he could do the work God was calling him to do. If they had not come alongside him, the battle would have been lost, for in his own strength, he could not hold up that staff for an entire day, let along an hour.
Although all Christians should be remembering their pastor regularly in prayer, I believe God calls some of us to be Aaron's and Hur's to our pastors - more up close and personal. This would be a man or group of men who became personal prayer partners of the pastor. This would allow also for an accountability group. Pastors often hear of women, especially elderly women, who have a burden and commitment to pray for him regularly. I am sure many times they never know such men and women are doing this. But certainly his life and ministry are impacted because of it.
Thankfully, Aaron and Hur were sensitive and obedient to God enough to support Moses in his God-given task. We can be Aaron's and Hur's to our pastor by coming alongside him and holding him up in prayer, and helping him in the ministry.
I find it interesting to note that prior to this battle with the Amalekites when the Israelites first arrived and camped in Rephidim, they complained against Moses because there was no water. They blamed him for doing them wrong by bringing them to a place with no water, as if he was out to make them miserable. They demanded Moses produce water. They didn't say please, or let's pray for a solution. They were contentious and totally lacking in faith. With exasperation, Moses chastised them. Nonetheless he went to the Lord and asked for mercy for this flock of ungrateful, faithless malcontents (like we can be sometimes). He asked the Lord for water to relieve their thirst. Of course God came through, using Moses as His instrument. So even when the Israelites were behaving so contentiously toward Moses, he interceded on their behalf because God called him to do so. I believe also, that despite their contentious ways, he cared about them and hoped to show and teach them God's love, faithfulness, and provision. After the water episode, he turned around and interceded for them again when they were under siege from the Amalekites.
Aaron, Hur, and Moses
What are Pastors Up Against?
1 Timothy 2:1-3 tells us to pray and make petitions and thanksgivings for all, especially for those in authority. That includes your pastor. His ministry, family, and other responsibilities are great. The pastor and his family have challenges on a daily basis that can be quite discouraging and wearisome. I hesitated at the beginning of writing this article to explain the various stressors pastors deal with because I didn't want to paint a picture that pastors find no blessing in their flocks or their ministry. But if I am to write on the topic of praying for our pastors, beside the fact what we should pray for all people anyway, it needs to be said why else we should do so, and quite frankly, it's not going to be all positive. But hopefully we will be challenged in a positive way to take our responsibility seriously and honorably by being kind, loving, and respectfu sheep, and that it will inspire and motivate us to pray for him, with him, and to do the work of the ministry with him.
Here is a partial list of the challenges and stressors pastors experience on a daily basis, and why we should pray for them. Have an open heart as you read them.
- Nearly everyone has preconceived ideas, strong opinions, and expectations of how a pastor should shepherd. Some people strongly vocalize these to their pastor, his family, to the church board, and to the rest of the flock. They tear down the one who is called and seeks to build us up and equip us to minister with him. Most of the time, these people have not sought God on these matters. We can sometimes be unkind and insensitive.
- Pastors struggle with their own faith, doubts, their own relationship with God, and their own fleshly weaknesses, just like the rest of us. It is true the Bible says that teachers of the word are called to a stricter judgment, and responsible to rightly divide the word of truth, and must be above reproach; but that doesn't mean they are not human. Almost every great leader in the Bible struggled, fell or failed in some way. Some didn't fare so well, but many were restored and went on to be used of God in incredible ways. God gave them grace the same way he does us and your pastor.
- Pastor's wear many hats that we don't consider. Being a pastor is much more than preparing and preaching sermons and visiting the sick in the hospital. They work with the board of elders (or whatever church government they have) to make many ministry decisions which are constant; administrative issues; handling problems within the body; planning and implementing; discipiling; counseling; and deal with their own family and personal issues. They get tired and discouraged with all the responsibilities. We need to especially understand that the pastor's first responsibility is to God, then his family, then the church. That may make you gasp, but if they are not doing their job in the first two areas, they are not likely going to shepherd well.
- Pastors hear more complaining and criticism than they do gratitude and affirmation. Think Moses and the children of Israel. How discouraging it can be. A lot of it is nitpicky, unnecessary, or invalid. Many times we are the real problem, or someone else, thus we, or someone else, are the answer to the problem, not him. For all their hard work, love and care for us, we ought to respect and affirm them often.
- We expect the pastor do it all. Someone has an idea for a new ministry or program, or it would be great to have a softball team, therefore, Pastor must do it. Um, no. He is there to equip us to do it. This is very clear in Scripture. Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses. Paul had many brothers and sisters that came alongside him as well, and in all of his letters to the churches he exhorts them to do the work of the ministry. He stresses using our God given gifts.
- The pastor and his family live in a fishbowl; their lives are dissected, judged and gossiped about. This kind of pressure is very weighty, especially for his wife and children. Everyone has their own idea and expectation of how they should raise their children, how their children should behave (they are born immature and sinful just like our children), how his wife should dress, how they spend their money, etc. etc.
- People want to be known as special friends of the pastor and his family, simply so they will look special and important to others. This happens with leaders everywhere, in and out of the church, or with famous people. Worst case scenario, this insincerity will lead to gossip, even betrayal. It creates trust issues for them when people reach out in friendship. We need to be sensitive to that.
- The enemy knows if he strikes the shepherd the sheep will scatter. Many spiritual leaders fall morally or in some other way. Leaders have temptations too, and probably more so because of the pressures they face, and they are a special target for Satan. That is not an excuse to sin, but they are often more vulnerable than most, and again, they are human. Sometimes the enemy strikes in other ways. The statistics for burnout and leaving the ministry are startling. Many pastors are struggling with serious depression and anxiety and marital problems due to all of the above. When it gets this bad they are spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally spent. How can we ignore them in prayer when they do so much for us?
I am sure I've only touched the tip of the iceberg with this list. But all to say, we not only need to pray for our pastor (and his family), but we need to love them in word and deed!!!!
Ten things to pray for your pastor
Here are ten things to pray to begin with:
1. Pray that God would raise up prayer partners to pray with and for your pastor.
2. Pray your pastor will have consistent devotional time each day.
1. Prayer partners
Strive together with him in prayer
Rom. 15:30, 31 - Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints...
2. Daily devotional time
3. Powerful preaching
3. Pray that there is power in your pastor's preaching.
4. Pray that he rightly divides the word of truth.
5. Pray that he will put on the whole armor of God.
6. Pray he will boldly proclaim the gospel.
7. Pray there will be mutual encouragement between the pastor and the congregation.
8. Pray he will use his spiritual gifts and encourage others to do so as well.
9. Pray God protects him from wolves with sheep's clothing.
10. Pray God will give him faithful, trustworthy friends and fellow leaders.
4. Preach truth
5. Spiritual warfare
Pray for him to have boldness
Eph. 6:19 ...praying... for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
8. Practicing spiritual gifts
Pray for deliverance from evil people
2 Thess. 3:1-2 - Finally brethren, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith.
9. Protection from evil people
10. Trustworthy, faithful friends
Don't stop at ten
Don't stop at ten things. The sky is the limit. You don't have to pray the same things everyday. For me it is easiest to pray Scripture, and to remember that we have the same everyday needs as pastors with a few exceptions. Here are some more ideas:
- Make yourself a weekly list. On each day pray for one or more (whatever is your comfort zone) specific things.
- Each day you can pray something different. If the Lord speaks to you that there are specific things he wants you pray for your pastor each day, then do it.
- Pray in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
- Remember, your pastor prays for you and you ought to pray for him. God's word tells us to pray for all men and to honor your spiritual leaders.
Let's face it, there can never be too much prayer for anyone. May the Lord bless you and your pastor as you pray for one another.
© Lori Colbo 2015. All rights reserved.