Prayer For our Pastor
Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor
Notes taken during the session.
It is always convicting to receive the assignment to speak on prayer to other pastors. And as I was writing the book that Dr. Piper referenced on prayer, I became increasingly convicted by the Puritans about how little I pray.
So tonight, I am preaching first of all to myself. This topic is at the heart of revival of the church of Jesus Christ. My father told me when I was a teenager that the greatest problem of the church today is prayerless praying.
The sermons of the Reformers and Puritans are not that different than ours. We’re saying essentially the same thing. What was so different was their prayer lives. My aim is that we would truly pray in our prayers. So turn with me to Isaiah 64:6-9 and James 5:13-18.
True prayer is putting ourselves into our petitions, crying out to God Almighty and praying in our prayers. The problem is not that we don’t pray, but rather that seldom we truly prayerfully pray in our prayers. What is this praying? The primary exercise of faith.
Private prayerful praying is the work of the triune God. It has more to do with God than with us. It is Heaven’s greatest weapon that we have at our disposal as a minister of the gospel.
This kind of praying is supposed to be half of our vocation—giving ourselves to the Word and to prayer.The giants of church history dwarf us because of the time and energy that they devoted to private prayer. They were Daniels in private and in public. Luther spent the first two hours of every day in prayer. He once said to Melanchton that he had so much to do that he needed to spend an extra hour in prayer. On the contrary, we too often see prayer as an interruption to our ambition.
Luther was not shy in is prayers. He would often pray loudly and boldly. He said praying was hard work. And he’s right. There is so much working against us in our prayers. Distraction arises in our cold heart and disturbance comes up in those around us.
In all of his busyness, Calvin spent hours in prayer every day. Unless we fix certain hours of every day in prayer, he said, it would slip from our memory. We must taste the sweetness of the fellowship of God in our prayer. We need to strive to grow in prayer.
The Puritans were the same way. They often would rise early, hours before sunrise, to fellowship with God in prayer. John Knox said that the prayers of the great cloud of witnesses rebuked us in our prayerlessness.
In 1651, a group of Scottish ministers gathered together in fear of losing their spiritual vitality and wrote up a joint confession. Number twelve on their list was their prayerlessness.
Tragically, our prayer life is often a building closed for repairs.
We intend to do it better, to get more serious about it. We get down about it. Eventually we begin to call our prayerless praying real prayer. Prayerful praying pierces Heaven and warms the soul.
We so often struggle in public prayer because we so rarely draw near to God in private. The problem with many of us is that our prayer lives have grown dull. We know that backsliding begins in the inner closet of prayer.
Yet, we carry on with the commendation of people while not carrying on with God in prayer.What we need to do tonight is not just confront this problem of prayerless praying, but search for conclusions. All of our excuses are obnoxious in the eyes of God. It is tragic when a minister of the gospel, who is called to be a man of prayer, can rest comfortably in this wicked prayerless condition. It is easier perhaps to riddle ourselves with guilt than to do something about it.
I do not aim to beat you with guilt but to awake you and me up to the need to lay hold of eternal life through the pursuit of a more faithful, more fervent prayer life with your Savior and your God. This will require us to take hold of ourselves and to take hold of God. How?
Take Hold of Yourself in Prayer – Seven Principles
1. Remember the Value of Prayer. As ministers, we must remember that prayer is essential for our ministry and every duty we do as a minister of the gospel. Make it a rule to never engage in any activity in ministry without first seeking God in prayer. I have got to go to God in prayer. It is the most Christ- thing we can engage in, brothers.
What a blessing that we have been called to be men of prayer. Many other men have to work ten hours a day in their secular vocation and we get to spend hours praying. Again my father told me just to have a place to go with your every need is worth more than anything money can buy.
William Bridge said that a praying man can never be miserable because he has the ear of God.
Nothing is so valuable as prayer. The angel fetched Peter prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel. This is Heaven’s greatest weapon.
2. Maintain the Priority of Prayer. Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” Prayer has got to be first. It has to be our priority in every need. Spurgeon wrote, “Your prayers will be your greatest aid in your preparations.
And after the sermon, how can a preacher give vent to his soul if the mercy seat were denied him.” How hard do you pray after your sermon is over? They would pray after the sermon, “Please, Lord. Don’t let the birds take away the seeds of that sermon.
I fear that the pressures of the ministry today to be a jack-of-all-trades, pressures at home, pressures in the media crowd out our time for the priority of this ministry of prayer. We lose our power and authority.
You have to have windows of prayer between your visits and appointments. That is the way to do it.
Keep prayer your priority, not just during your times when you feel a sailboat gliding effortlessly but also when you feel an ice breaker.
3. Prayer With Sincerity. Psalm 62:8. The way to pray is to tell the Lord everything about you he didn’t know anything about you all the while knowing he knows everything about you.Sometimes praying with sincerity means praying briefly, “Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!” God does not look at the logic of your prayers or the style of your prayers but the sincerity of your prayers.
Sincerity in prayer requires integrity in our marriages. Let your prayers be not hindered. Taking hold of our prayers may mean to take hold of our bad attitudes or our treatment of our wives. You have to do something about that.
Perhaps praying first a prayer of repentance. We need to avoid professionalism in our prayers because it is not about our prayers but about our hearts. Spurgeon was asked how to get better at praying in public.
He responded, “Pray more in private.”
4. Cultivate a Continual Spirit of Prayer. Isn’t it true that when you are really close to God that you have those “occasional prayers”? You pray your way through the day. You pray without ceasing.
It is not just during your set times of prayer. We should be a bird returning to its nest when we return to God in prayer.
That is praying in your prayer—having the sense of relationship and knowing that your prayers reach the courts of Heaven.
It struck me how much Calvin used the example of a child crawling up into his father’s lap in relation to prayer. Pray continually. Ask God to help you do that. Whenever you have the least impulse to pray, pray! We have so few impulses to pray that we ought to take advantage of every one of them.
5. Work Toward Organization in Intercessory Prayer. We are ministers. We owe it to our people to pray for every single one of them. We know them and we should pray for them one by one. How? Be strategic.
Have set lists that you have organized and categorized to pray for other people. Newton said his best friends were those who prayed for him. It will be encouraging to your people for them to know you are praying for them.
I take the church directory and pray for the people on one page each day. You love your people and you know their needs.
6. Read the Bible for Prayer. Prayer is a two-way conversation. God comes to us in prayer and we return to him in prayer. Read verse-by-verse, and pray verse-by-verse. Pray your way through the Scriptures. Turn the psalms into prayer.Fill your mind with Scripture and your prayers will gain life. In the house churches in China, they had no Scriptures in print but had so much memorized that their prayers were filled with it. When I get discouraged in my prayers, I often look to volumes of saints’ prayers from the past. I have found that they are filled with Scripture.
7. Keep Biblical Balance in Your Prayers. There are many different kinds of prayers in Scripture, aren’t there? We need to examine our prayer life from time to time and check to see if our prayers are repetitive. Are we covering the same bases when we pray? Listen to others pray. We can learn from others in how we pray.
Take Hold of God in Prayer – Three Principles
1. Plead God’s Promises in Prayer. David says, “My soul clings to you.” God is tender to his own handwriting. That is especially true of his own promises.
It is no arrogance or presumption to pray to God his own promises. Prayer is nothing less than the promise reversed and retorted back to God. Beseech God with his own promises.
Cast your burdens on the Lord and then trust him. Don’t take them right back.
2. Cling to This Glorious Trinity in Prayer. Elijah and Isaiah, cling to it. True prayer is not self-congratulatory but self-condemning and Christ-congratulatory. We should dwell on the Trinity and how the three persons draw us to God. We should meditate on who our God is.
We need all three persons. We come in a Trinitarian fashion. We know our Father’s hands are full of grace because the Son’s hands were pierced for us. We can come boldly to throne of grace. As ministers, we can always say our time is a time of need. We are full of needs. Bring them to God.
God loves a returning minister who grieves over not turning to him in prayer. When he takes hold of you, you can take hold of him.
Let us arise from our prayerlessness and cling to God Almighty, trusting in him, believing in him. We have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
John Owen said we ought to labor in prayer to know each person of the Trinity one by one. In our prayer lives, we need an experiential knowledge of the Triune God.
We do not just pray for God’s benefits but God himself. We need God intimacy and God dependency. When we come to our people when we have come our closets, they can sense the presence of God. Then our people will begin to understand what prayerful praying is all about.
3. Believe that God Answers Prayer. Too often I will cry out to God and am surprised when he answers. Faithless prayer is fruitless prayer. When we don’t trust God, we make a mess of everything.
Let me end by giving you cautionary conclusion. If you want to know something about a man, ask him about his prayer life. Beseech him for mercies upon the church. In prayer, you know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.My aim is not to discourage you. Don’t despair no matter how bad your prayer life is right now. Don’t compare yourself to the saints of past. Let them encourage you that there is more for you in prayer.
Let them stir you up! That is the way to use Isaiah 64 and the prayer life Knox, Luther and Calvin. Battle unbelief and despair with prayer. We need not be crushed by demands to pray for hours but to pray with earnestness.
Take hope in the almighty, Triune God who loves to be prayed to.
Our Pastor’s Need Prayer Too
Every Christ-follower engaged in a local church has a pastor. These followers of Christ should pray for their pastor.
Pastors may appear as though they are so strong they do not need prayer. But I can assure you, any pastor genuinely called to the ministry knows he needs prayer; earnest, passionate, and effective prayer. “Pray for me” should be the number one personal request from a pastor of the church he serves.
Stand on God’s Word When You Pray for Your Pastor
I think the strength of prayer stands on the authority of Holy Scripture. You need to stand on the infallibility and truthfulness of God’s Word when you pray for your pastor. I want to challenge you to pray while standing on Colossians 1:9-12:
For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you.
We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.
Paul was praying this for the believers in Colossae, and these words can be prayed for your pastor.
1. Filled with the knowledge of God’s will
Pastors face the same dilemma people faced in the first century, when these words were penned originally. The knowledge of the world pours into the minds of pastors, but pastors need to have the full knowledge of God’s will. The will of God does not inflate a pastor’s ego, but it enlightens us to do what God wills for us to do.
Father, give my pastor the full knowledge of Your will in all things at all times, personally and for our church.
2. Filled with all spiritual wisdom
Pastors will view life from one of two perspectives: The world or the Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit will always lead a pastor to the Word of God and the will of God. The Spirit of God will lead a pastor to view life and ministry from God’s perspective, not his own. His perspective will determine his decision making.
Heavenly Father, fill my pastor with Your wisdom and perspective about all things in his life, in our church, and in this world.
3. Filled with spiritual understanding
Pastors can operate and lead the church apart from information and facts, but not very effectively.
Spiritual understanding is the experience of seeing the facts and hearing the needed information, but being able to put these things together biblically, spiritually, and practically.A pastor’s leadership and decision making will be determined by the level of his spiritual understanding about whatever is before him.
Lord Jesus, fill my pastor with spiritual understanding that will help him put facts and information together biblically, spiritually, and practically.
4. Walk worthy of the Lord
God wants his people, especially God-called pastors, to live in a way that is worthy of Him. Pastors represent the Lord everywhere they go. Pastors cannot say one thing, but live a different way. Walking worthy always leads to pleasing God and bearing fruit in every way in life.
Oh Lord, empower my pastor to walk in a way that would exemplify You to all persons, pleasing You in all ways, and bearing fruit in every way before others.
5. Strengthened with God’s power
Pastors should be full of spiritual vitality. Pastors need the spiritual strength to overcome the challenges of each day in ministry. Submission to God daily will lead to God’s power.
This power is so strong that a pastor is able to endure stress and suffering that ministry brings. It is so powerful that he will refuse to retaliate in any way toward difficult people and circumstances.
It is even so strong that he will live life and do ministry with true joy that overflows with thanksgiving to God. Every pastor needs this kind of power.
Oh God, strengthen my pastor with Your power that fills him with spiritual life daily, including the difficult days of life and ministry; and leading him to persevere with joy and thanksgiving.
A Brief Word
The people of God have prayed for me through all these days I have served as a local church pastor. It is rare that I would not say to my church with all sincerity, “Please pray for me.” I say it because it is the number one thing people can do for me. It is the number one thing you can do for your pastor. Pray for your pastor daily.
Ronnie Floyd is the Senior Pastor of Cross Church, President of the National Day of Prayer, founder of the Cross Church School of Ministry, and host of the Ronnie Floyd on Life and Leadership Today podcast. Visit our website at http://ronniefloyd.com. Follow Dr. Floyd on and Instagram @ronniefloyd
8 Prayers You Should DESPERATELY Pray For Your Pastor
Pastoral ministry is a business un any other. It is a dangerous business. A sacred business. A business where the souls of people are at stake.
I was a pastor for many years, so I have a feel for the perils and pleasures of ministry. It’s very hard, supremely rewarding work.
Gardiner Spring said:
It is at a fearful expense that ministers are ever allowed to enter the pulpit without being preceded, accompanied, and followed by the earnest prayers of the churches.
It is no marvel that the pulpit is so powerless, and ministers so often disheartened when there are so few to hold up their hands…When the churches cease to pray for ministers, ministers will no longer be a blessing to the churches.
In light of the challenges of ministry, here are 8 prayers every church member should pray for their pastor(s) on a regular basis.
#1 – For Protection From Satan
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
If Satan can take down a shepherd of God’s people, the odds are much higher that God’s people will scatter. That they’ll become bitter and disenfranchised. They will question everything they’ve ever been taught by that pastor. Satan targets pastors because the damage is exponential if they fall. Pray for your pastor that he would be kept safe from Satan.
Father, please protect my pastor from the attacks of Satan. Give him the strength to endure temptation and stand firm against the accusations Satan loves to whisper in his ear. Help him stand firm in your service, always fighting for the faith and for his people.
#2 – For Protection Against His Own Sinful Heart
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
Pastors don’t fall because one day, the blue, they decide to dive headlong into sin. The slide into sin happens slowly, over time, in small increments, as the pastor believes the lies presented to him by his flesh. Pray for your pastor that he would be on guard against the lies of sin. Pray that he would have a proper fear of God.
Father, please protect my pastor from the deceitfulness of sin that we all are so prone to. Guard him from sin. Keep his conscience tender and fresh. Keep him close to you and close to your word.
#3 – For Deep Spiritual Encouragement
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)
Pastoral ministry can be brutal, discouraging work. Pastors find themselves in the midst of terrible situations on a regular basis – divorce, death, apostasy, and much more.
It’s also challenging because they don’t see progress in the sense that other jobs do. Christians are always in progress. Because of this, discouragement and depression can be a regular companion of the minister.Pray for your pastor to be encouraged.
Father, please encourage my pastor by the power of your Spirit. Let his soul be refreshed with the love of Christ. Let him have faith for the future. Help him to keep pressing forward even when the way is littered with landmines. Let him be refreshed by the fact that your grace is sufficient for him.
#4 – For 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)
Many elements of pastoral ministry are not black and white. A husband and wife are in serious conflict, and the husband has one story while the wife has another. A church member needs financial support but has a history of mismanaged finances. A young man struggles with same-sex attraction while still wanting to follow Jesus. Pastors need God’s wisdom to navigate these gray areas.
Father, please give my pastor your wisdom. Help him know the way to go even when the way is not clear. Give him discernment to know good from evil, even when evil is dressed as good. Help him apply your word to even the most confusing situations.
#5 – For Doctrinal Faithfulness
By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you (2 Timothy 1:14).
Pastors can be tempted to modify or even abandon biblical doctrines for a variety of reasons. Cultural pressures, vocal church members, even legal actions can press hard upon pastors, making them feel that the only way out is to give up the clear teaching of Scripture. They need God’s grace to stay faithful to the good deposit of God’s word.
Father, I pray for my pastor that you would help him hold fast to Scripture, even when everyone else tells him to let go. Help him stand on your word and only your word. Protect him from the temptation to abandon the precious truths laid out in Scripture.
#6 – For A Healthy Body
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Ministry can take a tremendous toll on a pastor’s body. Yes, our bodies are temples, but they are often broken temples.
Long nights at the hospital, high-stress situations, and ever-present discouragement can quickly lead to burnout and body betrayal.
Not only do pastor’s need spiritual strength, they need physical strength as well. Pray for your pastor that he would be sustained in body and mind.
Father, please give my pastoral supernatural strength. Protect him from sickness and disease. Give him your energy to keep serving faithfully. Help him to find periods of rest and recovery. Guide him to still waters.
#7 – For A Strong Marriage and Family
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church (1 Timothy 3:2-6)
Church history is littered with the skeletons of pastors whose marriages and families fell apart under the strain of pastoral ministry. And as 1 Timothy states, if a pastor can’t manage his family, how can he manage the church of God? Satan loves to sabotage a pastor’s family, and your pastor needs prayer that God will give him a healthy marriage and family.
Father, please give my pastor a supernaturally healthy marriage. Strengthen the bonds between him and his wife. Encourage them both in ministry. Give both of them wisdom to manage their family and to keep you at the center, not ministry. I also pray for their children that you would let them know you and follow you.
#8 – For Meaningful Friendships
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
Pastoral ministry can be surprisingly lonely. Something about being in a position of leadership isolates the man. People look to him to be a teacher and leader, not be their close friend. Pastors need close friends who will encourage them, hold them accountable, and push them toward Christ.
Father, please give my pastor true, deep, sustaining friendships. Give him friends who stick closer than brothers. Who uphold him when he’s weary. Who help carry his burdens.
Sustained By Prayer
In some ways, pastors are sustained by the prayers of their people. Obviously, God is the one who ultimately sustains pastors, but one of his primary means is through the prayers for pastors.
When it comes to why you should pray for your pastor, take the words of Charles Spurgeon to heart:
No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me.
Do your pastor a true kindness today. Pray for your pastor.