“Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).
Not long ago, my wife and I attended the funeral of a distant in-law kind of relative. We enjoyed meeting friends and making new ones, and were blessed by the service. It was all great except for one thing.
Something big was missing.
Not a single prayer was uttered. Not the first one.
One wonders if the leaders remembered later and said something like, “Oh my–I forgot to pray.”
It would appear that a lot of people are forgetting to pray these days. We should find that extremely disturbing. And more than a little revealing.
“Pray for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel” (Ephesians 6:19).
Whether requested or not, you and I would do well to pray for our pastors.
Then, continuing to pray for your pastor in good times and ill is a sign of great faith in Christ.
So much depends on whether our spiritual leaders are functioning well, close to the Lord, thinking clearly, and in good health.
Here are ten requests we should be asking of the Father for our pastors….
One. A strong sense of God’s calling on the pastor’s life.
“It is the Lord Christ whom ye serve.” (Colossians 3:24)
He is not his own, nor is he “ours.” He has been bought with a price. So, we pray that He may always have a clear sense of where his allegiance begins and ends. This will produce a far greater intensity in his faith and drive to his work ethic than anything the deacons or finance committee can impose.
“Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word” (I Kings 18:36).
I was pastoring a church that had survived–just barely–a massive split a couple of years before I arrived. Many were still carrying guilt over how they had behaved or anger over the misbehavior of others. Or both.
And since these people had ousted the pastor who had provided the spark for all this turmoil, it soon occurred to a strong handful that they could do the same to me.
So, for the first years of my ministry in that church–which actually lasted nearly fourteen years–I had to put up with the detractors, people who were determined to find fault with everything I did and turning it against me.
And then one day I noticed how Elijah had prayed on Mount Carmel.
When a church is pastorless, no one knows who the next pastor will be. While we pray for the Pastor Search Committee regularly, has it occurred to us to begin praying for the object of their search? Here is how I’m praying for our next pastor.…
Please send our church a pastor who will be Thy choice first and foremost. Let him know it, let our search committee know it, and let the church be just as confident about it. May the pastor’s family be supportive also, and even excited. And then…
–protect the pastor and our church from anyone who would rise up later and claim this was a mistake and try to oust him. Dear Lord, protect Thy church.
Send us a pastor who will be loved as dearly as any pastor has ever been loved. This congregation wants to love its pastor.
The pastor says “Now, in the original Greek, this word means….” and church members roll their eyes. Oh brother, some are thinking.
Or, he might say, “In the original Hebrew, that word is…..and it means…..”
To the pastors among us, I ask: Is this necessary?
I find a great many church members are completely turned off by this little one-upsmanship of the preacher. It feels to many like he’s showing off, bragging that he knows some Greek.
I’m not one to say the preacher is showing off. After all, if he studied the language for a few years, clearly learning the Bible in its original forms is important to him, he is now capable of bringing in some of the finer insights from the Word.
But he must not overdo it by trying too hard or expecting too much.
I fear I’ve done this so many times in the past. Forgive me, members of the six churches I’ve served.
In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
Tomorrow is the National Day of Prayer. That’s a good thing. It keeps us focused on the importance of prayer, and probably dumps a load of guilt on all of us for not praying more or better.
Three aspects of prayer make it difficult, and probably even unreasonable. And then, one overwhelming reality keeps us at it with the strong confidence that praying is the best thing we can ever do.
Meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers, I shall be granted to you. (Philemon 22)
Paul wanted prayer that he would arrive safely and on time at his appointed destination.
I ask for that all the time.
More things are wrought by prayer, said Alfred Lord Tennyson, than this world dreams of. Surely, he was right.
We never know when someone is praying, never know when something good resulted from the prayers of our intercessor, and never know when their prayers protected us.
As a preacher supposedly retired, I log some 30 to 35,000 miles a year up and down the highways, primarily to preach and serve the Lord. Last week, ministering in west Texas and in two churches here in Mississippi, I added another couple of thousand miles to the odometer.
Twice in recent history, I have come within a hair’s breadth of buying the farm (cashing in my chips, calling it a day, giving up the ghost; choose your metaphor.). Both times, I was at fault, which is a sobering thought.
“And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites… Therefore, do not be like them…” (Matthew 6:8).
All right, class, listen up. If you expect to be the next generation of hypocrites, you need to give me your full attention. The old Pharisees will be passing off the scene before long, and we’ll need a new class of the double-minded–you know, the play-actors–ready to step up and fill their ranks.
Tongue firmly planted in cheek now, everyone? All right. Let us proceed….
It’s not easy being a hypocrite. You’re always working on two levels, keeping things to yourself while presenting another image to the world. And that’s hard. It takes a pretty smart person to pull this off. Shallow lazy people can be a lot of things, but not a successful Pharisee.
Scripture says “a double-minded person is unstable in all his ways; he should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” That’s James 1:7-8. We cite it here for two reasons. First, to say how tough our calling is, and second, to remind ourselves that being hypocrites we’re not expecting to receive anything from the Lord for our prayers. That’s not the point.
“Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation” –Psalm 51:12.
Just because salvation is for eternity, anchored forever in the faithfulness of God, does not mean you cannot lose the closeness and fellowship with our wonderful Lord. A married couple can lose their joy and intimacy for a season, although the marriage is still valid and intact.
God’s faithfulness does not wax hot and cold depending on what we do or how we felt when we woke up this morning. He does not undo our salvation when we weaken and falter. The blessings upon us are conditional to our faithfulness and may dry up, but the relationship never varies. Forever, we are His and He is ours.
My children may be in or out of my favor at given times, but they are still mine.
By “pet peeve,” we mean only a minor disagreement. An annoyance. We find certain things irritating, but they are not deal-breakers. No federal case, no mountains from a molehill. Okay to disagree. A personal thing is all.
One. The pastor rises to begin his sermon, and says to the congregation, “Will you stand in honor of the Word of God?”
It sounds noble. It is meant to inspire honor for Holy Scripture.
My question is: So, preacher, do you have them jump up every time you quote a verse of Scripture? Then, why do it at the first? And if you say this practice is scriptural, which it is (Nehemiah 8:5), then why don’t you have them stand up throughout the entire sermon? The Bible says Jesus sat down to preach (Luke 4:20). And somewhere it says the people stood up while he preached.
What it feels like–to me at least–is the preacher is trying to come across as holier than those who do not ask people to stand for the reading of the Word. He saw some other preacher do it and thought it was a good idea. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, only that it’s unnecessary and may be motivated by less-than-noble motives. But it’s not a deal-breaker. Do it if you feel strongly about it. (Ask them to stand every time you quote a verse, however, and this will go south quickly! Smile, please.)