A friend who pastors a church not far from my home posted the following on his Facebook wall, inviting his friends to finish it: “Saturdays are for_______.”
I wrote, “You know the answer to that, Craig. You’re a pastor and you know that Saturdays are for worrying about Sunday and fretting over the sermon.”
All too true, I’m afraid.
Recently–again on Facebook–a pastor friend in Ruston, Louisiana, wrote on a Thursday, “Sermon finished. Heading home.”
What I wondered was whether he continued to fret with that sermon in his conscious and subconscious mind for the next 72 hours until preaching time arrived. I know I would have.
A young pastor whom I used to mentor some years back said in a recent phone conversation that sermon delivery is still a challenge for him. I suggested that he finish the sermon by Friday and then go for a walk or a drive and preach it a couple of times. I was surprised by his answer.
“The problem,” he said, “is the sermon is never finished by then. In fact, it goes right on growing and developing through Saturday night. Sometimes, it’s Sunday morning when the ‘aha!’ moment comes and I see what I’ve been missing in this message.”
I understand. Most preachers do.
One more reason to pray for your pastor.
As far as I recall, no one has ever approached me with the question, “How should I pray for my pastor on a Saturday?” But if they did (and I wish they would!), here is my answer:
1) Pray for God to settle the sermon in his mind.
He has struggled with Sunday’s message all week (or longer, in most cases) and it’s time it was coming together if he’s to have it clear in his own mind in time to deliver it the next morning.
2) Pray for the Holy Spirit to get through to him regarding his study habits.
My hunch is that our tardy sermon preparation has as much to do with patterns of study and discipline picked up in childhood which we continue to labor under. In order to grow beyond this, we need the intervention and the healing and the restructuring work of the Holy Spirit.
3) Pray for him to have peace tonight and great energy tomorrow.
Your preacher does not need the extra energy tonight; he has to sleep and rest. If he goes to bed pumped up over tomorrow’s sermon, the adrenalin overpowering his system will keep him hyper all night, block his sleep and guarantee that he will be fatigued in the morning.
Personally, I would like to rephrase Psalm 127:2, “He gives to his beloved even in his sleep,” and make it read, “He even gives sleep to his beloved.”
It may surprise you to know that many pastors have trouble sleeping on Saturday night.
It’s illogical, I know. The bad sleep pattern has nothing whatsoever to do with cold logic. He can assure himself all he pleases that “I’ve gone through a thousand Sundays like the one I’m facing tomorrow, the Lord has always been faithful, and when it’s over, I’ll be rejoicing in the His grace.” He can say that and believe it, but anxiety does not cave in before logic and reason.
Pray for him, fo rest tonight and energy tomorrow. Pray for “the peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7) to be given him.
4) Pray for today’s burdens to be light and tomorrow’s distractions to be few.
Ideally, Saturday should be a day of relaxation and distraction for the pastor and his family. If his children are school-age, this is his only full-day to spend with them. Ball games, picnics, social events, family outings–these will do him as much good in preparation for Sunday as a three hour prayer meeting. (I said it and I stand by it!)
If you are a leader in your church, encourage the pastor to schedule as few church events on Saturdays as possible. Then, push the same agenda among the laity!
The joke among preachers is that on Sunday morning just about the time he’s walking into the sanctuary with the burden of God’s message weighing heavily on his heart, some disgruntled sister approaches him to complain that the ladies’ bathroom is running low on tissue.
What is not funny, however, is when the plaintiff-on-a-tear corners the minister to lower the boom about his omissions in ministry, his failures as a pastor, and his shortcomings as a preacher. I don’t care if he is an Adrian Rogers or Ed Young or Andy Stanley, that smarts. It cuts deeply. The pastor will have to fight diligently from that moment to the time he enters the pulpit if he is to regain the message God gave him with the edge and energy it requires.
Let me suggest that if you discover this sort of disheartening thing happening with your minister more than once in a rare while, you start a movement to put a stop to it.
5) Pray that when he stands up to preach on Sunday, the only thing on the pastor’s mind is pleasing the Father.
Let me tell you what happens when he walks to the pulpit and begins the message.
The pastor’s eyes roam across the auditorium to make eye contact. That’s when he sees the following:
–a sister who is angry at him for some real or imagined slight and is glaring at him (if she had Superman’s x-ray vision, she’d be setting him afire!),
–a brother who has been criticizing him for shortcomings in his sermons (the pastor wonders what he will find in today’s message),
–a young woman whose clothing is revealing far too much of her body than is wise (the preacher is as human as any man in the room, no matter how saintly he is or how godly you think him to be),
–and some poor soul who is carrying great burdens and has been needing a visit from the pastor for weeks ( the pastor makes a mental note to get to him/her this week for sure).
He sees someone who may be offended by today’s sermon and take personally what was never meant to be directed at her. He sees a cluster of dignified visitors who may well be a pastor search committee from Bigtown (he hopes he wore his best suit today).
The distractions are enormous.
All the while, he’s laboring to deliver the message God in Heaven gave him from His Word that week.
Pray for the preacher, friend.
Pray for him early Sunday morning, particularly if you are in a Sunday School class or any group that meets in advance of the worship time. Set a pattern for the others you are among to pray for the Lord’s shepherd and to do so diligently and doggedly.
Your prayers for the pastor is no place to pile up cliches and vain repetitions. This is some of the most urgent intercession you will do all week.
And do one thing more: when the service ends, offer up thanks to God for that message. He sent it to you and others like you. The pastor was merely the messenger, so you do not necessarily have to seek him out and thank him. He will feel amply rewarded if he sees that his congregation is taking the message to heart.
And if you feel the message was not one of his better ones–no pastor hits a home run every time he steps to the plate–keep it to yourself. You’d be surprised how God can use a poor sermon ineffectively delivered to achieve His purposes.
One wonders how many men of God would still be in the ministry had they had godly men and women in the pews who daily lifted them to the Lord in prayer.
Nothing tells the tale on our Christian maturity and faithfulness like our praying. And nothing says that you love the Lord’s church like your praying for its leader.