So Many Reasons To Pray For The Preacher

A friend and I have been having an internet discussion about preachers. We both love our preachers, and years ago, I was her pastor, so we have a mutual understanding about a lot of things.

The conversation went like this.

She: “One of the things I’ve enjoyed in our church lately is an enhanced understanding of every phrase of the Lord’s prayer. So much so that I was offended recently at a funeral when the minister asked us to stand and ‘recite’ the Lord’s Prayer. I don’t think it’s something to be recited; it’s something to be prayed diligently!”

She added: “Now don’t go getting the wrong idea. I think that preacher is a delightful person, and I like him very much.”

I said, “Asking someone to ‘recite’ the Lord’s Prayer reminds me of something similar that drives me up the wall. You’ll be in a moving worship service, and the leader will say, ‘Now, let us have a word of prayer,’ or ‘I’m going to ask Bill to lead us in a word of prayer.’ I don’t know why that bothers me so much. I feel like calling out, ‘Hey friend, pray! Don’t just have a ‘word’ of prayer. Go to the Heavenly Father and pray!’ Somehow, it minimizes the importance of prayer, as though we’re all tipping our hats to the Almighty, then going on with the important stuff.”

We branched out to discussing how we preachers sometimes say foolish things without a clue as to how it’s being received. I told her about a recent internet conversation with a friend in North Carolina.

He had told me a story of some earnest soul who had come to a Catholic nun with a question and ended up getting slapped down verbally. I said, “You know, over 40 years in the ministry, I’ve said so many truly dumb things like that, that I wonder how many people are still quoting me and shaking their heads over such stupidity. It gives me a special appreciation for those who cut me some slack and have graciously forgotten such things.” He came back with, “How true, how true.”

At that point, my long-time friend and former member began to dredge up a couple of those very things, thoughtless remarks I had uttered years ago. Time has minimized their sharpness and given us a healthy perspective on them, and she did it in good humor.

“The small goof of yours I’ve never forgotten,” she said, “is the Christmas Eve service when you said, ‘There are three stages of life: when you believe in Santa Claus, when you don’t believe in Santa Claus, and when you find out you are Santa Claus.’ And this with a chapel full of small children including my 3 year old. Fortunately, she wasn’t listening! If she had been, you would have had to explain that remark, not me!!”

I told her about the time some ten years ago when I was doing a children’s sermon in our church here in New Orleans, and with a crowd of children around my knees, told them that one way you can tell you are growing up is when you can tell the real from what is make-believe. “For instance,” I said, “is Frosty the Snowman real or pretend?” “Pretend!” they cried. “How about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?” “Mary and Joseph?” “The Shepherds and the Wise Men?” “Jesus?” They were really with me until I said, “Santa Claus?” I almost had to resign the church over that one, and ended up meeting with several parents the next week to try to work my way out of the box I’d put myself in.

My friend said, “Years ago, when you were our pastor, our relationship changed the day I quit praying about you and started praying for you.” This was news to me, and a new thought to consider.

“It happened one Sunday morning in church. I don’t know why I was upset with you, but I was, and I said, ‘God, when are you going to do something about him?’ I heard the reply as clearly as anything: ‘When are you going to stop praying about him and start praying for him?’ Oops. I have prayed for my pastor ever since.” She paused and added, “Yes, and even Pastor Blank. That one didn’t work, though.” I smiled and let it lay.

There are so many reasons to pray for your pastor.

He stands before crowds large and small who, unlike most 3 year olds, listen to what he says. When he gets the words right, he comforts the hurting and shines a light in darkness and clears a path for the lost. When he gets it right, he shows people Jesus, gives them hope, and helps them stand. But when he gets it wrong, he can hurt people in ways they may never recover from, simply because they trust him in the deepest and most personal matters of life.

Pray for your pastor’s words. Every day, people come to his office seeking advice about personal matters, issues on which he may or may not have a clue. Perhaps he’s in a hurry, on his way to an appointment, swamped by personal matters of his own, or simply tired or ill. In his fatigue or impatience or pain, he utters words that can cut or heal, bless or curse. Pray for him.

Pray for your pastor’s heart. Recently, our pastor, Tony Merida, said, “One thing I fear is that the things that move me most right now may some day become commonplace to me.” Pray for the pastor.

Pray for your pastor’s purity. His television brings in the same channels yours does. Walking in the mall, his eyes take in the same sights as yours. He has the same temptations to impurities in thought the rest of us face. Pray for him.

Pray for your pastor’s choices. Should he answer the phone tonight or let it ring? Respond to a need or stay home with the family? Let someone else do that funeral or rearrange his schedule and handle it himself? Spend his morning in the study or in the community knocking on doors? Confront the trouble-maker in the church or leave him to the Lord? Pray for him.

Pray for your pastor’s attitude. When he’s young and inexperienced, he may find it exhilarating that hundreds of people know his name and look to him as a member of the community’s elite. The moment that begins impressing him, his usefulness in the Kingdom lessens. When he realizes he holds the power of employment over the office staff, custodial staff, and ministerial staff, he stands in danger of misusing his position and hurting the church and a lot of people. Better he always think of himself as the servant of the servants, always giving thanks that the Father chose to put such an unworthy one in such a place of service, and always looking for ways to bless those around him. Pray for him.

Years ago, when our church would ordain new deacons, we had an elderly church leader who would always rise to tell the same little story from the Bible. “Over in Exodus 17, we read about the time Moses went to the top of a hill and watched the Israelites in battle against their enemies. He took with him his two closest friends, Aaron and Hur. Now, something strange happened on the hill that day. The Bible says that when Moses held up his arms, Israel prevailed in battle. But when he grew tired and dropped his arms, the enemy prevailed. So, Aaron got on one side and Hur the other, and they lifted his arms. Scripture says, ‘So his hands remained steady until the sun went down, and Israel won a great victory that day.'” Then he would say, “That’s our job–to stand alongside the pastor and lift him up in prayer.”

Pray for your pastor, friend. So much depends on it.

12 thoughts on “So Many Reasons To Pray For The Preacher

  1. Bro Joe –

    I remember the Santa remark!!!! It is so good to know you are have not reached perfection.

    Bill made many statements that should not have been made – but, hey, we all have.

    You were a good pastor and Kenner reaped many a blessing because of your messages. Those were so important but the part of your ministry that impressed me most that when you stepped out of the pulpit – you were MY pastor and the PEOPLES’ pastor. We had not had that in a long time.

    Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate the pulpit but Jesus’ work was done among the people.

    You worked among the people and we all needed that. In fact, you are still working out in the market place.

    Bill and I both love and appreciate you.

    By the way, Bill will have knee replacement on Tuesday, June 7th at 12:30PM. I’ll remind you and keep you up to date.

    Love to you and Margaret

  2. I am a young pastor and i know how it feels to be hurt by words people say to us. While it is good to advise and admonish our Pastors we must refrain from unnessary critisms that could also hurt them. We will do well to pray more often for them.

  3. Great article, Joe. We’ve all “been there, and done that.” You aroused my curiosity, however, when your friend said that she had prayed for Pastor Blank and it didn’t work. I wonder if I happened to be Pastor Blank. How are you doing with the cancer treatment? Are you able to preach again? I would love to have you come and be with us in revival when you are able. Let me know if you have an open date. Thanks for your friendship, my brother in Jesus. Hugh Martin.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this and I got a new view of the way to go about praying for our pastor. Thank you for this.

  5. Dr. McKeever,

    I say “AMEN” to this article! I have often thought about our pastor, how he has to be so much to so many and realized how important it is that we pray constantly for him to be filled…emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally EACH DAY as he serves our large congregation. ( Snyder Memorial Baptist, 2300 members)I do believe that pastors are not prayed for as often as we pray for members.What a shame since their needs are so great!Thanks for the reminder that needs to be passed on!!

    Claire Parlier

  6. Dear Dr. Joe–

    Thanks for the article on praying for our pastor–I do, but I need to more often! We just got back from Gulf Shores where Dr. Young led our 750 high school students each evening. I taught the class on evangelism and one of the movie clips I used was from “Gone With the Wind” (most of the kids had never seen this movie so it was new to them!) It was the moving scene of Scarlett wandering through the streets of Atlanta, looking for old Dr. Mead while thousands of bleeding soldiers lay dying in the streets around her. She found the exhausted doctor in the hospital tending to the wounded with no supplies available, no painkillers or even bandages to give them. She wouldn’t stay to help him. I used this clip to help explain that the doctor is alot like our pastors — we rely on them to tend to all the sick and dying “patients” around him because we think it’s his job alone. It’s too overwhelming a job for any one person — all believers must get equipped to spread the gospel and get in the “nursing” business ourselves! (I got this illustration from a radio show, lest I get credit) Come to think of it, Dr. Young is with my son tonight and 900 Jr. High students on Padre Island—I think I’ll go pray for him…

    Love as always, Holly

  7. The fact that a godly pastor should ever apologize or feel chastened for speaking out about a LIE that parent choose to teach their children boils my blood. Santa (St Nicholas) was a godlly man who is now in heaven and does not deliver presents to anyone currently. I am awestruck at the actual anger I have faced for telling my 3 and 5 year old the truth. Did I miss the ammendment to the Ten Commandments? When did cultural lying become more valid than a biblical mandate. I feel the same way about the easter bummy, tooth fairy and all other lies, yes lies, we like to use to teach our children that what we determine is good matters more that what God says is good.

    Sorry for the rant and yes I did feel a new stirring in my spirit to lift my pastor up daily (our interim and the one to come).

  8. Joe,

    A few blogs ago you mentioned that many pastors struggle with certain portions of their jobs, whether it be administration , counseling,or whatever, and that many of them just want to teach the Bible. To which you said with a smile” that’s what ALL of them want to do. ” I thought a lot about that, as I think being a pastor is a hard job regardless of church size. Which makes me grateful to be a Sunday school teacher–our primary job is to teach the Scriptures to our classes, with almost no involvement in the “hard stuff” that our pastors struggle with; counseling, administration, deacons meetings, etc.Thank you for this blog–it has changed my life in many ways.—-Dave Baker—-

  9. Joe,

    I have printed this and plan to distribute it to all the adults in worship next Sunday. I will do so while asking them to give me a gift: their prayers for me.

    Thanks for putting my request into better words than mine.


  10. I would love to use excerpts from this article in the article our Prayer Ministry periodically puts in our church newsletter. Several recent articles have been on ways to pray for the pastor (and other ministers), why it is important to do so, etc. You offer some insights from the viewpoint of a former pastor that will be very helpful to people, I believe. We would give you credit, of course. I think I recall asking permission one time before for using something you wrote, and you graciously consented. You may have even said at that time that anything you write can be used, but since I don’t remember for sure, I wanted to request permission again. I will await your reply.

  11. Brother Joe,

    No one preaches perfect, no one prays perfect,

    no one is perfect. Everyone who knows you, knows that you preach and pray from your heart. Thank you for that. – You will always be in my prayers.

    You friend in Christ and in Prayer,


  12. Bro. Joe, that was a great article! Justin emailed it to some of our church members. Just one thing…could you write an article requesting that they also pray for us preachers’ wives? 🙂 Thank you!

    Rachel Knight

Comments are closed.