I could tell the day I was no longer president of our denomination. People across the nation had been praying for me, and now they were praying for the new guy. I could feel the slackening off of the prayers. It’s a terrible feeling. –From one of our past denominational leaders
Her name was Mary Ann Adlar. (Not sure about the spelling of her name.) An invalid, her life was devoted to praying from her small cottage in the southern part of England. Sometime in the 1860s Miss Adlar heard of a man in America whom God was using mightily. She began praying for Dwight L. Moody, that God would send him to her church in England. Her beloved country was desperately in need of a Heaven-sent revival, she felt.
In 1872, an exhausted Dwight L. Moody came to England on a vacation. He met the pastor of Miss Adlar’s church, and was invited to preach there. There was such power in the service, Moody was invited to stay for a series of meetings. Four hundred people came to Christ that week. Moody asked the pastor whether someone had been praying. Surely they had, he reasoned.
The pastor asked around and found Mary Ann Adlar, the woman whose prayers brought a preacher across an ocean and brought revival to her church.
In 1902, the esteemed G. Campbell Morgan became Mrs. Adlar’s pastor. Visiting in her home one day, he was shown the guest book in which “that name” had been signed 30 years previously. She asked Dr. Morgan to sign it too. “I will pray for you every day until God takes one of us.”
Who wouldn’t love to have the prayers of that woman? (And wouldn’t you love to see that guest book!!)
Ask any pastor. No gift is more precious, no honor more to be desired, and no encouragement more essential than someone praying for the pastor.
In our church in Columbus, Mississippi, Miss Annie Cogsdell was a fixture. She was tiny and elderly by the time I became her pastor in the 1970s. Some childhood malady had left her slightly deformed. This sweet little lady was rather shriveled, poorly educated, and poor. When she could no longer live alone, friends from church arranged for her to move into an assisted living place.
Miss Annie Cogsdell prayed. Boy, did she ever.
Every time–not once in a while, but every time–I saw Miss Annie she would place that tiny shrunken hand in mine and say with halting speech, “I… pray… for… you… every… day.”
At her funeral, I told that story. I was so honored to be the beneficiary of such prayers. Any pastor would be.
I asked the congregation, “Who is going to pray for the preacher every day now?”
Who prays for the pastor in your church? Those who do pray for the pastor need to be reminded of a few things…
One. We must not tell the Lord what to do or what direction to lead the preacher in.
We know some who pray, “Lord, make my pastor bring a sermon on prophecy.” Or doctrine. Or abortion. Or homosexuality. Whatever.
I suspect the Lord who called that person into the ministry will have better ideas than you or me on what subjects he should preach.
Two. We ask the Lord for the same things for each pastor on our list: for their strength, protection, direction, health, wisdom, and peace of mind. We pray for Him to inspire the preacher in the study and anoint him (or her, if the pastor is a “she”) in the pulpit. We pray for God to bless his family and strengthen his spouse and protect the children. We pray for the pastor’s energy in the day and a quiet peace at night when lying down to rest.
Three. After finishing our prayer, we leave the matter with the Lord.
We will not be constantly telling the preacher “I pray for you every night,” even though Miss Annie Cogsdell did and I appreciated knowing it. The danger is that some pastors will feel you are asking for appreciation or seeking a reputation as a prayer warrior. Better to pray and leave it with the Lord thereafter.
And we most definitely will not be telling the preacher, “I’m praying God would anoint you to preach better” or “bring more sermons on evangelism” (or whatever) or “tell you to start visiting in the homes more.” No, no, no. The Lord is Master of this preacher and will have no trouble directing his ministry. Pray for that. “Unto his own master the servant stands or falls” (Romans 14:4).
The more we believe in prayer, the more we will not go around talking about all the praying we are doing.
Four. After praying for the preacher, we must not sit in judgement on God for not answering our prayers or fault the pastor for not doing what we expected. Leave it with the Lord. Let Him answer your prayers in His own way and timing, if at all.
I once knew a small group constantly on the pastor’s back about everything. They said they prayed for his preaching, but complained all the time about his sermons. Apparently, they decided the Lord was not answering their prayers. Either that, or the hard-hearted pastor was not listening! Since I was the pastor and thus the target of those intercessions–if that’s what they were–eventually I had occasion to tell them that the sermons I was bringing was the answer the Lord was sending to their prayers. If they did not like what He was doing, they should take it up with Him and leave me out of it.
You can imagine how that counsel went over.
Five. If you will pray for your pastor day in and day out through the years, you might be the only one doing so.
Most people pray in fits and starts and spasms. They get concerned and pray a few times, then go on to other matters. But you be the exception, the one who keeps the minister on your heart and foremost in your prayers month in and month out, through the years.
For this, you’ll probably need a written prayer list. If you have one, I suggest you hide it so that you alone see the names it contains.
Six. Even after the pastor moves on to another church or retires, mention him to the Father from time to time.
When my friend Bill Hardy was leaving the church where he had been serving, at the going-away reception a senior lady said, “Brother Bill, I have had you at the top of my prayer list all the time you’ve been here.” He said, “Thank you. I hope you’ll keep me there.” The woman said, “Oh no. That spot is reserved for the next preacher. Let your new church pray for you!” (Bill used to smile at that, and we understand it. We could wish the praying lady had said something like, “I’ll keep you on the list, but the top spot belongs to the person God sends as our minister.”)
Seven. Pray for the pastors of your family members’ and friends’ churches.
Regularly, I pray for the pastors of Cottage Hill Baptist Church in Mobile, the FBC of Indian Springs, NC, and Second Baptist Church of Springfield, MO. My children are a part of those churches, so those pastors are important to me. Jesus said where our treasure is, our hearts will be also. My children and grands are my greatest treasure.
Eight. Pray for your friends who pastor other churches.
Frequently, I pray for pastors Mike Miller, Matt Brooks, Eddie Painter, Chuck Herring, Don Davidson, Jay Adkins, David Crosby, Rick Henson, Jeffery Friend, Rhyne Putnam, Shawn Parker, Mark Harris, and for Billy Graham. And others as they come to mind. (I know, I’m breaking my rule on not revealing whom I’m praying for, but I’m trying to make a point. Anyone looking for consistency in my blogging counsel will be forever frustrated. Smiley-face here.)
Nine. When you pass churches on the highway, send up a quick prayer for those pastors and their congregations. Ask the Father to put His hand upon them and for Christ to be exalted in their work.
You’ll be in Heaven before you know what those prayers accomplished. But that’s all right, isn’t it? “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6). “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We are fine with doing things for the Lord now but knowing what was accomplished only in Heaven. (See Luke 14:14.)
Ten. Listen to the Father when you pray. Don’t “hang up the phone” so quickly and rush on to other things. He might just tell you to put feet to your prayers and do something specific for that minister.
When you bless those God sends He takes that as though you were blessing Himself. Our Lord told the apostles, “whoever receives you is receiving me,” “whoever listens to you is listening to me,” and “whoever rejects you is rejecting me” (Matthew 10:40 and Luke 10:16). Think about that a bit and it will forever change the way you treat preachers and other servants of the Lord.
Often in parables Jesus told of a king sending an emissary on a mission only to have the recipients mistreat him. In the stories, the king always interprets their cruelty as an attack on himself and deals with it accordingly. Sooner or later, we in the church are going to put two and two together and realize the Lord is sending us a message on how we are to treat those He sends as His messengers.
God help us to be faithful.
God, bless my pastor.