How to pray for your pastor(s)
During the heydays of steam power, boiler rooms were a familiar concept all round the world. Boiler Rooms powered everything from huge commercial machines in factories to household heating systems.
While giving a tour of his church to a group of people Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher of the 19th century, asked if they would like to see the boiler room of the church. He took them to a large room in the basement, where they found a mass of people praying fervently together.
Spurgeon said that it was these prayers that kept the "spiritual heat" within the church.
In an April 2007 message I shared with our congregation some ways that they could (and should) be praying for us as their pastors, echoing Paul's plea in Romans 15:30, "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me." I hope this abbreviated outline of it will stir you up to pray for your pastor(s) as well!
Make a commitment, if you have not already, to pray daily for your pastor... and then tell him you are doing so.
In Aaron-and-Hur fashion, hold up his hands so they do not grow weary in gospel labor.
If you are a pastor, notice that Paul begs the Roman saints to pray "with me," clearly implying that he himself is engaged in prayer for himself, for his ministry, for his labors in the gospel -- so I also desire to stir up you men who are pastors to remember where your power and "heat" come from and be saturating your ministry with personal prayer.
As we survey Scripture, here are a few things that are clearly high priorities for the ministry, and which therefore ought to be important in our prayers for the ministry:
"Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly"(Hebrews 13:18).
May we never become, as Jesus observed of the Pharisees, only outwardly righteous while inwardly full of hypocrisy and sin (Matthew 23:28). There are many ways -- from public politicking to private pornography -- for ministers of God's Word to become hallow men who look good (at least for the time-being) on the outside, but whose motive and mindset has become something entirely other than genuine, love-driven, Christ-centered gospel ministry.
Our goal must be, and so the church's prayers for us should be, that we be first and foremost pleasing to God.
"Seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God" (2 Corinthians 4:1-2).
"…do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
"Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf. For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward" (2 Corinthians 1:11, 12).
Sinclair Ferguson, in his modern classic A Heart for God, keenly observes:
"Somewhere along the line, the idea of being a decisive and determined Christian has lost out in the fashion stakes… Curiously, we have become so self-effacing that we are no longer sure whether or not we will keep the promises we make!...Sometimes we cover our failure over with theology (of all things)—we know ourselves too well [we say] to promise very much to God! But that is bad theology… [God] does not regard our failure here as a becoming modesty, or an understandable reticence. He has other names for it: disobedience, disloyalty, backsliding, faithlessness, [spiritual adultery]."
Christians in general, and pastors in particular, should be people of personal integrity. Those around us should be able to rely on us for stability and strength.
Paul's constant yearning was, and our constant prayer should be, a settled commitment and deep devotion to the service of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
With confidence in Christ (not our own will or determination), we should all be able to affirm with conviction and honesty that we are in this fight to win, that we are serious about overcoming sin, and that we will therefore run the Christian race full-on and all-out.
What kind of sermon sparks revival? Observing the life and ministry of Jonathan Edwards we can see that it may very well be the same kind of sermon that makes him unpopular in the community or even gets him fired in the church!
Gospel preachers are in constant need of gospel boldness.
Knowing the great temptation to compromise or take the road of least resistance, Paul asked the church at Ephesus to pray "for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel" (Ephesians 6:19).
We must ask, seek, and knock -- but ultimately only God can give, lead, and open in order that the gospel come with power to the hearts and lives of people in our community, in our city, in our nation, and around the world.
When God does bless with open doors, it will often also come with a high price of personal sacrifice which we must be willing to pay for Christ's sake: "Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds"(Colossians 4:3).
Our limitations -- logistical, financial, and even spiritual "chains" -- do not limit God.
Yet, it might be necessary for us to be enchained in various forms of persecution or sacrifice in order to serve God acceptably and productively.
I do not think there is a better prayer for gospel-freedom and gospel-power than Paul's expression in 2 Thessalonians 3:1: "Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you."
Notice that any sincere prayer for gospel inroads assumes the desire for it to begin with us.
We cannot genuinely pray for the Word of God to have free course while damming up our own hearts and lives to its influence and instruction.
As Matthew Henry wisely comments: "We should pray, therefore, that oppositions may be removed, that so the gospel, may have free course to the ears, the hearts, and the consciences of men, that it may be glorified in the conviction and conversion of sinners, the confutation of gainsayers, and the holy conversation of the saints."
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