What is a pastor? According to Webster's Dictionary, a pastor is "a spiritual overseer."
That means a pastor's job description is to oversee people's spiritual wellbeing; a concept that God cares most about in people, but, often the people care the least about in themselves.
Whats even more nerve-wrecking than how extremely difficult the job can be right here and now on earth … is that in eternity, the pastor has to give an account for those very souls. "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account (Hebrews 13:17)."
Jesus' favorite metaphors for spiritual leadership, one He often used to describe Himself, was that of a shepherd. A spiritual shepherd is a person who tends to the flock of God. A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects.
Unfortunately, this pressure, stress, and lack of care for our own souls catches up to us pastors on a daily basis. When you look out across the vast landscape of evangelicalism, there are thousands upon thousands of beaten, wounded, and near-lifeless shells of what were once healthy, bold, and vigorous ministers of the Gospel. According to Barna Research Group, 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches. Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living. Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
So, what is the answer? Is there a way for God's people to help and encourage our pastors and Leaders?
Well, I feel there is an answer to these questions, but I can promise that it's going to sound like a "Sunday School" answer to the dilemma. The answer is prayer! Not just saying that you're going to pray, but truly and honestly praying for your pastors and leaders is the answer!
Here are a six very real and specific prayer requests given by very real pastors who are in the daily war of battling for your souls, leading their families and faith families, all the while trying to protect their own souls.
1. Pray for your pastor to minister and lead from the overflow of his own Worship of Jesus. One pastor wrote, "I would ask the congregation to pray that my ministry would come from an overflow of personal passion for the person and work of Christ RATHER THAN a professional expectation of a local institution/employer."
Another pastor says, "I spend much of my time giving of myself to the church - physically, mentally and emotionally. It is easy to dry up or for my routines and become ineffective. Pray for me to draw from the fullness of Christ daily. Ask the Lord to convict me when I do not set aside to feast on the Word myself."
Yet, another states, "Pray that your pastor would stay refreshed and close in his walk with The Lord. This is the most important thing in anyone's life, and it's no different for the pastor. At the end of the day a pastor is just a person that needs Christ like everyone else. Everything personally and ministerially rises and falls on the pastor's personal walk with The Lord. "
2. Pray for your pastor's spouse. A pastor writes, "One of the most overlooked individuals in the church and often times the most "under appreciated" individuals is the pastors wife. Unfortunately, pastor's wives go through things that even her husband may not understand. From attitudes she may receive from other women in the church, leaders in the church and even her own friends."
3. Pray for your pastor's children. A pastor shares that "There are times when the pastor's kids (PK) are given a great big load on their shoulders due to them being the children of the shepherd. Regrettably that was my life. I left the Lord on purpose at the age of 13 years old due to the fact that I hated the way the church treated my dad and mom as the pastors. God had to bring a major healing in my life to get me to love and trust God's family again. I believe that when the wife and the children are covered, the husband (pastor) will be able to see and enjoy a longevity in his ministry at his church."
Another pastor said, "Many times ministers families are robbed of time with dad simply because of others needs." One pastor spoke of his concern for our his children would grow up viewing the church and ministry by saying, "That my kids would see that I do what I do because I LOVE JESUS and not because It's my job. That they wouldn't grow up bitter and burdened by ministry, but better and blessed because of it."
4. Pray for your pastor's vision for the Faith Family. A pastor insightfully writes, " Pray for clarity as I grow in the Lord and realize His vision for me as a man, husband, father and pastor. Pray against the temptation to make growth another mark on a checklist. This is the depth and breadth of Christ that must be plumbed in my daily life. I fall short in this area so frequently. For my awareness of the Lord's movement in our church body, to be keen on His leading and obedient to seek and follow Him."
One leader said, "Pray that I would seek and focus on the depth of the ministry more that I would the width of the ministry." Another leader said, "There are so many things that are vying for my attention and time… that I need to be intentional, strong and resolved. Pray for my resolve, to do and be the pastor that God is growing me to be."
5. Pray for your pastor to have a drive to make much of Jesus, and not themselves. One pastor eloquently comments, "Pray that at the end of the day Jesus will say to me, 'well done my good and faithful servant". Not worship pastor, teaching pastor, groups director, student pastor etc ... just servant. Pray that God would give me everything I need to give it all back to others."
A leader also chimes, "Many ministers struggle with the temptation of "being known". They start out young and "unknown" early in their ministry. Something happens that catapults them into the public arena of ministry and this can become detrimental to their walk with the Lord." Another pastor says, "Pray that my pride would constantly be put to death, and that my main objective would be for people to recognize Jesus, and not me!"
6. Pray for your pastor to walk in integrity, while constantly fighting sin in his own life. A pastor accurately states, "Ministers today have more temptations to rob them of their integrity than ever before. Whether its physical, emotional, or financial… a minister will find himself in places of great temptations."
Another pastor says, "We're in the middle of a war. Pray that I won't fall to the schemes of the enemy, but would stand firm in the grace of God. That I would be the same in private that I am in public." Yet, another leader closes, "Pray that when I do make mistakes … that I'd be quick to repent and admit my failures."
Thank you for taking the time to pray for leaders. They desperately need it, because at the end of the day, they're a bunch of nobody's trying to tell everybody about the Great Somebody; named Jesus!