Why We Must Pray for Our Pastors
October is Pastor Appreciation Month. This is a time for us to let our pastors know how essential they are to the Body of Christ. Church members can bless their pastors with various sorts of gifts, but the very greatest gift we can give them is our continued intercession. Let’s remember that praying for our leaders is a biblical mandate.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1–4 NIV).
In that passage, we are urged to intercede not just for our civic and national government leaders, but for all who are in authority. And this includes the spiritual authorities in the Church. Christ is head of the Church, but He has given the churches their pastors to lead them. In the words of 1 Corinthians 12:28: “… God has placed in the church … ” — and so our pastors and leaders are here by divine appointment, not by self-appointment.
Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers … (Ephesians 4:8–11).
That fivefold ministry (the “ascension” gifts listed in Ephesians 4) is an extension of Christ’s own ministry — Jesus Himself occupied all five offices while He was here on earth: He was our Apostle and High Priest (see Hebrews 3:1); He was the Prophet (see Luke 7:16; 24:19; Acts 3:22–26); He was the Evangelist sent to seek and save the lost (see Luke 19:10); He was the Pastor (the Good Shepherd [see John 10:11]); He was the Teacher (the Rabbi [see John 1:38; 3:2]). And so, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are those who continue His ministry.
The Pastor Is a Gift
Again, according to Ephesians 4, when Christ ascended to heaven, He gave gifts to the Church. Those gifts are what we call the fivefold offices. This means that pastors are themselves a gift from God. (That’s something we should think about the next time we are tempted to be critical of the pastor!)
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11 NLT).
Pastors Have Unique Work to Do
Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:12–15 NLT).
Pastors, along with other church officials, have a responsibility to equip the Church to do the works of the Lord Jesus. It is their responsibility to build up the Church. They have the difficult task of keeping the Church unified and grounded in the truth. They also seek to help us become mature in the Lord. A pastor’s joy comes from seeing those they disciple grow in truth, walk in their calling, and learn to serve others (see 3 John 1:4).
Pastors Are Self-Sacrificial
Several analogies use a hand to describe the fivefold ministry. In this description, each finger represents an office. The thumb represents the apostle. The pointer finger represents the prophet. The middle finger is the evangelist. The ring finger represents the pastor. And the pinky finger is the teacher. Some associate the pastor symbolically with “the ring finger” because he can be thought to be “married” to the church. Most of us employees take seriously our time off — we may turn our notifications off to make sure we are not bothered or interrupted. But pastors do not usually have that luxury: An unduly large portion of their time is spent ministering to others, and not just on Sundays. There is a difference between the offices and the gifts of God. For example, some may prophesy according to their gift and yet not hold the formal office of a prophet. To be a pastor is a calling that doesn’t end with the close of the Sunday service. Pastors will walk in that office every day of their lives, as long as the Lord sees fit.
Pastors Are Shepherds
Not only do shepherds tend to the flock, but they also protect the flock from danger. They lead and guide us as best they are able. And we don’t always make it easy for them. In the process, pastors sometimes get bit, abandoned, or betrayed by their own sheep. Shepherding also involves exerting discipline. We all love our pastors — until words of correction have to be uttered. At that point, they are often villainized, due mostly to our personal feelings of offense. Let’s be mindful that they’re only doing what God has called them to do! (see 2 Timothy 4:2).
Pastors Are People Too
Our pastors didn’t choose their call; God chose them and called them, and they answered. Otherwise, they are just like you and me. They are marriage partners, parents, sons, daughters. They have problems and bad days, just as we do. They are not perfect, and neither are their children. Pastors are people, and that means they are capable of messing up — just as we are. Too often, neither they nor their children receive the same degree of grace we may extend to other believers. When a pastor fails, even in the smallest matter, he may come under some very harsh judgment. But it’s always easy to judge someone else’s sin, when it isn’t ours that has been exposed. But there is only one perfect Shepherd — and His name is Jesus. If we’re only willing to look past the title, we’ll see a person who is not much different than we.
Being a Pastor Is Not for the Weak
The pastorate can be hard on pastors and their children. Pastors and their families are often the biggest victims of gossip and slander among the congregation. Their integrity and motives may be unfairly questioned, and they are vulnerable to all manner of accusation. Their personal lives — how they live or spend their money may be wrongly the subject of discussion and criticism. Their words may be twisted and used against them. They are too easily being told how they should be “doing church” — and this by some of the very same people who refuse to offer them any help. People are quicker to pass judgment on a pastor than they are to pray for him. Pastors and their families are unfairly held to higher standards than everyone else; sometimes they are put on a pedestal, which can only set them up to fail. They are too often misunderstood. They can be surrounded by droves of people all day long and yet feel lonely.
Our Pastors Need Us
Pastors don’t need the Church to be a horde of yes-men. They certainly don’t want to be idolized, either. What they need is to have people who will pray for them and cover them and their families. They need people like Aaron and Hur — congregants who will come alongside them and lift up their arms when they become weary. They want us to pray for our churches. They need trusted friends, too, with whom they can be vulnerable, and who will help keep them accountable. If pastoring were easy, surely anyone could do it. But, Ephesians 4 says that Jesus gave some to be pastors and teachers — some are called to this office, but not all. We will all give account of ourselves to God one day, but a pastor will render account not only for himself, but also for his congregants — specifically, for the way he led God’s church (see Hebrews 13:17). That’s no light burden.
Paul’s Advice to the Church
Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith (Hebrews 13:7 NLT). Let’s think of our pastors and leaders often — not just once a year in October! Let’s think about their faithfulness to serve not only the church, but also all the people they minister to. Maybe our own family is among those who have received our pastor’s help.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls … (Hebrews 13:17a). Submission to our pastors is biblical, though some may disagree. Maybe you were once under church leadership that was unduly “controlling” or authoritarian. I’m deeply sorry for those who have been hurt that way, but I also have to clarify the difference between godly leadership and a sinful lust for control. A proper and biblical submission to godly leadership involves the willingness to yield. This recognizes and accepts rightful authority. It’s an act of obedience that we exercise of our own free will and from a place of love. We submit to God’s leaders because we submit to God, and we submit to God because we love Him. When a wife submits properly to her husband’s authority, she does so as an act of love. God never forces us to submit to Him or to anyone; we must be free to choose. “Control” on the other hand — this eliminates our free choice. Such control dominates, and this operates through fear. That is not of God, and the two realities are not the same. Submission to our pastors is a free choice. If anyone questions why we should do that, my answer would be that it’s because the Bible tells us to do so.
Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honorably in everything we do (Hebrews 13:18 NLT).
The apostle Paul asked the churches to pray for him and other leaders. He requested prayers that he and they might keep a clear conscience and remain honorable in all things. Even if we’re unsure what to pray for regarding our pastors and other leaders, we can never go wrong by praying the Scriptures.
The Bible says that we should give honor to whom honor is due (see Romans 13:7). Our pastors are among the most self-sacrificial and hardest-working people, but at times they receive the least honor from those they serve. We see their smiles during Sunday service, and we assume all is well, but we don’t truly know the battles they face. We don’t see the family problems, the wounds of betrayal, the sleepless nights, or the tears shed over the congregation. Let’s let our pastors know that they are loved and appreciated, and that their labor of love is not in vain. They may feel unappreciated at times, but few of us would ever even know that. Even before this day’s dust settles, our pastors are already preparing their next sermon, church service, outreach, conference, or anything else our God has asked of them. Let’s bless our pastors, in any way our God leads us to. Our blessings on them may be monetary, or this may involve sharing a meal, or a card expressing our appreciation.
Pastors rarely ask their congregations for much, if anything. And yet, I’m sure of this one thing: Our prayers for them will always be desired and appreciated. Always. The only cost is a bit of our time. Charles Spurgeon once said: “No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me.” We all know the impact Spurgeon has had and continues to have on Christian believers. And yet, in that statement he credits and welcomes the saints’ prayers.
If we want to see our churches prosper, let’s pray for that. And if we want to see our pastors protected, blessed, and continuing to fulfill their callings, let’s pray for them. Let’s do this even if they never know we’re doing it. I assure you that our prayers can be felt. Our prayers may be offered up in secret, but the answers to those prayers will become evident out in the open.
Our Father, thank You for the gift of Your shepherds. In the name of our Lord Jesus, we pray for them. Bless them. Prosper them. Grant them every success in the ministry to which You’ve called them. Protect them. Heal their wounds. Renew their strength. Restore them to every joy in Your service. And bless and protect their homes and families. Amen.
Share your prayers for pastors and church leaders below.
IFA contributing writer Gloria Robles is a passionate intercessor with a prophetic voice for today. For more from Gloria, go to Spotify or Anchor and listen to her podcast, Something To Share. Photo Credit: MART PRODUCTION/Pexels.
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