Pray For Your Preacher

Preachers can be odd birds. I know, because I are one and I know a lot of them. Having spent a good bit of time listening to preachers and communicating with them, I can tell you that most preachers aren’t the blustering self-assured three-point personas you’ve gotten used to seeing in the pulpit. OK, a few of them are. But most people in the congregation never really get to see their preacher as a real person. Our current frantic lifestyles leave little time for ‘preacher visits’ and given the constant pressure of moving ahead to the next event or series, most preachers have little time for social visits any more. If your preacher is a praying man (and we hope he is), he is praying for you. I wonder how many congregants are praying for their preacher?

Many years ago a friend and church elder, Jim Ingram, told me, “John, I pray for you every single day.” I would feel confident that he prays for his current preacher every day now. I can’t recall how long ago that was, but I still remember how that made me feel and the knowledge of his prayers stuck with me. 

Over and over the Apostle Paul appealed for Christians to pray for him.

Romans 15:30 Brothers and sisters, I urge you, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggles in your prayers to God for me.

2 Corinthians 1:10b-11a We have set our hope on him that he will rescue us again, since you are helping with your prayer for us.

Colossians 4:4 Pray that I might be able to make it as clear as I ought to when I preach.

1 Thessalonians 5:25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us.

How can you pray for your preacher?

*Pray for His Studies. There are so many things expected of preachers these days that do not relate to their teaching and preaching. However, here is one primary duty that is incumbent upon preachers and that is to spend time in the Word. Vance Havner said, “It’s not our business to make the message acceptable, but to make it available. We are not to see that they like it, but that they get it.” Preachers accept the burden of attempting to translate their studies into messages that reach the daily journey of all.

*Pray for His Spiritual Life. Separate from studies for lessons, the minister must maintain a vigilant spiritual life. Like everyone else, there is a world of distraction and the urgent duties and details of life. E. M. Bounds wrote, “A prepared heart is much better than a prepared sermon. A prepared heart will make a prepared sermon.”  Just because preachers spend a lot of time studying the Bible doesn’t mean they are spending a lot of time with God. To know that there are prayer warriors standing strong with the preacher brings renewed zeal and encouragement.

*Pray for His Family. Preachers aren’t alone in this, but ministry is one career that encompasses the whole life. Often times the wives and children of ministers are neglected because the preacher makes the mistake of believing that he has a call that surpasses all earthly ties. But it’s a tragic mistake to ignore the family God has given him. In addition, minister’s wives often bear up under the duel weight of hearing the criticism of her husband and serving in the roles she is expected to fill because of the identity of her husband. Both of those are unfair consequences of being married to the minister. In some cases preachers move frequently and so the loss of friendships over time can begin to weigh heavily.

*Pray for His Spirit. Ministry can be challenging. There are the needs of each day and the weekly teachings that have to be accumulated and considered. In addition there is the weight of criticism – sometimes deserved, but often delivered in a crass manner. Some preachers get ‘anonymous letters’, given more attention than they deserve (all such should be immediately placed in the garbage can). Whatever opinions are expressed from the outside, none are more crushing than the inward reflections to which all preachers are subject. The self-comparisons to other preachers, the unanswered questions as to why members quit or move to other churches, the casual ease with which ‘church friends’ seem to no longer be interested in being friends, and the failed efforts at outreach all feed into the minister’s psyche. I doubt much of this is considered when someone blurts out some complaint about some insignificant issue. Having been in ministry for over 30 years I have seen ministers toughen up to the point that they don’t listen any longer (which isn’t good) and I’ve seen them try to please everyone (which they can’t). I’m not trying to say that preachers are so sensitive that we need to coddle them, but I do think it’s fair for us to be considerate of their spirit and do what we can to balance complaints and encouragements.

*Pray for His Success. The best thing for everyone in the church is that when plans are made and there are efforts toward outreach that we all do what we can to make it a success. If the minister is successful in balancing his life spiritually, physically, and emotionally, then his ministry among the congregation will benefit. If the plans of the minister are met with enthusiasm and support, then the congregation will benefit. The preacher’s top three desires for his work are that (1) God is glorified, (2) the congregation is encouraged and (3) the lost are saved. When we all work toward the efforts that lead to those desires, the congregation as a whole benefits.

Everyone has challenges in life and I’m not suggesting that preachers have it worse. In fact, I hesitated to write this post lest it come off as whining or calling attention to myself. But who else besides a preacher can write a post like this? I am confident that people in my church are praying for me, but I know many ministers who do not share that confidence. Some are barely hanging on. Some will not only change churches, but leave ministry altogether. I wanted to urge Christians everywhere to keep their preacher in prayer and let him know it. The Enemy will certainly do all he can to discourage him.

God is looking for broken men who have judged themselves in the light of the cross of Christ. When he wants anything done, he takes up men who have come to the end of themselves, whose confidence is not in themselves but in God.” – Henry Ironside

Questions for Contemplation

*What actions can you take to include your preacher in regular prayer?

*How could you use the Scriptures above to assist you in composing your prayers?

*If you do not particularly like your preacher or have a hard time getting along with him, how can you use prayer to bridge the gap?

*What are some ways you can communicate to your preacher that you are praying for him?

*When can you ask your preacher what he most needs you to be in prayer for him?

*When is the last time you’ve prayed for your preacher’s family?

Links:

Six Prayers for Pastors 

Pray for Your Pastor – links to nine posts all dealing with praying for your preacher.

 

Revival Prayer: Preaching

9.7.15

Preaching

“Shall I give you yet another reason why you should pray? I have preached my very heart out. I could not say any more than I have said. Will not your prayers accomplish that which my preaching fails to do? Is it not likely that the Church has been putting forth its preaching hand but not its praying hand? Oh dear friends!  Let us agonize in prayer.” ~C. H. Spurgeon

We can never separate prayer and preaching, else we end up with speeches about ancient texts. Preaching is a primarily spiritual event in which the mystery of the Gospel is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and the penitent one responds. This can happen during a time of preaching that the unconverted may regard as boring or inadequate … but when empowered with the prayers of the Saints preaching God’s Word sets a revival fire within our hearts.

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power… ~1 Corinthians 2:1-4

Pray for your preacher that God will enable him to preach the Word of God with power, conviction, and authority.

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. ~ 2  Timothy 3:16-4:4

Pray for your preacher that he not resist the need for bold, faithful and fearless preaching of the Word of God. Plead that your preacher will powerfully preach the Word of God.

Pray that He will proclaim the fundamental truths of the faith with great clarity, conviction, and strength. Remember that some will criticize him. Pray he will not let this deter him from preaching as he should.

Pray for those who only want to be comforted in their sin and not challenged to come out from it. Pray that they would allow a word of revival to awaken them to the power of God to lead them out of complacency.

What preacher couldn’t be more courageous and empowered to know that his church is praying for him to speak as the oracles of God and say what they need to hear?

Thanks for reading, JD

Revival Prayer: Holiness

 

holiness

Revival Prayer Should Consider the Holiness of God.

Holiness is the perfection of all [God’s] other attributes. His power is holy power, His mercy is holy mercy, His wisdom is holy wisdom. It is His holiness more than any other attribute that makes Him worthy of our praise. ~ Jerry Bridges

Pray that God would grant all believers a deeper understanding and awareness of His holiness. As we seek to understand that God is both transcendent (beyond us) and immanent (near us) we become aware of how insignificant we are and yet what with what significance He regards us.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~ Isaiah 6:1-5

…As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct;  for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” ~ 1 Peter 1:15-16

Seeking to understand the holiness of God is essential to revival. We need to understand that God is utterly holy. He does not and cannot sin. He is not tempted nor does He tempt. He always does what is right and good. Pray that all believers (including ourselves) would be gripped by the absolute holiness of God.

I Bowed On My Knees and Cried Holy.

Thanks for reading today. JD

Preachers After Sunday

oldchurch

It’s been a Sunday.

There have been hugs, tears, conversation, songs, prayers and preaching.

For some preachers there have been encouragements and words of blessing.

For some preachers there has been the receiving of cutting remarks and dirty looks.

In anticipation of this day the preacher has studied, read, and done his best to assemble a message from the Bible that might be a help or a needed admonishment to the congregation.

The preacher has prayed for those who assemble, and those who just can’t seem to make that a priority.

The preacher has talked too long, sang too loud, smiled too hard, greeted too many, loved too much, and walked away from the church building alone.

And he loved every minute of it.

But now … after Sunday … he questions his approach. Maybe he should have re-written that sermon one more time.

After Sunday he can’t understand why he is so washed out emotionally.

After Sunday he declares to himself that he will work harder this week and craft a message that will be a better blessing than the one today.

After Sunday he tries not to reflect on the ones who didn’t show up, who didn’t seem interested, and who didn’t seem to regard his efforts as worthy of their time.

After Sunday he will think about the spiritual warfare involved in preaching the Word of God … and depend on God to give him victory.

After Sunday he reminds himself that the church is not his, and he is not the Savior of the church. That role has been filled.

After Sunday he remembers a mentor long ago saying, ‘never quit on a Monday‘.

After Sunday he’ll make it through Monday and the cycle will begin again.

 

After Sunday … Sometime during the week … a fire will catch hold in his heart and he will once again smile as looks forward to Sunday.

At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” ~From 1 Kings 19

Thanks for reading. Please do not see this as a plea for encouragements – I’m blessed with a good supply of love and encouragement. But most of us preacher types have to spend a little time in the cave after our time in before God’s people … it is likely needful. Thanks for reading. JD

A Preacher’s Love Affair

10.11.14One thing you may not know is that a preacher has a love affair with his sermon each week. I know, that’s a strange thing to say. I think it’s true.

Each week we select a text and begin a relationship with the words, nuances, implications, and rhetoric we see there. These words from God spring up at all times during our week as we prepare for the preaching event. Sometimes they make their way into our conversations because they have our attention. The preacher will explore other passages that are related because of a desire to fully know the wider text. Scholars and Spiritual men have written books about that text and we devotedly sift through them watching for that spark that will make this sermon memorable and valuable to those who listen. We have conversations with other preachers especially when there are difficulties in the text that we need to ruminate over with a fellow expositor.

We wrestle with the right words to communicate the Divine message of that text in a contemporary way but anchored in an ancient expression. This requires not only our brains but our hearts and our souls. We craft this message in such a way that we believe it will be well received and pray that through our meager efforts God will be at work in strong ways.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.~2 Timothy 2:15

And then Sunday morning comes and we stand before the assembled people of God. Within our minds and hearts there is a blazing message that has come to mean so much to us. But the hearers have not had our experience. This is why it’s hard for preachers to see someone asleep or have people get up and down or chit chat with the person next to them. I have a vivid memory of a sister long ago who would use the sermon time to clip her fingernails. Always during a silent moment… *click* … and no awareness at all of the hours of preparation that went into the moment she blithely *click* ignored. But the truth is the parishioners can’t have the same relationship with this sermon that the preacher has. This is just a reality to face.

All too soon it’s over. The invitation is extended, the preacher is hopeful that this labor has been effective. There are those few who respond in some way to let you know they appreciate this message. There are the rare remarks that reflect that the sermon  has been considered, not just heard.  But all mean well and seek to speak an encouraging word. This is accepted with gratitude.

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! ~Romans 10:13-15

The afternoon arrives and the tired preacher rests. For he knows he must engage a different text this week. The love affair with last week’s text is now but a memory and a new flame has his attention. It’s not an unfaithful type of love affair, but a lifetime relationship with God and His Word that has it’s mountain peaks and valleys.

Your word is completely pure, and Your servant loves it.~Psalm 119:140

I don’t know that anyone other than a preacher can relate to this. I know there are preachers who download an outline and just run with it. Some do not prepare. Some go through seasons of discouragement where that’s all they can do.

But in sanctuaries large and small throughout the world every Sunday a hopeful preacher assumes the mantle of prophet and priest to feed the gathered people a meal from the Word of God. Some are witty, entertaining, sharp. Some are soft spoken, dull by the world’s standards (and even by their own standards), but they use their gift as they can. They’ll speak the eternal Word of God to 10 or 50 or 200 or 1,000 or more. But they will all go home and hope they can do better next week.

Thanks for reading, John.

   

Thoughts on Preaching: The Beehive

8.4.12I know that most preachers (if not all) really want to make a difference in the world. Why else would anyone do this? It takes one willing to devote his life to the study of the Bible, working with such a wide variety of people, trying to keep the church active and faithful. It means being friendly enough to enjoy good relationships, but also distant enough to be able to say the hard things that need to be said to help brothers and sisters remain focused on Christ and abandon sin.

Leading a church to greater things often requires helping them navigate through changes that can be uncomfortable. A measure of grace is to be offered along with a measure of determination.

I think most preachers have an ‘ideal church’ in their minds. Sometimes this is ‘ideal’ because of admirable qualities such as faithfulness, love, mercy, and worship. These things result in outreach, growth, and maturity.

But sometimes preachers have an unrealistic ‘ideal church’ in mind and work very hard to try to push their congregations into those molds. This is when they stick their hand in the beehive. I have consoled many a preacher who has come to me with a swollen hand stinging with hateful barbs. Most of the time this is not because they have an unspiritual and uninterested church. Most of the time this is because they stuck their hand in the beehive and didn’t know the result of this!

It is my perspective that if a preacher has an ‘ideal church’ in mind, then he ought to find a church like that ideal and go there.

That doesn’t mean that preachers cannot preach for change… and lead the way toward a closer walk with God. It means that our efforts and preaching should not be related to the issue of the day … or being like the big church up the road. How many misguided preachers have taken a plan from a big church up the road and tried to implement it in their small church and come away with some barbs in their hands?

What I want to stir up in my church is not my position on the latest issues of the day. I do not want to stir up my church with controversy and new uncomfortable practices that take the focus away from the Lord.

I do want to stir up my church to a more faithful obedience to God, a Holy Spirit fire to be inflamed in their hearts, serving others, and growing in Christ-likeness. Sometimes that can give a preacher some bee-stings, but those are to be endured with the prophets in mind … who often suffered for bringing a word from the Lord.

But preachers take note! If you are keeping the church embroiled in controversy, stirred up through issues, irritated by sarcasm, and angry because you ignore who they really are … you are sticking your hand into the bee hive. In so doing, have drawn the attention to yourself, rather than God. And it hurts.

Thanks for reading,

John