"Will You Pray for Me?"
A number of years ago I met with a struggling pastor. Looking up with tears in his eyes, he could only mumble the words, “Will you pray for me?” He was a fellow pastor in a nearby town I had agreed to meet for lunch. When he initially called, he indicated that he was straining under the weight of problems in his congregation. The difficulties in his church are not uncommon because sin has a way of finding a home in every flock. Struggling marriages, difficult leaders, wayward children, job losses, deaths, and an occasional “anonymous email” had greatly increased the burdens of ministry for this brother. To add to these common burdens, being the church planter (and only staff pastor) was grueling and often lonely.
The truth is, this story could be repeated thousands of times over. It is safe to assume that your leadership will face many unique challenges in ministry. Will you commit to pray for your fellow brothers in ministry? If not in full-time ministry, will you pray for your shepherds? Do you know how to pray for leaders in the church? Scripture offers us numerous examples and encouragements to pray for those who minister the Word.
This is especially pronounced in the ministry of the apostle Paul. As he concludes the last chapters of his letter to the church at Rome, he says something that we should not easily pass over. In light of surmounting opposition in Judea, Paul petitions the Roman church: “Strive together with me in your prayers” (Rom 15:30). In that particular context, Paul wanted to partner with this church for his missionary journeys, but he also knew that they could spiritually refresh his spirits. As he does here, Paul often attached the prayers of the people to the importance of his ministry of the Word (cf., 1 Thess 5:25; 2 Thess 3:1). Following are some ways you can pray for your own ministry and those of our fellow-laborers in the gospel.
1. Pray the Word is Received
Church leaders are called on to do many things, but one thing they must do is teach the Word (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:9). In the course of any given week, this takes place at lunch tables, in counseling, at bedsides, and from pulpits. Pastors are not called to give opinions but to faithfully shepherd the flock of God as heralds of His Word (1 Pet 5). Notice how Paul calls the church at Ephesus to pray:
“and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph 6:19-20).
Though Paul’s apostolic ministry is markedly different from that of elders today, the bottom line is the same: “that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly.” Pray we will speak with boldness, clarity, conviction, and pastoral compassion from God’s Word. Also, that we would dispense this ministry as we “ought to speak.” Pray also that our churches will receive the Word with obedience and joy (1 Thess 2:13; Heb 13:17).
2. Pray the Word is Clear
As already mentioned, ministry is often attended with great difficulty. In Paul’s case it was the constant threat of imprisonment, beatings, shipwreck, and fierce opposition to his preaching. Most people reading this will not have a pastor who has been imprisoned, but for many around the world that is not the case. I have met pastors in Russia who have suffered greatly in times past because of their preaching. I sat with one of our missionaries today who is serving in Africa and has seen the open persecution of God’s men. One does not need to be imprisoned, however, to know ministers often face agonizing opposition. Through the trials of ministry Paul’s desire was that the Word would not be obscured by such momentary struggles.
“praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Col 4:3-4).
In light of his chains, in the face of intense opposition, he asked the church members at Colossae to pray that the Word would be clear. Pray we will devote ourselves to the Word and dispense it with clarity. Pray our teaching will unfold the light of God’s Word in such a way that will instruct, exhort, and convict (Psalm 119:130).
3. Pray the Word is Fruitful
“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you” (2 Thess 3:1).
Bearing fruit is not necessarily the same as success, at least by any common standard. All pastors want to see fruit in their respective ministries. I’ve never met a pastor who wanted his church to die and become spiritually stagnant. The lasting measure of a fruitful ministry is not measured by how many show up on a given Sunday. Fruitfulness is seen in lives transformed by the message they hear (e.g., 1 Thess 1:9). Fruit is when disciples are made and nurtured in the Word of Christ. Pray, as Paul counsels, that the Word of the Lord will spread rapidly and that God will be glorified in the life of your congregation.
I’m asking you to do something that maybe you have never considered doing. Pray for those who minister the Word day in and day out. Pray for their wives, children, holiness, diligence, compassion, and fortitude. Pray they will labor long in the study of God’s Word so that lives will reap the benefits. Pray they will speak with a clear passion and love for Christ. Pray they will not burn out or worse, fall away. D. A. Carson has fittingly noted, “Without prayer, the gospel can neither be preached effectively, promulgated faithfully, experienced in the heart, nor be practiced in the life. And for the very simple reason that by leaving prayer out of the catalogue of religious duties, we leave God out, and His work cannot progress without Him” (A Call to Spiritual Reformation, 221).
So, my fellow elders and those training for ministry, I ask you: “Will you pray for me?”
Paul Lamey is one of our seven TES campus pastors, having served as pastor of preaching and leadership development at Grace Community Church in Huntsville, AL since 2002.