Just the other day I received a letter in the mail from a medical doctor whom I have never met before. Having told me how he had benefited from some of my sermons and articles, he went on to tell me, “I pray for you. I will be able to do so on a very regular basis now and trust that you will be helped and strengthened in your ministry and family.” This was an enormous comfort and encouragement to me. Contrary to what some might suppose, ministers of the gospel desperately need the prayers of the saints. One of my seminary professors used to tell the student body, “Pastors have a bull’s eye on their back and footprints up their chest.” This is quite an appropriate description of the hardships that God’s servants are called to endure for the sake of the gospel. The flaming arrows of the evil one are persistently being shot at pastors. In addition, the world is eager to run them over at any opportunity. This is, sadly, also a reality with regard to some in the church.
With so much opposition and difficulty within and without, pastors constantly need the people of God to be praying for them. The shepherd needs the prayers of the sheep as much as they need his prayers. He also is one of Christ’s sheep, and is susceptible to the same weaknesses. While there are many things one could pray for pastors, here are five straightforward Scriptural categories:
1. Pray for their spiritual protection from the world, the flesh and the Devil.
Whether it was Moses’ sinful anger leading to his striking of the rock (Num. 20:7-12), David’s adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11), or Simon Peter’s denial of the Lord (Matt. 26:69-75) and practical denial of justification by faith alone (Gal. 2:11-21), ministers are faced with the reality of the weakness of the flesh, the assaults of the world and the rage of the devil (see this article). There have been a plethora of ministers who have fallen into sinful practices in the history of the church and so brought disgrace to the name of Christ. Since Satan has ministers of the gospel (and their families) locked in his sight—and since God’s honor is at stake in a heightened sense with any public ministry of the word, members of the church should pray that their pastor and their pastor’s family would not fall prey to the world, the flesh, or the Devil.
2. Pray for their deliverance from the physical attacks of the world and the Devil.
While under prison guard in Rome, the apostle Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi to pray for his release when he wrote, “I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). (See also 2 Cor. 1:9-11).
When Herod imprisoned Simon Peter we learn that “constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5). After an exodus-like deliverance from prison, Luke tells us that Peter showed up at the home where the disciples were continuing to pray for his deliverance. This is yet another example of the minister being delivered from harm due, in part, to the prayers of the saints.
3. Pray for doors to be opened to them for the spread of the gospel.
In his letter to the Colossians Paul asked the church to be praying “that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains” (Col. 4:3). The success of the spread of the gospel is dependant in part on the prayers of the people of God. In this way, the church shares in the gospel ministry with the pastor. Though he is not the only one in the body who is called to spread the word, he has a unique calling to “do the work of an evangelist.” The saints help him fulfill this work by praying that the Lord would open doors “for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ.”
4. Pray that they might have boldness and power to preach the gospel.
In addition to praying for open doors for the ministry of the word, the people of God should pray that ministers would have Spirit-wrought boldness. When writing to the church in Ephesus, the apostle Paul asked them to pray for him “that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19). There is a well-known story of several college students going to visit the Metropolitan Tabernacle in order to hear Charles Spurgeon preach. As the story goes, Spurgeon met them at the door and offered to show them around. At one point he asked if they wanted to see the church’s heater plant (boiler room). He took them downstairs where they saw hundreds of people praying for God’s blessings on the service and on Spurgeon’s preaching. The gathering of the people of God to pray for the ministry of the word is what he called “the heating plant!” Believers can help ministers by praying that they would be given boldness and power in preaching the gospel.
5. Pray that they might have a spirit of wisdom and understanding.
One of the most pressing needs for a minister of the gospel is that he would be given the necessary wisdom to counsel, to know when to confront, to mediate and to discern the particular pastoral needs of a congregation. This is an all-encompassing and a recurring need. The minister is daily faced with particular challenges for which he desperately needs the wisdom of Christ. It is said of Jesus that “the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, and of counsel and might” was upon Him (Is. 11:2). The servants of Christ need that same Spirit. Much harm is done to the church as a whole if the minister does not proceed with the wisdom commensurate to the challenges with which he is faced. Those who benefit from this wisdom can help the minister by calling down this divine blessing from heaven upon him.
This article was written by Nicholas Batzig and can be found here.