Who pastors your pastor? The answer, all too often, is “No one.” But, like the rest of us, your pastor needs spiritual support. Your pastor needs people to lift him or her up in prayers of thanksgiving and intercession. If you or a group of people in your church would like to support your pastor in prayer, here are four “need categories” to consider.
Your pastor may make pastoring look easy, like a smiling ballerina on point. You see such grace that you go home wondering why you never took dance classes. You mention to your spouse in the car after a Sunday worship service, “I once thought about being a preacher.” But there are blisters hidden inside those silken shoes. Good pastors make it look easy, even when it’s not. Your pastor may be putting a brave face on a host of needs, insecurities, challenges, and doubts. So pray for your pastor.
Pray for your pastor, the preacher.
Your pastor walks a tightrope each week. She must consistently proclaim “Christ and him crucified” without being repetitious. Her sermon must hit home with the 14-year-old who’s worried that her braces make her look goofy while still gripping the attention of the octogenarian who’s worried about his ailing daughter. You see how your pastor’s message must be spot-on. The second-grader trying hard not to fidget should get something for his effort. The visiting theology professor too. One hearer has an IQ as big as Texas; another is more closet-sized. One longs for a spouse. Another is wondering how to get along with the one he or she has. The preacher must sound confident but not arrogant. Hip but not postmodern. Earnest without being a whiner. Concerned for young families, sensitive to widows. Each week your pastor walks the narrow way between competing criticisms:
- “He is too dull.” / “He is too theatrical.”
- “The message was too complicated.” / “So basic!”
- “She is too shrill.” / “I hate how she drops her voice.”
- “Not a single word of grace!” / “All about God, no application at all.”
The good ones hide the blisters and make it look easy.
The preacher is expected to labor over the ancient languages, but in a spontaneous sort of way. He is expected to love the act of preaching (even though when it is your turn to give the congregation an update on the building project you turn green, your knees swim, your voice cracks, and you develop a twitch in your left eyebrow). He too might be an introvert uncomfortable in crowds. But the good ones make it look easy.
It’s likely that your pastor is just average. Most are. Occasionally brilliant, often not. Sometimes his sermon lands with a thud. But he is assigned by God for this moment, for this congregation, for this message. Pray he does not become discouraged. Or hopeless. Because if he is faithful to proclaim Scripture, then God’s Spirit is at work. The preacher reaches into the sack, tosses out the seeds, and trusts God to do the rest. Pray that the preacher never forgets that. Pray that the people never forget either. Keep praying.
Pray for your pastor, the shepherd.
Your pastor offers full-service care from cradle to grave. Baptizing and burying, often with a marriage in between. They are sacred moments, these first and last breaths. God gives and God takes away. You will ask your pastor why, and she will not know. The pastor joins you amid these momentous events. Pray that she catches some “holy wind” so that she will have the energy and grace to walk with you on your journey while she walks her own.
Pray that your pastor never loses sight of the wonder of God’s flock, this odd union of old and young, rich and poor, good and bad. Pray that he can lead in peace, reducing anxiety and greening the pastures we graze together. Pray that he learns to set limits. To say no. To say yes. To work and to rest. Pray his congregation understands these limits. Pray that he finds joy in loving the unlovable. Pray that he finds patience to hear the story again about “how I got cheated out of the family cottage.” Your pastor too is living and dying, moving toward his last breath. But who pastors the pastor?
Pray that your pastor helps you recognize that Christ the Great Shepherd is your real pastor. Pray that he teaches you to teach others, to become a shepherd yourself. “He must increase, I must decrease,” said John the Baptist of Jesus; this is the refrain of every good pastor. His goal is to wean you from dependence. His is a ministry of decrease.
Pray for the pastor’s soul.
Pray that becoming a professional at spiritual things does not drown out love and devotion and joy. That trafficking in holy things does not render them common.
Pray that your pastor takes down the oxygen mask first before helping you with yours. Pray that love for Jesus (which led her into ministry) will fuel the fire that warms her soul. Pray earnestly and repeatedly, “Deliver her from the evil one.” She has a target on her back if she is faithful. Pray that she is not deceived, or misdirected, or misused. Pray that she does not congratulate herself for her humility. Pray she does not publicly stumble. And if she does stumble, pray that you do not fall with her.
Pray that she does not turn pastoring into a pet project of her own crafting. Pray that she trembles but does not shrink before her God. Pray she is honest and humble. Above all, pray she is a Christian. Some are not.
Pray for the pastor’s family.
The pastor’s family left their old church and (often) home and school and neighborhood to move into yours. Seldom are they an exact fit. They enter midstream, welcome additions if you were ready for a change, usurpers if you weren’t. It is not their fault. They married in or were born in. You know they won’t stay forever. They know it too. And so the union is muted, friendships joined with Velcro. Pray for their marriage. For their finances. For their health. For grace, much grace, because a pastor’s family too often gets cheated. Your pastor is available at all times and in all seasons for anyone but kin. Who pastors the pastor’s family?
Above all, pray that your pastor will be thankful—armed with a ready laugh (it is just church, after all) and lighthearted, with a solid trust that in spite of our fumbling ways God in Christ is “working out all things according to his purpose.” What a privilege and a joy to serve. Pray your pastor remembers that. May God bless your prayers for your pastor!