This Sunday is Pastor Appreciation Day. Here are six
specific ways to pray for your spiritual leaders.
Often when I speak to a group of
aspiring ministers, I greet them by saying: “Welcome to the war.” I also remind
them that when they signed up to join the front lines of spiritual battle, a
bright red target was painted on their backs. Ministry can be wonderfully
rewarding, but let’s not kid anybody: Most of the time it’s a thankless job
full of headaches, disappointments, conflicts, loneliness, frustration, petty
complaints and tight budgets.
And while we might assume all
pastors lead megachurches and drive new cars, keep in mind that the average
church in this country has 75 members and the average pastor makes less than
$34,000 a year—and may work an extra
job to feed his or her family. The statistics are alarming: 90 percent of pastors work
more than 50 hours a week; 70 percent say they don’t have any close friends;
and 45 percent say they’ve had to take a leave of absence from ministry because
of depression or burnout.
“It’s normal for leaders to have emotional highs and lows, but
when discouragement becomes debilitating it can knock them out for good.”
My friend Eddie Taylor, pastor of Church on
the Hill in Dalton, Ga., has faced his share of ministry pressures and has
looked burnout square in the face a few times. He dug deep in the story of
Elijah (see 1 Kings 17-19) to learn how to survive, and he recently shared with
me a message about how to pray for people in leadership. I decided to share his
main points since October is Clergy Appreciation Month.
I’m sure your pastor would appreciate a nice
card next Sunday, but he or she would be doubly blessed to know that you were
praying regularly along these lines:
1. Pray against
witchcraft and manipulation. As soon as Elijah stepped into the fray
and challenged Israel’s idolatry, Jezebel went into attack mode. We must never
be ignorant of Satan’s schemes (see 2 Cor. 2:11). The enemy targets Christian
leaders, aiming to pull them into immorality, deception or pride; or he
dispatches human messengers to control or discourage them. You can expose these
demonic plots through prayer.
2. Pray for
courage. Elijah had guts. He not only got in Ahab’s face, but he also
organized a public showdown to challenge Jezebel’s false prophets. Yet right
after the fire fell from heaven in response to Elijah’s prayer, Jezebel
threatened him—and the Bible says “he was afraid and arose and ran for his
life” (1 Kings 19:3, NASB). Leaders are called to confront, but they can’t do
it without supernatural boldness from God. Ask the Lord to make your pastor
3. Pray against
depression. After Elijah fled to the wilderness, he started acting like a
burned-out pastor. He prayed: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life” (19:4).
It’s normal for leaders to have emotional highs and lows, but when
discouragement becomes debilitating it can knock them out for good. Pray that
your pastor will draw fresh joy from the wells of salvation daily.
4. Pray for
rest. After the intensity of Mount Carmel, Elijah went a day’s journey
from Beersheeba and slept under a juniper tree. Sometimes what pastors need
most is a day off—yet many feel driven to perform, either because of people’s
expectations or self-imposed demands. What makes matters worse is that many
pastors have not empowered others to help with the workload. Pray that your
pastor not only gets enough sleep, but that he or she gets times of refreshing
away from phone calls, e-mails and constant “emergencies” that can surely wait.
5. Pray for the
touch of God. Elijah found supernatural strength after his wearying experience
on the mountaintop—not just because he ate and slept but because the angel of
the Lord touched him twice (see 19:6-7). Pray that your pastor receives a
double portion of the Lord’s presence. It is only the Lord’s supernatural
anointing that enables us to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit.
6. Pray for
disciples. Even after Elijah heard God’s voice on Mount Horeb, he was
tempted to think he was the only true prophet left. But the Lord told him there
were 7,000 prophets who had not bowed their knees to Baal, and He instructed
Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor (see 19:15-18). God does not want
leaders to do their work alone. We are called to a long-distance race that
involves multiple generations! Pray that your pastor will arrange his
priorities correctly so he can invest his life in younger leaders.
P.S.—Don’t hand this list to your
pastor next Sunday and tell him or her that you are praying these things. (As
in, “Pastor, I’m praying you will have the courage to confront the gossips in
this church—especially Mrs. Clack!”) No one wants to feel manipulated by prayer
requests. Instead, pray in secret—and ask the Lord to uphold your pastor with
the same grace He gave Elijah.
J. Lee Grady is the former editor
of Charisma. You can follow him on
Twitter at leegrady. He’d like to hear why you love your pastor, or how your
pastor has blessed you or your family. You can post tributes to your pastor in
the comment section below.