In today’s world, pastors neglect deep, rigorous prayer for their flocks. New pressures have put strains on the biblical role of the pastor. The managerial revolution has forced pastors to redefine their job description in light of corporate America. The church as institution takes precedent over the church as flock. So, we pastors get caught up in budgets and systems, meetings and strategy. There is a place for leadership principles and management techniques, but I confess that our pragmatism is a magnet that attracts us to the immediate and repels us from the eternal. A significant casualty of a managerial view of the pastorate is prayer. After all, when our to-do lists ever expand and our calendars packed to the brim, who has time for prayer?
This neglect of pastoral prayer emanates from faulty theology. We think far too highly of our own abilities to achieve “successful” ministry through our own ingenuity. Like a mathematical formula, we believe that if we could combine the right managerial practices, then the equation inevitably adds up to spiritual and numerical growth in our churches. But, a huge problem persists: where is the Holy Spirit in our formulas? What need do we have for God if we’re convinced we can manufacture revival through modern techniques? Why bother to pray if I believe my church’s success rests on my ability to achieve it? Such attitudes results from a diminished view of God’s sovereignty and a rejection of the Spirit’s necessity to bring about lasting fruit in our ministries. Even though we may not actually deny in word the need of God’s work in our pastoral ministries, our stated belief does not actually match our practice. Because, if we actually believed we needed God to work, prayerlessness would not define our ministries.
We do not drift into a life full of prayer. We must fight distraction in order to prioritize communion with God and intercession for his people. We must plan to pray. Here are a few suggestions for ways that pastors can incorporate more prayer into their week.
(1) Schedule Prayer
It’s important to block off time in your weekly schedule for concentrated prayer. I would suggest blocking off an extended time every day just for the purpose of prayer. Yet, even if it’s just five to ten minutes scattered throughout your work day, you can find a few minutes to siphon off for prayer. Use your lunch break or time in the car to pray for people or upcoming meetings. Make the most of your time in the mornings and evenings and fill them with prayer.
(2) Pray through Your Church Directory
Use your church directory as a prayer guide. Take a page of members a day, and pray for them by name. Pray through those families, and beg for God to bring spiritual growth in their lives. Petition the Lord for specific circumstances or needs that they have. Incorporate some pastoral care by giving them a call to check in before you pray, asking for specific areas of prayer or send them a message just to let them know that you’re praying for them. Not only will this help you get to know your congregation better, but you will have a systematic plan to bathe each member regularly in prayer by name.
(3) Incorporate Intentional Prayer in Your Pastoral Staff Meeting
Meetings are necessary, but often just marked with perfunctory prayers at the beginning or at the conclusion of the meeting. For your weekly pastoral staff meeting, incorporate a concentrated time of prayer as a part of the meeting. Make praying with the other pastors or elders in your church a priority each time you are together. A good rule of thumb in meetings is to put the most important item on the agenda first. Unfortunately, prayer tends to be placed at the end of the meeting, and thus minimized or skipped when the meeting goes long.
If you lead your pastoral meetings, work towards making prayer a vital component of your meetings at the beginning. Pray for specific members or a pastor and his family. Pray for an unreached people group together. Pray for your city. You can get creative on what this time of prayer might look like for your team, but do not bifurcate prayer from your meeting. If there is a difficult issue you’re discussing stop in the middle of the meeting to seek the Lord together on the matter. Lead through prayer.
(4) Pray for People Immediately when They Ask You for Prayer
As a pastor, many people ask you to pray for them. Sadly, even pastors fall victim to the “Yes, I will pray for you” line, then totally forget about the matter. A good practice is to immediately pray for people when they share with you a prayer concern. Take a minute right then and there, and pray over them. That way you can be sure to pray for the needs of your people, and you keep yourself from being a liar.
(5) Keep a Prayer List
Most churches have a church-wide prayer list. Utilize it in your own times of prayer as a pastor. However, it may be a good idea to keep a personal prayer list as well. There are specific needs and concerns that you may be aware of in your people’s lives that will not be publicly put on the prayer list. Keep a list on your phone or in a notebook, to be sure you don’t forget specific needs.
(6) Merge Prayer and Study
In your message preparation time, be sure to weave in and out of prayer as your study. Take regular breaks as you are working on your message to spend time in prayer. Prayer should be the posture of all pastoral study. The ministry of the word and prayer must integrate regularly together. As you are working on your upcoming sermon, incorporate regular, intentional prayer.
(7) Pray for More than Just Your Members Health
People love to share with you requests concerning their health. It is a good thing to regularly pray for the sick, but often these requests are so numerous they dominate our prayers. Your people have greater needs than just their fight with cancer, and there are more urgent areas of prayer than just their upcoming surgery.
– Pray for their consistency in the Word and Prayer.
– Pray for their spiritual growth, and that they might behold the glory of the Lord.
– Pray that the Lord would keep them from sin and temptation, and help them live in holiness.
Be a Pastor Who Prays
Would you rather be known as a shrewd managerial executive or a faithful shepherd who prays? Indeed, pastors should strive for faithfulness in their leadership and management, but not at the expense of prayer. In your pastoral ministry, resolve to make prayer a regular, indispensable part of your ministry. Demonstrate your dependence upon the Lord in your ministry by falling on your knees before the Lord in humble prayer. Lift up the members of your congregation, and incorporate prayer into every area of your ministry. Will you be a praying pastor?