It’s no secret that pastors have a difficult job. As those whom God has appointed to care for his people, pastors are called to share in the lives of those whom they serve – both in the highs and the lows. It is a difficult calling which often involves carrying the griefs, burdens, and pains of church members. Add to that the difficulties of preparing weekly messages, making difficult leadership decisions, and enduring painful accusations from church members, and it’s no wonder that so many pastors feel overwhelmed and discouraged.
Fortunately, shepherds also have the privilege of resting in the prayers of their flock. I cannot tell you how much encouragement and reassurance it brings to pastors when we know we are being prayed for. We know that the prayers of the righteous have great power (James 5:16), and we can feel our spiritual strength being renewed each day as prayers go before us on our behalf. If Jesus asked for prayer (Matthew 26:36ff), if the Apostles regularly asked for prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:25, 2 Thessalonians 3:1, Hebrews 13:18), you can be sure your pastors need prayer as well.
However, I think many Christians struggle to know what to pray for their pastors. While it is good to specific prayers during particular circumstances, what are ongoing prayers you can pray for your pastor no matter the season or circumstance? Below are Five C’s you can pray for your pastors and their ministry. I have been praying these for our senior and youth pastors now for some time, and I have seen God be faithful to these prayers. As you pray these C’s for your own pastors, pray also that God would grow you in each of these areas as well.
Amidst great trial and persecution, the Apostles could not help but speak of what they had seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20). These early leaders were driven by a deep sense of conviction, foundational beliefs which guided and informed every other decision they made. Convictions are not merely beliefs; they are deeply held foundational beliefs on which most other decisions we make are based.
We want our pastors to be leaders of conviction. Such leaders are not easily moved when trial or difficulty comes their way, nor are they preoccupied with every new fad or ministry method on display in the latest books and blogs.
Pastoral conviction is rooted in a deep confidence in the truths of God’s Word, as well as deeply held beliefs about what it must look like to equip the saints for the work of ministry in their church’s particular context (Ephesians 4:11-13). Such deeply held convictions will help our pastors stay grounded during periods of discouragement and conflict. When church members leave, or it appears there is little fruit from the ministry, there can often be temptation to compromise on our conviction and just do what we think will make people happy.
Pray that your pastors will be leaders who have a clear conscience and desire to act rightly in all things (Hebrews 13:18).
When we pray for courage for our pastors, we are praying that they will be able to act on their convictions no matter how much fear they may be experiencing. This is the courage to do the right thing even when it may be very tempting to compromise on their deeply held beliefs.
The Apostle Paul encouraged the young pastor Timothy, reminding him that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). In other words, in the face of our fears we can trust that God will give us the courage to face our fears and act with faithful obedience.
Pray that your pastors would be filled with deep convictions – but also the courage to act on their convictions – even when all rational thought would say to flee or compromise.
The Apostle Paul asked the churches to pray that he might have the words to speak in his public ministry (Ephesians 6:19, Colossians 4:3, 2 Thessalonians 3:1). He boasted not in an eloquent style of speaking, but instead he endeavored to be plain and clear in his speech (1 Corinthians 1:17, 2 Corinthians 11:6).
To pray for clarity for your pastors is to pray that they might have the clear mind, heart, and speech to communicate their deepest held convictions. We want our pastors to speak with peace of mind and clarity of message, so that it pierces the heart of those who hear them.
These prayers ought to be not only for their preaching and teaching ministries, but also for their leadership of the congregation. Pastors often have to make difficult decisions for the life of their church and church members. Such decisions are bound to please some and displease others. Clarity of speech will make clear to the congregation both what a pastor does and does not mean by the words they say, which can reduce conflict or discord among the congregation.
Paul, like Jesus, labored alongside many men and women who served in various capacities among the churches. Many of Paul’s disciples were future pastors who would lead congregations of their own. Not all of them made it faithfully to the end. One such young pastor, Demas, abandoned the mission for his love of the present world (2 Timothy 4:10).
Demas is an example to all pastors that it is possible for us not to finish well. Of course, there are plenty of examples today of such pastors who do not finish well. Whether it is because of serious sin and scandal, deserting the faith, or the pressures of ministry being too much, many pastors leave the ministry – or even take their own life. Some statistics say that as few as 1 in 10 pastors will actually retire as a pastor.
We must pray that our pastors will be constant and faithful to the end, but also at every stage in between. While there are many pastors who do make it to the end and finish without any serious sin or scandal in their ministry, their own personal faithfulness and obedience can decrease over the years. As they endure years of personal sin, bearing the burdens of others, and being sinned against by church members, many pastors feel their hearts becoming hardened and closed as their ministries go on.
When we pray constancy for our pastors, we pray that they would endure the trials of ministry with open, faithful hearts.
A pastor’s ministry can only be sustained so long as they have compassion for the people whom they serve. When Jesus looked out on the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). A pastor’s heart beats with compassion, mercy, and tender love for the people whom they are called to serve.
Pray that your pastors might love as Jesus loved, and that their ministries might be marked by genuine compassion for others.
A pastor who is filled with conviction, courage, clarity, constancy, and compassion is a gift to any congregation. Pray for your pastors, that they might grow in these five ways. Both you and your pastors will be blessed because of your prayers.