As a husband, dad of four, pastor of a church, and Ph.D student (in that order!), people often ask me how they can pray for me. There must be something in my eyes that cries out, “Help!”
Most of the time, my answer reflects whatever is most pressing on my mind at that moment. Busy home schedule. Needs at the church. The paper that is due but not close to done. But given time to think about the areas where I truly and desperately want to see God work in my life, my answers would go a bit deeper.
How can you pray for your pastor? There are certainly many ways to answer that question, but as a busy pastor who needs prayer himself, I offer these two.
A supernatural hold on holiness
How is it that men go from the excitement of a new ministry to seeking release in immorality? It doesn’t happen all at once. The weight and pull toward immorality gets heavier and stronger over time.
In college I parked my car about a mile away from my dorm room. When arriving after a visit home, I’d sling my bag of freshly folded laundry across my shoulders and start to walk. It would feel manageable at first. But three quarters of a mile in, with the weight constantly pulling down on my shoulders with each step, eventually all I wanted to do was drop that bag and give myself some relief.
Holiness is like that. At first the load seems light, the journey clear, the weight manageable. But after a while we think, “How much longer do I have to go? Can’t I just get a break?” And our sinful hearts often long to reach for cheap, easy relief with immediate gratification.
I need our people to pray for me that in those times when my heart is cold, when the burden feels heavy, Christ will empower me to hold on to holiness. I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path, for my love is often cold; Christ must hold me fast! Pray for your pastor that Christ would give him a supernatural hold on holiness. I promise you he needs it.
An unshakeable confidence in the Bible
Can I be painfully honest with you? There are times, even as a pastor, when I struggle to believe that everything in the Bible is true. I read things that bristle against the way I think. Events strike me as unlikely. Biblical commands seem biased and culturally conditioned. Depictions of God even come across as cold and harsh. Is this the God I trust? Is this record reliable?
We have to remember that nobody comes to the Bible completely unbiased. We bring presuppositions of what is right and logical and sensible that have been shaped by both our culture and experience. And because of that, there are times when my western, American, southern, Baptist mind that was originally educated in the rigors of mathematical proof is unsettled by what I read. How will I handle that?
Many men who have served as pastors come to points like these and they decide that the Bible is unreliable at these points. If only, they think, we could rescue the Bible from some of these embarrassing elements, then we’d really have a message we could preach. So they chalk up these things to error. Bias. That word that always means this and has always been understood to mean this actually doesn’t mean this and, oh what do you know, this decision happens to align me with the current tides of the culture.
But if the Bible never offends you or your culture, whose mind are you seeking in it, yours or God’s? I have seen so many times that many biblical truths are acquired tastes. You have to sit with them, marinade on them, hold them up to other Scriptures and roll them around like a kernel of grain in your fingers and they eventually become sweet to the palate of your soul.
I want my people to pray that I have the patience and conviction to make that journey time and time again, to see for the hundredth time that the wisdom of God’s word is so much better than what originally seems best to my conditioned mind. I wish that I could be shot with a dose of faith that will cause me never to struggle with the Bible again. But I come to times when I find myself having to reorient my mind to think like the biblical authors and I don’t want to give up the next time I’m tempted to turn away from them. People who wander from the faith handed down to us in God’s word not only shipwreck themselves but those who hear them. I don’t want to be the reef that dismantles the hull of anyone’s faith. So I need my people to pray for me to have an unshakeable confidence in the Bible.
Want to pray for your pastor? Pray that Christ holds on to him through the tides of ministry and keeps him from seeking relief in immorality. And pray that the wisdom of God’s perfect word would shine in his heart even when his own hands try to shield his eyes from its beauty.