The Pastor as ... a Man of Prayer
The Pastor as ... a Man of Prayer
Once Martin Luther, whom we could call the father of Protestant pastors, was asked how much he prayed each day. "One hour," he replied. Then he was asked, "But what if you have an especially busy day?" "In that case," he said, "I pray for two hours." How many of our pastors could give that reply? I would hope that all would, but I rather suspect that few ministers today pray like Luther. And yet the minister should be a man of prayer.
The Bible requires that the minister be a man of prayer. All Christians should pray, but ministers have a special obligation to pray. The early church appointed deacons so that the twelve apostles could have time to give themselves "continually to prayer" (Acts 6-A KJV, quoted throughout). They had to have more time to pray than the other Christians because of their apostolic office.
As Calvin explains, the apostle was the link between the Old Testament priest and the New Testament pastor. Thus, when the apostle Paul tells the Colossian church that he is ''praying always for you" (Colossians 1:3), we see the biblical pattern: the New Testament pastor, like the Old Testament priest, is an intercessor by virtue of his office.
Similarly, the offices of Christ provide a pattern for the minister's official responsibilities. As a "prophet" the minister preaches the word, as a "king" he leads the church, and as a "priest" he administers the sacraments and intercedes for the people. Pastors, do you see that you have a special responsibility to pray? Do you understand that your office gives you a unique role not only as preacher, leader, and administrator of the sacraments – but also as intercessor?
The prophet Samuel said, even of a people who had rejected him, "God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you" (I Samuel 12:23). God forbid that ministers today should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for their congregations. Intercession is a biblical responsibility that God has laid upon his ministers.
But the minister is a man of prayer not only as an intercessor. In all things and without ceasing he engages in prayer and supplication, in the words of the hymn writer, "forgetting in nothing his blessing to seek." If you do not ask God to bless your efforts, can you expect them to be blessed anyway? Sometimes, because the Lord is gracious, they are blessed anyway. Still, Scripture warns us, "ye have not because ye ask not" (James 4:2). It is the blessing of the Lord, obtained by prayer, that makes the minister's sermons effective, his visitation fruitful, and his counsel productive.
Clearly, then, it is a biblical requirement that the minister be a man of prayer, especially as intercessor. What are some of the practical ways in which he can fulfill that obligation?
Of course the minister should pray for the government, the lost, the church universal, the denomination, and so on. Indeed, all Christians are to pray for such things. The minister, however, has a special responsibility to the flock over which Christ has made him an overseer. As we have seen, God appoints the minister not only to preach to them, lead them, and administer the sacraments to them, but also to intercede for each one of them.
Granted, it is difficult for the minister to pray by name for each communicant member, covenant child, adherent, and visitor in his congregation strictly from memory. However, most congregations publish a directory of members and friends, and that can be invaluable as a prayer list. By praying through the directory daily, the minister can be a pastoral intercessor for each person in the congregation, from A to Z, and never miss a soul.
As he prays through the directory, the pastor should be particularly mindful of the special needs of individual members – health problems, financial needs, spiritual difficulties, and so on. Scripture is full of examples of wonderful answers to prayers that were offered for needy friends by ones that cared. The pastor should be such an intercessory friend for the flock.
The apostle Paul tells us that in our intercessions, "giving of thanks" should be made for all men, even for heathen kings (1 Timothy 2:1, 2). If giving of thanks should be made for such kings, how much more should ministers remember to give thanks to God for each member as he prays for him. Thanking God for each member and his unique gifts keeps the pastor in love with his flock and grateful to God.
Pastors, how is your prayer life? Can you say with the apostles that you give yourself "continually to prayer"? Can you say with Luther that you pray for an hour or two every day? Does God see you as a man of prayer?
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