As we enter October and celebrate all things pumpkin spice, this is also the month set aside to celebrate our pastors. During Pastor Appreciation Month, we look for ways to celebrate and honor our pastors. While they certainly appreciate tangible gifts, I decided to ask the many friends I know who serve in ministry what would bless them.
I continually heard: Prayer. They said that knowing the people in their church body were actually praying for them on a consistent basis was incredibly encouraging. They also shared that when a church member reaches out to ask them HOW to pray for them, it makes an impact. Most of us are familiar with James 5:16 that says: “The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.” (Living Bible) Prayer is a gift we can give our pastors every day! Actually we SHOULD be praying for them, just as we pray for our families.
I also asked my friends who serve in ministry how they would want us to pray for them. These are some of their answers:
Physical Health – The intensity of ministry can take a toll on a healthy person’s body. Pastors are often under a lot of daily stress. This can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, headaches, etc. They don’t have a lot of extra time, so healthy practices like eating right and exercising can get lost in their packed schedules. Many pastors asked for prayer that they would actually have the desire once again to physically take care of themselves.
Marriage – Every marriage has ups and downs when dealing with stress, but marriage in ministry actually has alarming divorce rates. Often a pastor and his or her spouse can feel isolated and unable to share with transparency when their marriage in in trouble.
Relationships – Ministry can be lonely. Pastors want and need genuine friendships, but these are hard to find when they are shepherding a congregation. Lots of people want to be friends and be known as the pastor’s friend, but very few can handle the stress of the load they carry. Healthy, authentic friendships for the pastor’s family can often be difficult to manage as well. Praying for a pastor’s relationship with his or her children and other family members is very needed and necessary. Pastors want to shepherd their family well first, but the pressures of leading a church can often take the majority of their time and energy.
Rest – Many pastors have great difficulty sleeping. They are often running on adrenaline and in overdrive, which results in an inability to actually wind down and relax enough to get good rest. They also mentally have a difficult time turning “off” in order to mentally rest and relax, which takes a toll on their relationships and their health.
Joy – Most pastors went into ministry because they were passionate and found great joy in serving, preaching and ministering. However, over time, it is common for pastors to lose their joy and view ministry as a job or even a chore. The Holy Spirit can renew that joy when we ask HIm.
Wisdom and Discernment – When do most people want to speak with their pastor? When things are going great? No, when they are struggling and in a difficult situation. As a result, most of us would be amazed at the hard conversations and heartbreaking situations our pastors walk people through each week. They desperately need the Holy Spirit to fill them, lead them, and guide them through these challenging and painful situations. They don’t learn how to deal with these situations in seminary. They need the Lord’s guidance. Our prayers can strengthen and sustain them.
Purity – It feels like almost monthly we hear about another pastor who experienced a moral failure. Our pastors desperately want to finish the race well. They need our prayers to help them have the strength to maintain purity throughout their lives. We don’t need to simply expect them to resist temptation without praying for them.
Spiritual Warfare – The enemy of our souls prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8). The devil wants our pastors to fail. He enjoys seeing them struggle and become distracted and defeated. We can stand in the gap and help them stand strong and flourish instead of struggle through the power of our prayers.
It is time we stand with our pastors and hold their arms up. In Exodus 17, the Israelites were in a fierce battle with the Amalekites. When Moses stood on the hill and held his hands up they were able to push back the Amalekites, but when his hands lowered Amalek prevailed. Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses when he became weary and held his arms up. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set and the Israelites prevailed.
Our pastors need us to come alongside them and hold their hands up through our prayers. This is something we can do for them daily. It would be a powerful thing for it to become a habit in our lives. October is a great time to develop the habit of praying daily specifically for your pastor and his family. Set an alarm on your phone to pray at a certain time each day. Pray each night as a family. Call your pastor and ask him or her how you can pray.
How will you make praying for your pastor a priority habit in your life this October?