7 Things I Prayed for My Husband through 30 Years of Ministry

Distinct Prayers for Pastors

A few years after we were married, my husband gave me the book Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan & Sarah Edwards by Elisabeth Dodds. Regarding Jonathan, we knew little more than what could be gathered from the requisite high school American Lit course assignment of Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God. It seemed obvious to me that marriage to a man who could imagine dangling a spider over an open flame would be difficult. The book was purchased for the humor of the title. It would be years before we respected and appreciated the work of Mr. Edwards and admired the faith of his wife.

Whether being married to Jonathan may or may not have been difficult, this side of being married to a pastor for thirty years, I know that it is difficult to be married to a pastor. Marriage to a man in any particular profession has particular difficulties. There is some overlap, but the challenges faced by wives of pilots or farmers or professional athletes or professors or fill-in-the-blank are unique to that profession. Over the years, I have learned to pray for the needs of my husband that are distinct to his calling as a pastor.

Pour Out Your Heart Prayer Journal

Lois Krogh

The customizable Pour Out Your Heart Prayer Journal includes sample prayers, hymns, sections to record prayers, and more. Designed to use over many years, it guides women toward a joyful, consistent prayer life.

This past year I have been slowly copying over prayers from the prayer journal I have kept for many years into the new Crossway journal. It has been a sweet joy to be reminded of how God has led me in the past and how faithful he has been to his word. While working through the prayers I wrote out and prayed for my husband, I thought that perhaps the pastor’s wife of our church plant may be encouraged to pray for her husband by what I had gleaned from Scripture to pray for Steve. Perhaps there are others who would benefit from one pastor’s wife's reflection written for another.

God’s Glory

Just as the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to begin with a request that God’s name be revered, I wanted to begin to pray for Steve that his primary focus would be the glory of God’s name and his role as a steward of the glorious gospel.

May he reverence your name and be zealous to defend it (Matt. 6:9; Rom. 12:11; 1 Pet. 3:15). In all that he does, may he seek to glorify you, not give offense, or seek his own advantage (1 Cor. 10:31–33). May he be a faithful and wise steward: sincerely desiring his master’s honor and not his own, skillfully performing his duty, consistently and perseveringly doing what his master bids him do (Matt. 24:45–46; Col. 3:23–24; 1 Tim. 1:11).

Personal Holiness

My husband shared with me the well-known response of Robert Murray M'Cheyne that “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” More important than developing his exegesis and preaching proficiency, more important than being a wise counselor and careful manager, and more important than skillfully handling conflict was his response to the ongoing work of the Spirit in his sanctification. I looked for scriptures that would aid me in praying for his personal holiness.

May he hate sin in his own life and in the lives of your people because it is an affront to your holiness and a ruin to the people you have called him to serve. Help him take pains to have a clear conscience before both God and man (Ps. 69:5–6; Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16; Heb. 13:18) so that it is known, by the grace of God, that he behaved in holiness and godly sincerity (2 Cor. 1:12). May the experiential knowledge of your merciful forgiveness and abundant steadfast love make him a gentle teacher of sinners (Ps. 51:1, 12–13).

Awareness of Need

The overwhelming nature of the task of shepherding should keep pastors on their knees in humble dependence on the Lord. Sadly, the voices of many “successful” pastoral testimonies and conferences urge, “Work harder, pastor!” A dear friend of ours eventually left the pastorate because he “could no longer keep all the plates spinning in the church circus.” I hesitated to add to my husband’s responsibilities by telling him he should follow the pattern of Luther who would pray two hours a day, unless he was very busy, and then Luther would pray for three hours. Steve did not need me to hold this example up as a standard by which I might judge him. But I could pray that the Lord would make him daily aware of his need for the Lord’s strength, guidance, and provision.

Bless him with an awareness of his dependence on you. May he believe that it is only in your abiding presence he will bear much fruit. (John 15:5). May he lift up his eyes to you, his master enthroned in the heavens, knowing he can not do your bidding without your provision (Ps. 123). May he know that he can give any burden to you, and you will sustain him (Ps. 55:22). May he know that when he is weak, you will be strong in him (2 Cor. 12:9–10). May he be steadfast in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving (Col. 4:2).

Preaching, Teaching, Shepherding

When I prayed for Steve’s specific roles as a pastor, I divided them into preaching, teaching, and shepherding. There is overlap in all three along with the distinctives. Preaching is proclamation, and so it has the energy of exhortation, admonition, and encouragement. Teaching can be viewed as education and the imparting of knowledge, and so it requires careful study and precise words. Shepherding is caring for the spiritual needs of the flock. The word of God is central to all three of these.

May his preaching be filled with urgency, forcefulness, and penetrating conviction. May he preach with the passion and intensity of someone who has heard a lion roar and must tell others (Amos 3:8), as a new wine skin full and ready to burst (Job 32:15–22). Give him a burning fire in his bones that he can not hold in (Jer. 20:9). May the fear of you and the love of Christ control him (2 Cor. 11, 14–15).

May he be unashamed to teach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). May he be approved before you as a worker who rightly handles the word of God in season and out of season (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Tim. 4:1–4). May he hold firmly to your trustworthy word, able to give instruction in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). May a lifelong example of integrity, dignity, and sound speech compliment his teaching (Titus 2:7–8).

May he pay careful attention to the flock you gave him, that you purchased by your Son’s blood (Acts 20:28). May he exercise oversight by his godly example (Ps. 78:72; 1 Peter 5:2–3). Give him wisdom, compassion, and boldness so that he can warn the unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, and be patient with all (Jer. 3:15: Matt. 9:36; 1 Thess. 5:14). May he joyfully accept his obligation to bear with the failings of the weak. May he have wisdom to know how to build up those around him. May he have endurance and encouragement to live in harmony and unity with others so that you are glorified (Rom. 15:1–7). May he be pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, fully of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere. Send him a harvest of righteousness (James 3:17–18).

Preparation for Opposition

Trials and opposition are a part of every believer’s life. I have seen up close what they can look like in the life of a pastor. His calling and gifting in and of themselves are a lightning rod, attracting the anger or envy of both hurting and evil people. Those that do not like the message attack the messenger. In American culture, any authority is suspect. In a therapeutic Christian culture, if I don’t feel good about myself, it must be your fault. How can a pastor be prepared for the opposition that comes from people he has tenderly served or even joyfully served alongside (Ps. 41:9; 109:4–5)? And of course, there are no perfect pastors, and the pastor’s own limitations and failings will cause conflict. My husband and I realized early in his ministry that it is a severe mercy to have the purifying work of God laser focused on you. For the glory of his name and the sake of his church, God will purify his ministers (Mal. 3:3).

Don’t let him be quarrelsome, but make him kind, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24–25). When he is bitterly attacked and harassed, may he not retaliate in kind or do anything that is unbecoming a servant of the Lord. Strengthen him so that he stands his ground and his faith does not fail (Gen. 49:22–26; Ps. 125:1–3). Remind him of eternal things. May he look only to you as his judge. Help him to trust in a just God who sees all things (1 Cor. 4:5; Heb. 6:10). May he remember that you are for him, and no one can stand against him (Rom. 8:32). Deliver him from evil men (Ps. 3:3–6; 2 Thess. 3:2–4). Encourage him with the heavenly reward of an unfading crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:4).

For the glory of his name and the sake of his church, God will purify his ministers.

Home Life

A pastor’s first church and congregation is his family. If the cobbler’s children have no shoes and the baker’s children have no bread, it is easy for the pastor who is always at work to neglect the spiritual care of those directly under his charge. History is filled with examples of men of God—men who God used in amazing ways—whose families were shattered. A pastor’s wife is often called to do double duty at home and will struggle with how to relate to her pastor/husband. Because he has a highly respected spiritual platform, a wife may assume he shouldn’t make mistakes, resulting in either being too timid to offer corrections or in being devastated when he sins. Or she may make it her responsibility to “keep him humble” by being quick to point out shortcomings. Pastor’s kids have it difficult as well. The pastor’s home is a fish bowl—in part because God wants it that way. He wants it to be a living example of growth in grace. When that growth in grace is on public display and the separation between family life and ministry is often blurred, children can feel as if they are only sermon illustrations or a possible enhancement or scarring of their parents' reputation. Beyond this, the children of pastors are routinely scrutinized or lifted up on pedestals on which they cannot stand. And speaking of the cobbler’s shoeless children, providing materially for his family is often a burden on a pastor. All of these things were part of my earnest prayers for my husband.

Give him wisdom to shepherd our family. May he view us as his first flock (Prov. 17:23; 1 Tim. 5:8). May he be the same pastor at home that he is when he is with the larger household of God. Don’t let him be a father like Eli or Samuel or David; don’t let him be silent when he should speak. Let him see me and our children as individuals in need of shepherding with daily gospel truth. May our children know the particular joys of being a pastor’s family. May they view their father’s ministry as a blessing from you for their flourishing (Prov. 14:26). May we understand that we also are serving Christ's Church when we send him away from us to minister with grace and confidence and welcome him back home with encouragement and thanksgiving. Give him the joy and satisfaction of seeing his hard work providing for the needs of our family. Help him to remember that you are the ultimate provider of our daily bread. Let him not be bitter or disappointed when he sees the work of others yielding more financial profit. Keep his eyes on the spiritual blessings you generously bestow on our family.

Perseverance and Resilience

Finally, I prayed for his perseverance and resilience. By God’s grace, he finished thirty years of pastoral ministry in faithfulness. Now I pray for him as a cross-cultural pastor/teacher to pastors. It may be that we are on our “gun lap.” I want to cross the finish line with him as a joint heir of Christ, as a fellow member in the household of God, and as a helpmate who did her best to “keep him in the pulpit” (this was Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ wife’s answer to what her role in the church was). So I continue to pray.

Make him steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. May he know his labor is not in vain (Isa. 49:4; Gal. 6:7–9; 1 Cor. 15:16). Establish the work of his hands (2 Thess. 2:16). In all his work and trouble and joy, may his desire be to hear your “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Luke 14:17; 1 Pet. 5:4).

Lois Krogh is the author of the Pour Out Your Heart Prayer Journal: A Planner for a Life of Prayer.

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