This article is part of the How to Pray series.
Pray that your pastor would fear God and not man.
God’s glory is the goal and purpose of everything, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Rom. 11:36). Pray that your pastor would stand in awe of God above all else. Pray that he would be, as John Piper often says, a “God-besotted” man who treasures, loves, savors and fears the triune God.
Pastors face the regular temptation to fear people instead of God. They wrestle with their own sinful tendencies to please others at the expense of biblical principles. Pray your pastor would love God, and you, so much that he would be willing to disappoint you for God’s glory.
Pray that your pastor would have great confidence in God’s Word and the gospel.
Those who stand in awe of God also tremble at his word, so pray that your pastor would believe fully in the inspiration and supreme authority of the Bible. Pray he would rely on the Holy Spirit working through the word to do the work of ministry. May he trust that it is the gospel itself that is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The modern world constantly pressures your pastor to rely on alternative power sources: technology, marketing, ambiance, management techniques, music, youthfulness, social media, celebrity, and entertainment.
Pray that your pastor would look to Scripture first as he thinks through how to do ministry and shape church life, rather than following fads and trends. Pray that your pastor would devote himself to the serious study of the Bible and then preach from the Bible, allowing the main point of the text to be the main point of the sermon. This requires courage, because people can have “itching ears” that won’t put up with sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3). Cultural pressures seduce pastors to truncate the Bible’s message in order to make it more palatable and less offensive, often in the name of evangelism and outreach. But those inside and outside the church need preachers who can say with Paul “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
Pray that your pastor would love his family well.
Church work can strain your pastor’s family. Evening meetings often pull him away from the dinner table. Even when he is home, your pastor may be exhausted and disengaged from his family because he is recovering from an explosive board meeting, or mentally crafting a reply to a blistering email, or grieving a tragedy in the life of a church member. His wife often bears the weight of unrealistic and unbiblical expectations of what a pastor’s wife should be and do. The same is true for his children.
Pray your pastor would have the strength and discipline to guard time with his wife and kids, and the grace to be mentally and emotionally present with them. Pray that the elders and other leaders would support your pastor in maintaining at least one day off per week, and in using his allotted vacation time every year. Ask God to enrich his marriage and empower his parenting. Managing one’s household well is a requirement for those who would lead God’s household (1 Tim. 3:4–5). Your pastor needs God’s help to do this.
Pray that your pastor would grow in godliness.
God calls pastors to be examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3). No wonder character qualities make up the majority of the biblical qualifications for pastors/elders in the New Testament (see 1 Tim. 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9; 1 Pet. 5:1–4). No pastor is perfect, and yet pastors ought to give us a living picture of Christian maturity and Christlikeness.
Pray that the Holy Spirit would cause your pastor to hate sin and love righteousness. Pray for him to be quick to repent when he does sin—and he will. Pray for him to be conformed more and more to the image of Christ. Ask the Lord to deliver him from the evil one. Far too many pastors are falling into disqualifying sins like addiction, sexual immorality and abusive authoritarianism. When pastors fall they bring shame on the gospel and great harm upon their churches. This is why Paul told Timothy “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). Assist your pastor’s self-watch with your prayers!
Pray that the Holy Spirit would cause your pastor to hate sin and love righteousness.
Pray that your pastor would love the church members.
Pastoral work is people work, which is why pastoring is rewarding. And it’s also why pastoral ministry is hard. People disappoint. People sin. People attack. People typically grow very slowly. The Bible often compares the work of ministry to farming. Making disciples of people can be slow, exhausting, heart-breaking labor.
Pray that your shepherd would love the sheep under his care. Ask God to guard his heart against bitterness, cynicism and resentment, and instead cause your pastor to treasure church members as the blood-bought bride of Jesus. Pray that your pastor would have a tenacious, patient care for church members. Ask the Lord to give him faith in God’s promises to bring the elect to maturity so that he would not grow weary in making disciples.
Pray that your pastor would have great wisdom.
James assures us that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach” (James 1:5). That’s good news, because pastoral ministry demands the wisdom of Solomon. God’s word is true and absolute, but applying God’s word to the ambiguities, complexities, and relativities of a sinful world requires divine insight. Your pastor needs wisdom from on high for navigating church politics, shepherding messy counseling situations, balancing a host of competing priorities, and making daily decisions without sufficient information.
Pray that your pastor would look to God’s word for his wisdom. Ask God to surround your pastor with a team of wise and godly elders/pastors (the two terms are interchangeable in the New Testament). Pray that the Lord would give him a humble heart that is willing to ask for help and learn from his inevitable mistakes. Pray God would bless him with the attitude of Solomon who prayed “Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” (2 Chron. 1:10).
Pray that your pastor would rest and rejoice.
John the Baptist confessed to the authorities, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:20). John wasn’t the Messiah, and neither is your pastor. Your pastor is just like you: a fellow lost-and-found sheep, a sinner saved by grace, a stranger and exile in this world, a pile of dust animated and sustained by God’s power. This means your pastor has limits. His body and mind need sleep. His emotions have a breaking point. He has limited intellect and energy and gifting.
Pray that your pastor would humbly embrace his finite, creaturely status, and rest. Ask God to spare him from workaholism and lead him to take time off, work reasonable hours, get enough sleep, exercise, and be able to know when to be “done” with things even when they’re not done. Pray that God would graciously provide him with real friendships and safe places to unload his burdens. Pray that the Lord would provide your church with a team of fellow pastors/elders who can help carry the load and complement your pastors weaknesses. Plead with the Lord to rid your congregation of Messianic expectations of your pastor. And may the Lord release your pastor from those same expectations of himself!
And pray that in all these things your pastor would not lose his joy in the Lord and the work of ministry. May his heart delight in the Lord, the church, and the gospel work. May God make him a happy pastor. This brings us back to the first prayer request—that your pastor would be man who delights in and treasures the Lord—because true happiness comes from knowing and walking with Jesus. Pray that the joy of the Lord would be his strength all his days.
Jeramie Rinne is the author of Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus.