Paul’s letters in the New Testament are full of prayers for his fellow believers. Among other things he thanks God for the faith of the churches, their spiritual gifts and good works, and their partnership in the gospel. In addition to thanking God for what He had done through these churches, he also made requests on their behalf. Paul prayed for their growth in faith, wisdom, and knowledge, and for their growth in love for one another and outsiders. He prayed they would be filled with the fruit of righteousness, for unity within the church, and that they would have joy.
I often wish that I could convey to the people that the Lord has placed in my care as pastor, the earnestness with which I pray these things for them. And if discussions with many other pastors are any indication, your pastor probably prays these same things for you, too
Here are a few other things about your pastor that you may not know. I hope that they encourage you and lead you to pray for your pastor, knowing he prays for and loves you.
We really do love you—not just because it is our job. We love you because the Lord has placed us where we are for a purpose, and part of that purpose is Him placing a love and concern for you in our hearts that you probably wouldn’t believe if we tried to explain it to you (though we could probably do a better job of trying to explain it).
A church should be filled with Christ’s love. The reason that we want you to really know and love the gospel, to have genuine love for one another, and to have your life shaped by the grace of God is not so that we can consider our ministry a success. It is because we know that when the church has this love and is gripped in this way, it is the closest thing to heaven on earth—and we want that for you. Pray with us.
We don’t expect you to be perfect, and we are aware that we are not. In fact, a lot of times we are afraid that you may find that we are not the “man of God” that you think we are. Not because of some culturally perceived gross sin, but because we too can be lazy, selfish, tired, frustrated, and distracted in our walk with Christ. Pray that we wouldn’t be.
For every sermon you think was bombed, you can bet your pastor thinks they have bombed at least twice as many. But know this: sometimes the sermons people love the most leave us frustrated because what people tell us they loved about it misses the point we were making. Other times we can be 100% certain that we proclaimed the text exactly as the Lord would have us do and we feel invigorated to have done so—until we realize everyone hated it or was bored. Knowing that we shouldn’t try to be people pleasers but wanting people to be encouraged and engaged is hard to balance. Pray for us.
One of the most frustrating things as a pastor is for everyone to think that we are the first to know everything, when often times we are the last. Few things are more discouraging than finding out that there has been heartache, sickness, turmoil, etc. after everyone else has been talking about it for the last week while they wonder why you haven’t called or stopped by. We would love for you to help us in this area.
Sometimes we have no idea what we are doing. I don’t mean that to say that we haven’t been called to the ministry or our present context, but seminary doesn’t train us for every situation. Things often come up where we just have no idea what to do. Sometimes, by the grace of God, we get it right. Sometimes we swing and miss, and it scares us to think we might miss again next time. Pray that we would be bold in trusting Christ at all times and in all circumstances.
It bothers us when we can’t make your situation better. We don’t care so much about being the hero, or the great problem solver, but we are rooting for your marriage to work out. We do want your rebellious child to see the truth. We want for your parent to show you affection. We want the memories of abuse to be swept away. We want you to overcome your doubts that God is real or that your faith is genuine. We know that God is in control, and he alone can heal wounds and perform miracles. But when the answers to our prayers aren’t coming, it breaks our hearts for you, and we would do almost anything to fix it if we could.
We know that you don’t agree with everything that we do. We may even know that your way would be better. But sometimes we also know that, to keep the peace, we might have to do things a certain way for a little while longer, or change something a bit more quickly for the greater good. We know it may be inconvenient or not as effective, but we are willing for some to be aggravated at us or to think we are old-fashioned or moving too fast, if that means we can prevent fighting amongst church members—or to make certain that we are not compromising doctrinally in area that maybe no one else has noticed.
There are times when you can make us so full of joy we feel like bursting. Whether it is your becoming consistent in your attendance, coming to us with a question that shows you have really been thinking about gospel implications, treating one another with mercy and grace, smiling while you sing, showing concern when someone is missing from church life, lingering after services with one another because you would rather spend more time together than leave, taking notes during a sermon, having a guest sitting next to you, volunteering for church activities, etc. The list goes on and on. There are times when we are near tears because we see the Lord being faithful and just in bringing his work to completion in you.
And then there are other times. There are times when we are frustrated, broken, and feel like a failure because what seemed like a promising turn for the better in the life of an individual or family actually turned out to be a turn for the worst. Or, last we heard everything was going great, and then they just disappeared, only for us to hear through the grapevine that, from their perspective, we have failed them in some way. Forgive us and pray for us when we seem skittish or hesitant, and please be honest (but gracious) if you feel we have let you down.
We want more than anything else, for our labor to bring honor and glory to God. We know we blow it sometimes. We know that there have been instances where we simply could/should have done better. Our calling as a pastor often terrifies us because we know our own inadequacies better than anyone else. But we long to get it right, because we love Christ, and we love you. And when He gets glory, you get the benefit, and we relish in the joy that is all rooted in Him. And that is why we pray for you.
Stephen Cavness is the pastor of First Baptist Church, in Fulton, KY.