By Joseph Ametepe
It is an undeniable fact! Pastors and other church leaders are at the frontline of an intense spiritual warfare. The Bible makes it clear that this spiritual battle is being fought against unseen forces, that is, "against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). Clearly, pastors and church leaders are a special target of Satan, a defeated foe, yet one who is relentless in his efforts to destroy and devour. As the most visible members of the church, pastors constantly face the fiery darts of the devil. This enemy knows that when pastors or shepherds of God's flock are disappointed, defeated, discouraged, disheartened, depressed and prayerless, he has won the battle. Why? Pastors will no longer lead their churches with a sense of joy, with the power of the Spirit, and serve in love. In short, they will fail in their privileged roles of being used of God to take God's people to the next level. Not only do pastors need to devote themselves to prayer, they also need those they serve and lead to devote themselves to prayer on their behalf. They must be a prayer covering over their lives. Soldiers who are in the frontline of combat are most susceptible to the enemy's constant attacks. They know the conflict will be fierce. Why? They will be facing the fury of their enemies. They are the one on whom the enemies turn their big guns. As such, they prepare themselves for stiff opposition. In modern warfare, while they advance to engage in battle with enemy forces, there is coverage for them in the air as well as on the ground. In other words, they do not fight alone. Others are there to provide them with much needed support and protection. What is true in human warfare is also true in spiritual warfare. Pastors need spiritual coverage and support which come from the prayers of God's people.
After writing about the fact that our spiritual warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces, the Holy Spirit led Apostle Paul to call on the believers at Ephesus to put on the full armor of God, which is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and pray for all the saints and pray on his behalf as well (Ephesians 6:10-19). The point here is that pastors and church leaders such as elders, overseers, deacons desperately need prayer coverage from those they shepherd and serve. Paul was a man of prayer, but he repeatedly requested churches to intercede regularly before the Lord for him (see Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:10-20; Philippians 1:19;Colossians 4:2-4; 1Thess. 5: 25; Philemon 22). Paul was not content to rely on his prayers and those constantly offered by the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit on his behalf (Romans 8:26-27, 34). Paul yearned also for the prayer support of those under his leadership. The lesson from this example is that present day pastors and church leaders will not reach their fullest potential without the prayer backing of those they are privileged to serve and lead.
Charles Spurgeon said much about others praying and pleaded with tears for others' prayers on his behalf. He understood that no matter how brilliant, godly, or eloquent the preacher or pastor, he has no power without the Spirit's help released through the prayers of others. He wrote:
"The bell in the steeple may be well hung, fairly fashioned, and of soundest metal, but it is dumb until the ringer makes it speak. And... the preacher has no voice of quickening for the dead in sin, or of comfort for living saints unless the divine spirit [Spirit] gives him a gracious pull, and begs him to speak with power. Hence the need of prayer for both preacher and hearers." Charles Spurgeon- The Quotable Spurgeon (Wheaton Ill.: Harold Shaw, 1990).
Spurgeon saw the Monday-night meeting at London's Metropolitan Tabernacle as the "the thermometer of the church." Because Spurgeon understood the power through others' prayer and encouraged his church to practice it, God worked mightily through him and his church to advance His purposes in their generation. The same can be true of us, if only we will learn to pray effectively for our pastors and church leaders.
Presbyterian pastor, Gardiner Spring, a nineteenth-century servant of God in New York City, clearly understood the crucial role prayer has in spiritual warfare and made an impassioned plea for Christians to pray for their pastors:
"O it is at a fearful expense that ministers are ever allowed to enter the pulpit without being preceded, accompanied, and followed by the earnest prayers of the churches. It is no marvel that the pulpit is so powerless, and ministers so often disheartened when there are so few to hold up their hands. The consequences of neglecting this duty is seen and felt in the spiritual declension of the churches, and it will be seen and felt in the everlasting perdition of men; while the consequence of regarding it would be the ingathering of multitudes into the kingdom of God, and new glories to the Lamb that was slain!
On his behalf therefore, and on the behalf of his beloved and respected brethren in the ministry, the writer would crave an interest in the prayers of all who love the Savior and souls of men. We are dispensers of God's truth and at best fall far below our mighty theme. The duties of our calling return upon us with every returning week and day. They often come upon us with many and conflicting demands. They sometimes put a demand upon all out thoughts, and at the very time when we have lost the power of thinking and sometimes they call for all the intensity and strength of our affections, just at the time we are the least capable of expressing them. There is also associated with these demands that pressing distress, and decaying anxiety, which exhausts our vigor, cripples our courage, and drinks up our spirits. And then, in addition to all this, there are so many disappointments in our work, that we desperately need the sympathy and comfort of the prayers of God's faithful people! ("A Plea to Pray for Pastors" [Amityville, N.Y.: Calvary, 1991], excerpted from the Power of the Pulpit [reprint of 1848 edition; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, n.d.])
The purpose of this article is to help believers and churches build a shield of prayer around pastors and church leaders by praying specific and effective kingdom prayers which are anchored in the Word of God. Sometimes we pray "nice" prayers but they are ineffective in accomplishing God's kingdom purposes. Why is that? It is because these "nice prayers" are not Scripture-centered. How we pray and what we pray are both important to God. God is not interested in prayers that have nothing to do with the advance of His kingdom and His will. That is why He specifically taught us to pray: "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). God is that jealous. He cares only for the success and progress of His kingdom and will. As such, prayers that are not consistent with the advance of His kingdom purposes and will, will not be responded to. Since God revealed His will and purpose in His Word, the specific prayer requests for pastors will be based on Scripture. This means that we will not only be standing on solid ground in prayer but also have confident assurance that our prayers will be heard (see 1 John 5:14-15). As a result of these kingdom scripture-centered prayers, God will work through them to provide an impenetrable wall around pastors and church leaders we pray for. Such Scripture-centered prayers will serve to protect pastors to run the race and finish well. One way believers can demonstrate their agape love for their pastors is praying effectively for them, not just mouthing words for them. I thank God for the people He's raised up to lift up kingdom prayers on my behalf. I am grateful for God's tender mercies to me in bringing such people in my life. My desire is to be blessed with more prayer coverage over my life and ministry! That's also my desire for others who are called into the privileged ministry of declaring the Word of God and shepherding the flock of God.
The Definition of Prayer
Prayer is a privileged spiritual communion which takes place in the context of relationship between the true and living God and the believer in Jesus Christ. It is inspired and directed by the Person of the Holy Spirit living in the believer. In this privileged communion, the believer expresses not only his hunger and thirst to know God more intimately and be changed into the image of Christ, but also his adoration, praise and worship to God, thankfully acknowledging His goodness, humbly and honestly confessing his sins and failures to Him, listening attentively to His voice in His written Word and the impression of His Spirit, and asking Him according to His promises in His Word to meet the needs in his own life and in the lives of fellow believers in the Church and others outside of the Church, as it is fit to bring glory and praise to His name and for the advancement of His kingdom. - Joseph Ametepe
Kingdom Prayers Requests on Behalf of Pastors
Since we are committed to investing ourselves in kingdom prayer requests that make a difference in the lives of pastors, I have listed scriptural references at the end of each prayer request. Please take time to read, review, and reflect on them before praying. That way you and the Holy Spirit will be in agreement on each request. Then watch God work through your partnership with the Holy Spirit in your prayers for your pastors and church leaders.
While I would have loved to arrange the requests in specific categories, I have decided not to do so at this time. I will therefore present the requests in no specific order. You can pray through them in the order they are presented or you can pick and choose as the Spirit leads you.
Pastors or shepherds must model the principle of "first things first."
It is important that pastors model delighting in the Lord to their flock.
The Lord Jesus Himself is a classic example of true devotion to prayer. His apostles followed in His footsteps. It was said of Charles Spurgeon, dubbed the "Prince of Preachers" (I think this title belongs to the Lord Jesus), that he studied hard, but he got some of his best thoughts while praying.
The call to the pastorate is a call to handle the most precious document God has given mankind - the Bible. It cannot be handled without careful and diligent study and a heart set on practicing its truth.
God has given the Church His Word. His Word alone must be what they declare. The Bible must remain the primary source of the teaching and preaching of pastors and preachers.
Preaching and teaching the Word of God must be a compelling passion for pastors.
The Lord Jesus practiced what He preached and therefore set an example for pastors to follow. He strongly denounced the Pharisees for preaching but not practicing what they preached.
Serving in the pastorate is not just about having a great installation service. There must be steadfast reliance on the Holy Spirit to run the race to the finish line. Many are falling by the wayside. Much prayer is therefore needed in this area for pastors.
It is of vital importance that the Holy Spirit directs the lives of pastors. It is only then they are victorious and effective in the ministry.
God has given pastors and all believers spiritual gifts. We are fulfilled in life when we surrender to the Spirit to lead us in the use of those gifts to the praise and glory of God.
Potentially, the faithful pastor who consistently confronts the world's wicked system with the Word of God could suffer harm from evil men (John 15:20; 2 Tim. 3:12; Acts 4:3; 5:18; 13:50; 16:23) and therefore needs his people's prayers for safety.
The Lord Jesus did not allow the demands of ministry to rob Him of His earnest desire to remain connected and intimate with His Father. He constantly found time to be alone from family, friends and His followers in order to deepen His intimacy with the Heavenly Father. Pastors must follow His footsteps in this area.
Relying on own understanding is something we are not taught, but we are very good at it. Much prayer is needed to break this wicked pattern in our lives in order for us to constantly depend on God's wisdom in the ministry.
Purity is important to God. And so, all believers including pastors must seek purity in all their relations. This pleases and honors God.
15. Pray for pastors to be cleansed vessels who are useful to their Master (1 Tim. 3:20-21).
For God's power to flow unhindered to work in and through pastors, they must constantly seek cleansing from all defilement.
16. Pray for pastors to seek for mature believers who will hold them accountable (Gal. 2:11-21).
Ministry can be, in fact, is lonely. Every pastor needs an accountable believing friend with whom to share his heart in a more intimate and understanding way.
Paul sought prayers to find refreshment in the company of believers and commended Philemon for refreshing his heart. Pastors also are in need of finding refreshing rest in the company of believers.
18. Pray that pastors will give adequate attention and spend quality time with their own families as they seek to serve and lead their flock (1 Tim. 3:4-5.
Pastors is not called to neglect their families in order to make a name for themselves in the ministry. Balance is needed in their lives.
Pastors must endeavor with the help of the Spirit to keep personal secrets disclosed to them in their times of counseling. They must not break confidence with those who shared intimately with them.
God's wisdom is desperately needed in serving His people. He has all the wisdom for pastors to shepherd and serve His people and He is willing to give it to them.
Pastors and godly church leaders have desires and visions for future ministry. Like Paul, they need the encouragement that can result from believing prayer on their behalf - that God in His time will fulfill those plans that are in line with His will.
God wants His Word to bear fruit among those who hear it. Therefore, it is necessary to pray for pastors to be fruitful in preaching and sharing the Gospel.
Integrity is an essential virtue in ministry. Pastors must be noted for integrity. They must serve God with a clear and good conscience.
God doesn't coerce us. He wants us to serve Him willingly. Pastors therefore must serve Him with a willing spirit in order to be effective in their ministries.
God's flock must be fed the right food or else they will be malnourished. It is the responsibility of pastors to feed their flock. I've met several people who left their churches because their pastors were not nourishing them with healthy spiritual food.
Paul constantly sought the spiritual well-being of those God gave him the privilege to serve. Pastors must also make it their goal to seek the spiritual welfare for their flock.
27. Pray for pastors to be on guard for all the flock (Acts 20:28).
Pastors must be vigilant shepherds guarding their flock from wolves in sheep's clothing.
False teachers and pretenders will secretly sneak into the church. Pastors must therefore rely on the Spirit to alert them of the entrance and work of these enemies of the gospel and expose them before they do harm to the flock.
The Lord Jesus Himself cared and served His followers. Pastors are called in reliance on the Spirit to do the same.
Through the Spirit's power, pastors must lead and direct their flock lest others will do it for them. This is often brings conflict, confusion and chaos in churches. Much prayer is therefore needed for pastors to rise up to this challenge.
Leading God's flock is charge He has laid upon pastors and shepherds. But they must do so with a gentle spirit even as the Lord Jesus Himself did.
The Lord Jesus prayed over the sick and healed them. He has given a charge to pastors or elders (in the early church, elders or overseers were pastors). Pastors must be willing to encourage their congregations that they are available to pray for the sick. It's so easy in our advanced scientific and technological age to set aside God's clear command to pray over the sick.
Pastors must not only prepare believers for the work of service, they must deliberately disciple younger Christians encouraging them to also take the Great Commission of making disciples seriously.
God wants His children to grow. Pastors who serve and shepherd must be the best example of maturity in the Christian faith. If they are not maturing in faith, spiritual maturity among the flock will be impossible.
Pastors have the responsibility of keeping watch over the spiritual lives of their flock. They must not fail in this. Christian life is not merely about having nice homes and jobs and kids. It's about the inner person which is being renewed everyday.
36. Pray for them to send and support those God has called to missions within the church (Acts 13:3).
God raises missionaries in churches. Pastors must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit to recognize who He is nudging. They must send and support them with prayer and finance when these missionaries respond to God's call to go.
Appointing elders or overseers in churches is important to God. As such, He gave us qualifications to follow in appointing them. He also gave us the example of how Paul and his team on their first missionary journey bathed this process in prayer and fasting. This pattern and practice must be followed.
38. Pray that they visit and encourage believers in their homes (Acts 20:20).
Most Christians love to have their pastors in their homes once in a while. Pastors must make the most of this and encourage them in their walk with the Lord and get to know them on their own "turf," so to speak.
The early church was a hospitable church. It leaders modeled it. Pastors must emulate the example of their predecessors.
40. Pray that pastors exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it (Tit. 1:9).
"Sound doctrine" literally means "healthy teaching." Pastors must present truth that is spiritually healthy to nourish their flock. But they must also teach in such a way as to refute those who are constantly seeking to contradict God's Word. Much prayer is needed for pastors to accomplish this dual ministry.
Pastor must rely on the Spirit to help them guard the Truth, especially in our generation when it is constantly and viciously being attacked.
42. Pray for them to reprove wayward believers so that they may be sound in the faith (Tit. 1:13-14).
The pastors' ministry not only involves caring, counseling, and comforting, but also correcting. They must not shy away from correcting believers who are straying from the path of righteousness.
When Peter denied Christ, He restored him with tenderness and gentleness. Pastors must depend on the Spirit to restore believers who have failed.
Although they were apostles, Paul and Barnabas assisted in caring for poor believers. They did not consider caring for needy Christians something beneath them. They gladly participated in caring for them. Pastors must do likewise.
God is in the business of raising us gifted believers to His work. Pastor must work with God in commending these believers to the service He's called them. They must not be jealous of them. They must joyfully release them to the service of God.
The ministry of praying for pastors is a privilege as well as partnership with God in advancing His kingdom purposes. It releases God's supernatural power into the lives of pastors and shepherds of God's flock to fulfill their God-given ministry. Reaching their fullest potential not only depends on their own prayers, but also on the effective prayers of their flock. Pastors need a prayer covering over them. This article is written to equip God's people to practice praying for their pastors in a Scripture-centered way.
Please, do not underestimate the power and significance of your prayers for your pastors. The Bible says, "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:16b). May your prayers be used by God to "accomplish much" in the life of your pastor as you partner with Him to fulfill His call upon him!