Pastors and the Struggle of Prayer
- Friday, October 20, 2006
Editor's Note: Recently, Phil Miglioratti of PrayingPastor.com interviewed Pastor Ray Pritchard, president of Keep Believing Ministries and author of And When You Pray, about the importance - and sometimes neglected duty - of prayer for church leaders.
Praying Pastor: Ray, you are a pastor-teacher who recognizes the role of prayer in the life of both the believer and the corporate body. What factors led to this awareness?
Dr. Ray Pritchard: After serving as a pastor for 26 years in three churches in widely differing circumstances, I can look back over some wonderful high points and some very difficult low moments. I have known the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Often they came in the same day.
When I look back to those early days of my ministry, I smile because like a lot of young people, I came out of seminary with no shortage of self-confidence. That in itself is a good thing and even a gift from God because the young often approach life with a kind of fearless courage that enables them to do things the rest of us think can't be done. Time has a way of refining our self-confidence and ideally replacing it with a new kind of God-confidence.
In my early in Oak Park we came to a crisis in the church that plunged us into controversy. It was a combination of worship issues, theological issues, and the whole question of what sort of church we would become. At one point a man came to me and told me that not only should I leave the church, but that I should never be a pastor again, and he would work to see that happen. In God's providence at that very moment I spent a few days teaching at a mission station in Belize. There in the jungle, far removed from all the controversy, I had a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit. I pictured the church with a large black cloud hanging over it. It seemed that the Lord was saying to me, "You have seen what you can do, but you have no answers for this problem." I came to a deep conviction that the cloud would not lift by preaching or programs but only by prayer. When I shared that with the congregation upon my return, the people were deeply moved. Out of that came the prayer movement at Calvary, and l look back on that as the turning point of my entire ministry in Oak Park.
What led you to write And When You Pray and how did it help you in your pastoral role?
Pritchard: In the early 1990s I happened to read a book that mentioned the importance of the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed to the early Christians. The Ten Commandments tells us how to have a right relationship with God, the Lord's Prayer shows us how to maintain that relationship, and the Apostles' Creed lays out the broad outlines of the Christian faith from the very beginning. I decided to preach through all those documents as a means of equipping my own congregation. It happens that I did the Ten Commandments in 1991 and the Lord's Prayer in 1992. It took me twelve more years, but I finally got to the Apostles' Creed in 2004. By the way, I should say that I recommend this sort of preaching to pastors everywhere because it provides a unified approach to the spiritual life and it connects the congregation to the larger stream of Christian history across the generation.
As I preached through the Lord's Prayer, I found it a profoundly enriching experience because those few simple sentences start in heaven, sweep down to the earth, and then take up back to heaven again. Because I was not raised in a church that said the Lord's Prayer very often, I had never studied it in depth. The book simply came forth from the sermons and from my own reflections on the words of Jesus.
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