Pastors and the Struggle of Prayer
- Friday, October 20, 2006
I still remember meeting a Christian leader who told me that there was a part of the prayer that everyone should pray every day. He said he learned it himself as a young man when he asked a wise older leader to help him as he was just starting out. So from the older leader to my friend to me, here is the one part of the Lord's Prayer we should pray every day: "Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever, Amen." We ought to pray that way to remind ourselves it's not our kingdom we're building, it's God's. It's not our power that matters, it's God's. It's not our glory we seek, it's God's. Many days those simple words have refocused my soul.
The praying pastor is strategic to the corporate prayer life of the congregation. What struggles did you encounter? How did you compensate/overcome them?
Pritchard: Years ago I read a book by Peter Wagner where he talked about the importance of pastors having a "prayer shield" to cover them. As a result I recruited 15-20 men and asked them to become my prayer partners. As I recall, the men were not only ready, they were eager to pray for me. I wrote them with updates, met with them occasionally, and updated them on my particular needs. Later we opened that ministry to women and called it the Prayer Warriors movement, which eventually grew to over 200 people. That led to building a prayer room under the sanctuary where people would come to pray during all the worship services.
Looking back, I can see that there was a correlation between the evident blessing of God on my ministry and the strength of those who were praying for me. It is not a matter of numbers but of fervent believers who lifted up their pastor in prayer. The first man I ever recruited as a prayer partner eventually moved to a distant city. Every time I see him (once every couple of years), he tells me that he still prays for me every morning at 6:30.
Knowing that so many people were praying for me gave me purpose and endurance in my own walk with God. I once had a friend tell me he was praying for my prayer life. That took me aback for a moment, but I think that was a wonderful gift. I have no doubt that my prayers had more depth and power because others were praying for my prayers.
In your observation, what is the biggest misconception pastors have regarding prayer?
Pritchard: I suppose most pastors instinctively feel that prayer comes to the very core of what we ought to be doing, yet in our culture we often are not rewarded for time spent in prayer. We live in a performance-based world where pastors are asked to produce tangible results quickly. While it has never been easy to be a pastor, I think that expectations are higher than ever and patience is lower than ever. The honeymoon for most new pastors doesn't last very long. As a result it's easy for a pastor to fall into the trap of thinking that he's got to get busy and make things happen now, today, this very moment. Slowly we can slip into the fallacy of believing that our "production" in the ministry depends on us. To the extent we begin to think that way, prayer will not seem very important to us. But once we fall into that trap, we enter a game we cannot win and that will only wear us down and eventually burn us out. No pastor can satisfy the competing demands of all the people in his church. Unless we build a strong inner core where our souls find rest in God, we will probably not last very long in the ministry or we will be swept away by one fad or another or we will be held captive by interest groups in the church, and we will probably become angry, frustrated and disillusioned. At that point prayer becomes a burden, not a blessing.
All of us as pastors struggle with prayer. And that struggle itself is not sinful. It is a reminder that we are made of flesh and that something in us will fight against prayer because prayer is an admission that apart from God, we are a bunch of pathetic losers. The flesh fights against that judgment but it is true nonetheless. When we pray, we launch a revolution against self-sufficiency and plant the flag of God's sovereignty in our heart.
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