By Ray H. Hughes Jr.
I never shall forget my first prayer partner’s retreat. At the end of the day, the pastor was sharing with us from his heart. He related that on one particular Sunday, because of schedules, none of the men had reported to his office on time to pray with him. He said the longer he waited, the more nervous he had gotten about facing the congregation without his usual prayer cover. Mind you, this was not a novice pastor, but one who was a well-seasoned preacher-extraordinaire and a student of the Word. He then shared how relieved he was when, one by one, the men came through the door and gathered to pray with him. His statement was powerful, it helped me understand the significance of the prayer partners to him, but what he said next overwhelmed me. He said, “When I came here as pastor I wasn’t sure how I felt about the people of this church, but after having shared with you men in this ministry, I feel that if necessary, I would die for each of you.” He then fell to his knees and wept as the men gathered around him, laid hands on him, and prayed. That is loving like Jesus loved, and it had come about through prayer.
At that moment, I felt closer to my pastor, and more a part of his ministry than I had ever felt in my life. All the partners have developed close relationships with the pastor. I have seen critical spirits melt into words of encouragement and support. Put simply, it is extremely difficult to be critical of someone you pray for daily as you share their burdens, and understand their heart for ministry. Pastors today really need to feel the support of the people in order to properly proclaim the Word of God. Perhaps the apostle Paul put it best when he tells us in Ephesians 6:19-20, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (NIV)
In 1995, a group of us decided to make an organized effort to systematically pray for our pastor. With the pastor’s permission, we recruited 40 men who would commit to pray for our pastor on a regular schedule. We divided into teams and committed to pray as a team one week each month, culminating on Sunday when we gathered with the pastor in his office. First, we had a time of sharing from the pastor as he related what God had laid on his heart for the service that day, including pertinent scriptures. Then we laid hands on him and asked for God’s anointing before he went to the pulpit. A group of five or six men remained behind in the office and surrounding classrooms, and continued praying for the pastor during the entire service. We are still praying for our current pastor, with many of the original prayer group still intact.
Although Sunday is a big day for the prayer partners, our prayers for the pastor do not end there. We have pledged to pray for every aspect of his life throughout the week. We pray for his private, personal life, his professional life, his family life, his preaching life, and his prayer life. We want to cover him whenever and wherever he goes. Why? Because we want him to be able to fight the good fight of faith as spelled out in 1 Timothy 6:12. I read recently that, “The number one fear among pastors today is that their congregation and peers will not perceive them as an effective leader.” We want our pastor to know as our spiritual leader we are holding him up in prayer. We want to be a constant source of encouragement.
Praying for your pastor sounds like a given on the surface. You might think, “who doesn’t pray for their pastor?” Until just a few years ago, praying for my pastor, I’m sad to say, was just a hit and miss proposition. Sure, during my prayer time I would ask God to bless the pastor, and then move on to more important things to pray about. After all, pastors spend so much time with God, my little prayer can’t be all that meaningful, can it? Yes it can! It can be so meaningful it can change the entire life of a church, and influence everything that occurs in and around church, especially church growth and outreach. But more importantly, it will change your life, as it has mine, and your relationship with your pastor will never be the same.