Pray for Your Church Leaders
The warning in the book of James to teachers is sobering, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (3:1). Some of that “greater strictness” is seen in the responses of church members and the greater community to a teacher’s sin. These days, it seems like the whole world leans in to watch and remark about a church leader’s fall from grace. When a church leader or pastor falls into sin, we hear about it instantly and read about it over and over on social media. We shake our heads in sadness and think, “Not again.” We discuss among ourselves how such sin could have been prevented, how the church should respond, and may even secretly wonder about the leaders of our own church—will they too stumble into sin?
Paul asked the church in Thessalonica to pray for him and his fellow workers (1 Thessalonians 5:25). To the church in Colossae, he wrote, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (4:2-4).The writer to the Hebrews, after calling them to obey their leaders and submit to them (3:17), wrote “Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things” (verse 18).
Prayer is one of the main disciplines of the Christian faith. It is a means which God uses to carry out his will. In prayer, we are drawn into deeper dependence upon God and learn more and more of our need for him and his grace. James tells us, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (5:16). Not only that, Scripture commands us to pray. And as we’ve seen, the apostles asked the church to pray for their ministry.
If Paul and the other disciples needed prayer, how much more so do those who lead, shepherd, and oversee us in the church! And they need our prayers, not just when there is controversy in the church. Not just when they are ill. Not just when there is a budget shortfall or a search is on for a new pastor. But all the time. We need to be in regular prayer for our pastors, elders, deacons, and their families. As Matthew Henry noted regarding Hebrews 13:17, “The more earnestly the people pray for their ministers, the more benefit they may expect from their ministry.” The more we pray for our church leaders, the more we can expect God to use our churches to impact the Kingdom for the gospel.
Praying for Church Leaders
Pray for Pastors: Pray that they would preach the word of truth, “be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). Pray for their preparation and delivery of sermons. Pray that they would proclaim Christ, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). Pray that they would faithfully administer the sacraments. Pray that they would equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Pray also for their pastoral work, that they would encourage and counsel the flock with wisdom and discernment. Pray for the stress they bear in their work and in carrying the weight of responsibility for our souls, that they would find rest in Christ. Pray that they would resist temptations to sin and depend wholly upon the grace of Christ.
Pray for Elders: Pray that they would continue to display and live out the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Pray that they would shepherd the flock with wisdom, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3). Pray that they would seek to know the members of the church, investing in their lives, and walking alongside them in both their sorrows and joys.
Pray for Deacons: Pray that, like the elders, they would continue to live out the qualifications in 1Timothy 3:8-13. Pray that they would have compassionate and merciful hearts toward those that they help and serve. Pray that they would have wisdom in the decisions they make (Acts 6:3). Pray that they would reach out to and serve widows, orphans, and others in distress (James 1:27).
Pray for their Families: Pray for the families of all church leaders. Pray for the extra burden they bear in sharing their loved one with the church. Pray for their own spiritual lives, that they would grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Pray that they would be encouraged and supported. Pray that their own lives would reflect the gospel to those around them.
Those who serve us in ministry bear a heavy responsibility for the care of our souls. Their work of ministry is hard and stressful and wears on both church leaders and their families. God has called us to pray for them. May we pray for them always, entrusting them to the care of our great and sovereign God.
Christina Fox writes for Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. She is the editor for enCourage, a women's ministry blog for the PCA and the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament. Christina also serves on the advisory board at Covenant College and in women’s ministry at her church. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ChristinaFoxAuthor.