You want to make a difference for God and His church? Start a prayer ministry for your Leaders...I did this 6 years ago at my church and now we are interceeding in a mighty way!
[b]Fueling Your Shepherds Passion for Prayer [/b]
One Pastor's Insights Daniel Henderson Issue 35 Mar/Apr 2003
A few years ago I was teaching a seminar on the priority of corporate prayer in the local church. Immediately after the seminar, a middle-aged woman approached me. After introducing herself, her eyes filled with tears as she struggled to communicate her burden. Finally, she shared her deep love for her pastor, a great concern for his busy schedule, and her heartache over his lack of interest in the prayer ministry of the church. She knew that until he led the way, their congregation would never reach its potential in becoming a house of prayer. But she didnt know how to approach and encourage him without adding a burden of guilt or obligation.
There is no way to overstate the vital role of the senior pastor in a church prayer ministry. The prayer life of the church will seldom rise above the pastors personal example and commitment. Exodus 33:7-11 shows the prayerful example of Moses encountering God in the tent of meeting and motivating all the people to arise and worship. In Acts 6:1-7 the apostles stalwart resolve to give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word created an environment of increased supernatural impact.
In churches across the country today, many congregations are eager to move into prayer. But when they look to their pastor for example and leadership, they are encountering obstacles.
[b]Why Many Pastors Do Not Have a Passion for Prayer[/b]
From my own struggles as a pastor and from interactions with peers, I have discovered five basic reasons why pastors resist leading the way to a dynamic prayer ministry in the local church:
1. Many grew up in a prayerless church environment.
There is a Brazilian proverb that states, The heart cannot taste what the eyes have not seen. Todays pastors often lack firsthand experience of what a dynamic prayer-energized church looks like.
The childhood prayer meetings I attended were uninteresting and unbiblical, comprised of a handful of faithful saints on a Wednesday evening. After a brief Bible study, the group spent 20 to 30 minutes talking about problems and prayer requests. By the time they finished I thought that virtually everyone in the country had a slipped disc, ingrown toenail, a cousin with cancer, or a work associate in financial crisis. Before they left the meeting, they tacked on a few minutes of begging Gods helphardly the dynamic prayer pattern outlined in the New Testament.
Many pastors recall these sparsely attended prayer meetings from their own past. A church in which the majority of the people gather in dynamic, worship-based prayer simply has not registered on most pastors radar screens.
2. Most were trained in a prayerless educational process.
I went through seven years of formal undergraduate and graduate-level theological education. While grateful for all the fine classes and grand truths, I never had a professor or pastor who personally influenced me in the area of prayer. I heard great sermons and theological truths about prayer, but no one took me aside and taught me to pray by praying together on a regular basis. Todays church leaders typically receive many years of instruction about the ministry of the Word, but practical mentoring on prayer or a prayer-based ministry in the local church is usually neglected.
3. They minister in a prayerless, success-oriented culture.
Man of prayer no longer ranks high on the list of desirable leadership traits for the local church pastor. Recently, I was in Utah teaching a prayer seminar at a statewide church leadership conference. After my session, a man approached me, explaining that he was the chairman of the pastoral search committee for a congregation in that area. He pulled out a list of over 85 desirable attributes for their next pastor, which had been compiled through a recent survey of the congregation. The qualities centered on communication skills, management ability, pleasant personality, and pastoral care strengths. Nowhere on the list was there any mention of the priority of prayer as an essential for the new pastor.
Our American society tends to value vibrant leadership, dynamic programming, entertaining services, and impressive technology. The idea of a pastor locked away in extended prayer does not strike the average churchgoer as a mark of effective leadership. Some church members even think it wastes time if the pastor attends prayer meetings. Many pastors are aware of this and decide not to go against the grain.
4. Some battle a prayerless personal life.
Its difficult to take the church further than you have journeyed in your own life. This sense of failure and guilt immobilizes many pastors regarding a prayer ministry. Author and seminary professor Bruce Demarest has noted that the average Christian spends barely five minutes a day with God in prayer; the typical pastor, only seven.
5. Every pastor is a special target of the enemy.
The master of distraction does not have to lure pastors into scandalous sin. He simply needs to distract them with good church activities. As long as the leader does not tap into the supernatural work of prayer, the church will be content to engage in a good-doing, socially pleasing ministry, but it will have little Spirit-empowered impact.
[b]What You Can Do If Your Pastor Does Not Have a Passion for Prayer[/b]
Rather than becoming discouraged or critical, church members can commit to five key initiatives:
[b]Intercede on behalf of your pastor.[/b] If you believe in the power of prayer, put it into action by asking God to move in your pastors heart and life to make him a man of prayer. Pray in faith, knowing God wants His church to be a house of prayer and His leaders examples of this important priority. It is difficult to be critical when you pray regularly for your pastor. Be patient and enduring as God works to make your leader a praying leader.
[b]Initiate a prayer ministry.[/b] It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. So strike the flame of prayer. With the blessing and approval of your pastor, launch a strategic prayer ministry in the church. Focus initially on praying for church leadership.
I recommend a time of intercessory prayer, preceding or concurrent with the Sunday morning church services. The pastor will appreciate the prayer support as he preaches. Naturally, church leaders can be prayed for any time of the week.
[b]Invite your pastor (without guilt).[/b] You cannot coerce a pastor into a having a burden for prayer ministry. However, a gracious invitation to stop in sometime would be fitting. As he sees the vibrancy, love, and support of praying saints, he will be moved by the efficacy and excitement of prayer. Remember that honey always works better than vinegar. Many a pastor has been turned off from a prayer ministry by intercessors who meant well but manipulated or imposed guilt.
[b]Inspire your pastor with resources.[/b] Be aware, however, that pastors are bombarded regularly with books, articles, audiocassettes, and videos from well-meaning parishioners. Be selective and thoughtful. When you come across the perfect article or audiocassette (easier to review than a book or video), pass it on with grace and enthusiasm. Include your summary of the highlights to help your pastor understand why reading or listening will bless him. Perhaps God will use this material to grab his attention and heart. Again do not attempt to guilt him into reading or listening; instead, pray that he will.
[b]Inform your pastor about learning opportunities.[/b]Tap into prayer events that might inspire your pastor, such as church programs or conferences that focus on prayer. Its best if another pastor leads the event and the focus is on the local church (pastors are leery of traveling experts who have not slugged it out in the trenches of local church ministry). Or pay for a trip to New York City for the pastor and his spouse. Ask them to attend the Tuesday evening prayer meeting at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Or if there is a praying church in your region, visit it with your pastor.
[b]Look for a prayer conference that is local and church-focused.[/b] Give your pastor adequate time to work it into his schedule and pay his way to attend. Consider including the pastors spouse also. Include some other perks (a sports event, musical, or nice dinner) in case the prayer thing is not enough to get him there. A firsthand encounter with other pastors who have caught the vision for prayer and implemented it in their own churches may spark a vision for your pastor.
[b]What It Looks Like[/b]
Lori came to Christ at our church almost eight years ago. Prayer clearly was branded on her heart as a vital component of her rapidly growing Christian faith, and she was involved in many corporate prayer opportunities. After some training, she became an enthusiastic and capable prayer meeting facilitator.
Two years ago, Lori and her husband moved to a nearby city. Unable to find a prayer-energized church, they eventually settled into a young seeker congregation. Lori began to lovingly pray for Dave, the gregarious and bright pastor.
Soon Lori formed an intercessory prayer group to support church leadership. Dave took notice. A few months later, Lori invited him to attend a conference on prayer ministry in the local church. During the conference, God gripped Daves heart with the need to reorder his ministry priorities. The following Sunday, this renewed pastor stood before his congregation and confessed the sin of prayerlessness and pledged himself to a new beginning in prayer.
In recent months this young church has hosted a variety of prayer gatherings, renewing the congregation and attracting many from the community.
Last week I saw Dave at a pastors breakfast. His face was aglow and his heart overflowing as he gave an account of what God has done in his own life and in the hearts of his members through prayer.
God wants His church to be a house of prayer and He wants pastors to lead the way. With this assurance, ask God to guide you in fueling your pastors vision and striking the flame of prayer in your congregation.
About the Author
DANIEL HENDERSON is senior pastor of Arcade Baptist Church in Sacramento, California. His favorite book on prayer is Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala, because it is a simple, inspiring, modern-day example of what God can do when a pastor and a local church are serious about the call to corporate prayer.