As a pastor, members of my local church regularly ask me: “How can I be praying for you”? I am always grateful. Particularly given the fact that so much of my time as a pastor is spent asking that specific question to other people.
When a pastor hears this, a host of questions floods their minds. We assess the situation.
How well do I know this person?
What is their level of spiritual maturity?
What IS my biggest need?
What do I feel comfortable sharing?
The heart posture of any spiritual leader should be one of openness and transparency when it comes to sharing one’s struggles, but the unique office of spiritual leadership also demands high levels of wisdom and discernment in such matters. It is a fine balance to strike.
I have found, for many congregants, they simply do not know how to pray for their pastor. What is one prayer you can pray for a pastor that is always “on time”? In his excellent book, Canoeing the Mountains, Tod Bolsinger shares a story about an interaction he had with an older congregant during a particularly busy season of ministry that featured lots of transition and change in the church.
Ruth used to look at me with a steady gaze and smiling eyes. She was in her nineties and one of the real treasures of the church. “Boy”, she said. “I pray for you everyday”. “Thank you Ruth”, I said with a sigh. “That means alot to me. I can use the prayers. You know all of these changes we are making are hard on people. We have a number of folks who are uncomfortable. So please pray that God will bless what we are doing…”
“Oh, I don’t pray for all of that. I pray for you to keep preaching the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Just keep preaching the Bible and don’t get off track. Thats what I pray for you everyday”.
….”I was thrilled to have someone so respected, so deeply faithful to Christ, so clearly praying for me and my leadership. Only she wasn’t praying for my leadership at all, she was praying for my faithful stewardship of what she held most dear, the Scriptures and our theological traditions. She was praying that amid all of the things that were changing, I would keep very clear on what wouldn’t or shouldn’t change”.