The prayer of action
If you don’t care to read the article above, it says the most important thing you can do for your pastor is to pray for him (or her). While this sounds spiritual (at least in the tradition I grew up in), it’s nonsense. Why do people pray? People usually pray because they need to have something done. But why pray for God to do something we are perfectly capable of doing on our own? Partnering with God means doing what we can, and then praying that God will take our small efforts and bring about far more than our effort could have yielded on its own.
So instead of praying for spiritual and emotional endurance for your pastor, write a note of encouragement. Tell him/her how much they have impacted your life. Refrain from being critical. Instead of praying they will have “rich fellowship with the Lord,” always call before stopping into the office. Respect your pastor’s time. Instead of praying that your pastor will preach with power, listen carefully to the message and find something of value in it.
And yes, go ahead and pray that your pastor will avoid temptation. But let him know you are praying.
As I wrote above, it always sounds spiritual to say that praying is important, and it is. But praying isn’t just saying words to God. As I always tell my congregation, every time we pray, we need to be prepared to be the answer to our own prayers. Action is prayer isn’t it, when we are actually doing something that we would otherwise only be blabbing to God about? Articles like this reinforce the empty idea that praying is simply uttering words heavenward. They also help us remain ignorant of the fact that oftentimes a burden to pray might mean that YOU are supposed to do whatever it is you’re asking God to do.
Of course I pray for my wife and girls constantly. No question about it. But what meaningless prayer that would be if I weren’t out there loving and serving them every minute of the day. I cannot be content just “giving them to God” and hoping nobody hurts them, or that my girls get a good education, or learn about responsibility. I pray, but I pray as I am doing. Prayer should ALWAYS be some version of this. If you pray for the president (which I hope you do), are you doing your part to help the country? If you pray for money, are you working hard? If you pray for relief from anxiety, are you seeking help in the places that will make this likely? If you pray for your spouse to see some truth they are not seeing, are you modeling that commitment to responding to truth?
I didn’t write this for my congregation. They are awesome and thanks to them my work is usually a joy, and I do not labor under intense criticism. But just the same this article can help us consider various ways in which we pray for God to do things that God has already gifted us to do. Most of all I hope that anyone who “prays regularly” for their pastor (or anyone else) will consider how those prayers can be translated into action. It’s not that we need less prayer, it’s that we need more action.