Hebrews 13:18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon. Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

Authors Kent and Barbara Hughes ask, “Why is the pastorate so challenging and difficult? Because it is opposed by Satan. The devil hates Christ, his church, and those who lead it. And because of this, church leaders are regularly subjected to special attention from his demonic hosts. This is especially true if one’s ministry shows particular spiritual progress. There is a diabolical wisdom coordinating the forces of evil that makes ministers inevitable targets for difficulty. Every congregation must understand this and accordingly pray for their pastors if they with them to succeed.”

Pastors crave your prayers and are grateful for them. In her book, Caring For Your Pastor, author Lorna Dobson describes the gratitude that she and her husband, Pastor Ed Dobson, have for those that have supported them in prayer. She remembers a special couple who bought them a beautiful sculpture in Israel. “The sculpture is a depiction of Moses’ hands being upheld by Aaron and Hurr while Joshua was leading the Israelites in battle with the Amalekites (Exod. 17:8-15). As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites prevailed – but when Moses grew tired of holding up his hands, Aaron and Hur came alongside him and helped him. This couple wanted us to have the sculpture as a symbol of their prayer and the prayers of others for us. Each time we look at it, we are reminded that someone (many someones) pray for us often and regularly.”

How should you pray for your pastor? Begin with thanksgiving (1 Thess. 1:2). Pray that they may grow spiritually and enjoy God. Pray for them to remain holy and to withstand temptation. Pray that they will be good students and teachers of God’s Word. Pray for them while they are preaching. Pray that they will have boldness in evangelism and wisdom in leadership. Pray for their families. Pray for their health. Pray for them in the same ways that you are praying for yourself for they struggle with most of the same trials you do.

One pastor said, “I need you to pray for me. Prayers for my ministry (worship planning, sermon preparation, pastoral care, administrative duties, time management, etc.); for my spiritual health, for my own closeness to God; for my relationships, especially for my marriage, which is foundational to all my other human relationships; and for my emotional and physical well-being, which I’m always being tempted to neglect.”

When John Maxwell was the pastor of Skyline Weslyian, he asked God to give him 120 Prayer Partners. The Lord answered his prayer and he and the entire church benefited. He said, “I can personally attest to the benefits that others’ prayers have given me. There have been times when I’ve gotten ready to do a service or conference, and I’ve been physically exhausted. But when my prayer partners lay hands on me, and I see them praying over the auditorium, I receive new strength -–physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I feel prepared to receive the power of God. And that has allowed my ministry to have great impact on people’s lives.

Here is an abridged list of prayer requests that Maxwell gave to his Prayer Partners:

  • Personal needs – Humility. Wisdom to know God’s agenda. Positive Relationships. The Fruit of the Spirit. Health.
  • Family needs – The priority of family. Provision for the family.
  • Spiritual needs – Time alone with God. Anointing. Integrity. Protection from spiritual warfare. Accountability.
  • Congregational needs – Evangelism. Personal growth. Mobilization of the laity. Intercession.

John Maxwell also suggests this daily guide:

  • Sunday: Rest and strength — Psalm 23
  • Monday: Intimacy with God — 2 Corinthians 13:14
  • Tuesday: Family — Ephesians 4:32
  • Wednesday: Ministry Effectiveness — Ephesians 4:11-13
  • Thursday: Obedience to God — Luke 9:23-24
  • Friday: Leadership — Romans 12:6-8

  • Saturday: Wisdom — James 1:5

The good news is that you can use prayer to lift pastors up; the bad news: it can also be used to put pastors down. As valuable as prayer is, even it can be misused. Someone has said, “If the church wants a better pastor, it only needs to pray for the one it has.” That is true if you are praying for him, not at him (1 Thess. 5:25). In my years of ministering to hurting pastors, I have repeatedly heard the same sad story about groups of disgruntled church members gathering to pray for their pastors. They masquerade their complaints as prayer requests and reinforce their negative attitudes by piously praying, “Help the pastor with this, help the pastor with that.” When they get off their knees they dislike him more than when they began. It is often said that you can’t help but love someone that you are praying for. Untrue. Bad praying produces bad feelings.

I give God gratitude for the prayer warriors that have blessed me. In one church that I pastored, I had two elderly saints, Cloyde and Charlie, pass away during the same period of time. In both cases, the grieving widows took the time to pull out their husband’s prayer journals and describe how these men would get up early every morning to pray for me and others. I felt their loss in tangible ways. I missed their presence, their personalities and their prayers. And I asked God to replace them with new intercessors. Tom and Ray were the answers to my prayer. Even though I have been long gone from that church, they still pray for me every day. (Thanks, Tom and Ray!)