By Barry Howard
This prayer was offered at the Mercer Preaching Consultation on St. Simon’s Island, Ga., on Sept. 26, 2011.
I come to you as a pastor praying for pastors. I pray for all men and women from every walk of faith who are called into this peculiar work of encouraging and equipping others for their journey.
First I pray for pastors to be encouraged. For all its rewards, this work can be discouraging. I pray for those pastors who are right now living through the dark night of the soul, some experiencing darkness because of the challenges of their congregation, others experiencing darkness because of emotional depression, and still others experiencing darkness because of physical or spiritual fatigue. I especially pray for those pastors who are discerning whether to go to a new place of service, and for those pastors who have confirmed the call to stay where they are to seize the opportunities and tackle the challenges. I pray for the energy of pastors to be revitalized so that pastors can dream dreams and have visions, do their work with the right spirit.
I pray for pastors to be faithful. I pray for pastors to live in faithful covenant to their families, both their parish family and their personal family, and to always know the difference between the two. I pray for pastors to be faithful to our calling, always discerning and following your kingdom initiatives, and to be continually engaged in dialogue with you.
I pray for pastors to be anointed with a fresh dose of courage. These are stressful times and it is no time for your shepherds to be sheepish. You did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of courage, so help us as pastors to speak and act courageously with moral and ethical conviction for causes that are just and right. Help us to act with courageous conviction in living and preaching the good news to all people regardless of ethnicity, creed, or economic status. And help us to have the courageous insight to navigate our congregations toward the ways of Christ, and away from any popular fads, trends and perceived shortcuts to growth that both trivialize the gospel and minimize the Christian experience.
I pray for pastors to have endurance. I pray for pastors to work intentionally and intelligently, to carefully manage the demands of an unpredictable schedule, to faithfully practice Sabbath-keeping, and to respond with tough love to those occasional high maintenance saints who can become like thorns in the flesh and pains in all of the wrong places.
I pray for pastors to be effective preachers. I pray for us to be both prophets and poets, who tell the truth and love the people. I pray for pastors to speak with authority from on high and yet have street level savvy, so that we can simultaneously be heavenly minded and do some earthly good. In a world filled with bad news, I pray for pastors to be articulate and welcomed voices of good news, bringing your right word at the right time.
Lord, it is an exciting, but gut-wrenching time to be a pastor. And although faith no longer enjoys privilege and preference in the public square, we are confident that the message of faith is astoundingly relevant at the major intersections of life, and that the message may be heard more profoundly in the congestion of the daily grind than from the assigned seats of privilege.
In a world where people are not content with easy answers; where truth is sometimes black, sometimes white and sometimes gray; where superficial spirituality is insufficient; and where seekers are searching for authenticity; help us as pastors to rise to the occasion to speak the truth in love, and to be more about the business of the kingdom than the kingdom of business. Help us as pastors to find security in our belonging to you and not in the whims of the culture in which we live or the opinions of the beloved people we service.
For every pastor, and especially me, O Lord,
I pray for clarity of call and clarity of conscience.
I pray for physical health and spiritual vitality.
I pray for emotional stability and spiritual sensitivity.
Restore unto us both the joy of our salvation and the joy of ministry,
That the fire in our bones will be transformed into the energy and enthusiasm with which we serve.
In the name of the one who calls us, who encourages us, and the one who will see us through until the end. Amen