Friday, July 04, 2008

Train those Who Pray for the Pastor

Pastors Prayer Shield
By Alice Smith
Prayer is the pastor's primary protection against spiritual attack. Fervent, effective, focused prayer is his greatest asset. Simply put, every pastor needs a shield of prayer surrounding his life, his family and ministry. The need to partner with intercessors and surrender the time and energy necessary to build an effective prayer shield are keys for successful ministry.

An Intercessor's Warning
"If in doubt—don't," wrote Robin White, one of our personal intercessors in an email message to my pastor husband.

"Incredible!" Eddie said aloud even though no one else was in the room. For about a week he had been encouraged by a friend to call a particular pastor and inquire about a church issue. Yet there was a reservation in his heart. If you know Eddie at all, you know he is rarely shy about anything!

Shrugging off what he thought was senseless unreasonable doubt, Eddie picked up the phone to call the pastor. But before placing the call, he decided to check his email. There it was--his answer! Robin's email said, "If in doubt--don’t."

So, he didn't. Later that day Eddie learned how tragic that call would have been had it been made.

My husband called Robin later to thank her for warning him. Of course, she never knew the specifics, but she was appreciative and encouraged that her intercession had made a difference.

For more than fifteen years Eddie and I have had over sixty personal intercessors that make up our prayer shield. What they hear God say becomes "fuel" for their intercession. Sometimes they report to us what they've heard.
Pastor, if you don't have a prayer shield we strongly urge you to ask God for one. The mistake that most leaders make when forming a prayer shield, is soliciting people to serve as their intercessors. There are at least three reasons we feel that is unwise.
  1. Few mature intercessors will take requests for long-term assignments, because they know their long-term assignments come from the Lord. They know the weight of such a responsibility and will hesitate to make such a commitment without a sure word from God and the promise of his grace to complete it.
  2. Some immature intercessors will be flattered that you've asked and will jump at a chance to have "inside access" to leadership. Most often they accept the invitation only to become weary after a season, or cause problems later on, and drop out from a sense of guilt.
  3. Finally, those who God often raises up are people you would never have selected. But if they are to be effective and remain, they need to be God-called, not man-chosen.
We suggest that you ask the Father for intercessors (see Matthew 9:37-38). God will hear and answer your prayer. Then begin to listen closely to what people say to you. You will begin to hear statements like, "Pastor, the Lord has really had me praying for you lately." Or, "Pastor, I've really had you on my heart this week."

When you hear those comments you should immediately ask, "Do you feel that God is calling you to intercede for me?" As they acknowledge and accept God's call, then begin communicating your needs to them. God called and commissioned them for you! You didn't recruit them in the usual sense of the word -- God recruited them. These are the best kind of prayer warriors to have. Now for you who love to pray for your pastor, or spiritual leaders, here is some good advice:

1. Your pastor needs his/her privacy.
Intercessor, prayer is your passion and pursuit. Your pastor, like most, may not be an intercessor. It is just one of many ministry items (missions, preaching, counseling, and administration) that he must address. Because of this, you should be sensitive to his personality, spiritual gifts, ministry focus and to the type of ministry partnership he offers you as an intercessor.

Sometimes intercessors find it hard to accept the fact that they may not be able to experience a close personal friendship with the senior pastor. A pastor and his wife should enjoy the freedom to select their own circle of friends. "Partnership" and "communication" don’t necessarily mean social closeness.

There may be rare instances when "all the best" of relationships come together. But because of the nature of friendships, that too may pass or change. Human relationships are ever changing and at best temporary. Try to avoid imposing eternal dynamics on relationships. Don't look to man for those things that only God can provide.

Because of time restraints or the sheer size of their congregation, some pastors assign pastoral staff to interface with their intercessors on a routine day-to-day basis. This staff member needs to be well acquainted with intercessors and intercession. They should be sensitive to the intercessors' unique needs. The recognized prayer leader should, as a rule, have access to the senior pastor.

2. Pastors need your understanding as well as your prayer. Having been in the ministry for over 39 years, I am convinced that the average church member has no idea the level of pressure that rests on the shoulders of pastors and evangelists.

• Pastors are on-call 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Even policemen and firemen have their days off. Church member emergencies can always interrupt a pastor's day off, or even his family vacation.

• Most of us work for a boss. Of course it isn't true, but the average church member feels as though his pastor works for him. He thinks, "If he doesn't measure up, we'll fire him and hire us a pastor who does." Imagine yourself having 300-400 bosses!

• The visibility of leadership means that your pastor "lives in a glass house." In many ways, a pastor and his family are constantly "on trial." What they do, what they say, what they wear and where they go is always being scrutinized.

• Spiritual leaders are like commissioned officers in God's army. A pastor may as well have a target painted on his back on which Satan's guns are trained. We are constantly hearing of pastors who have lost their health to sickness and disease, lost their mental or emotional balance due to stress and overwork, lost their spiritual vitality (Titus 1:7-9) or have lost their faith and have fallen out of the ministry by falling into sin. Satan prefers to target your pastor and his family because he knows that one of the best ways to defeat the church is to shame its leaders.

• Your pastor's family is also in the cross hairs of the devil's sight. Satan loves to inflict pain on a pastor by causing his wife to suffer accident, illness or disease. He targets ministers' marriages and takes pot shots at their children. A pastor's child is a favorite "bull's-eye" for the devil. Believe us! We know! Our children have been through frontal attacks that the average church member rarely experiences. Our children, often young and easily deceived, are unfairly held to a higher standard than their peers simply because of who their father or mother are. And more so, with national or international visibility.

• True pastoral ministry is supernatural. No man can do it, regardless of how gifted or talented he is. Satan produces distractions, causes fruitlessness and stirs up divisions. He will do all he can to drum your pastor out of the ministry. Many pastors today are close to "drop out" or "burn out." And they know that they will be personally judged more strictly than others! (See James 3:1.) So the stakes are high!

• A pastor's faithfulness influences many others. When he falls, the cause of Christ is besmirched and many are wounded.

• The pastor carries great responsibility. He has been entrusted with God's work. Every time he makes a decision he can rest assured that part of the church will agree with it and another part will oppose it. He continually copes with the questions, "Did I handle that right?" Or, "Did I make the right decision?" Others are following his instruction and example. (See Matthew 15:14.) Pastor, we encourage you not to sweat the politics. God is quite able and willing to vindicate.

• Leadership carries enormous demands and extraordinary pressures. The pressures of ministry often require solutions that only intercession can provide. The Institute of Church Growth at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California conducted a survey of pastors in 1991. The findings showed:
  • 90 percent of pastors work more than 46 hours a week.
  • 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry has affected their families negatively.
  • 33 percent said that ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 75 percent reported a significant personal stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 50 percent felt unable to meet the needs of their job.
  • 90 percent felt they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.
  • 70 percent say they have lower self-esteem now than when they started out.
  • 40 percent reported a serious conflict with a church member at least once a month. 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.
NOTE: This survey was taken in 1991, but I can guarantee you, that the percentages are even higher in 2008.

3. Your pastor needs your love.
Pastors often suffer the pain of shattered friendships. Many are sheep-bitten, lonely, wounded or depressed from a constant barrage of criticism. Some even lose their lives due to the crushing weight of ministry. We have learned over the years that few people can love a pastor like an intercessor. We think it’s because pastors and intercessors, in one sense, have so much in common.

• Like pastors, intercessors have a pastoral heart. Why else would they spend so much time "giving away their lives in the prayer closet" for others?

• Intercessors, like pastors, know they are called into the ministry they perform. Their prayer closet is as much a calling as his pulpit!

• Both pastors and intercessors are visionaries.

These and other similarities cause intercessors to be particularly capable of loving leadership. The true gift of heaven sent intercession is expressed by love so intercessors must always keep in mind an old Texas Indian saying, "Don't criticize your brother until you have walked a mile in his moccasins."

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1 comment:

Ruperts Wife said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! My husband and I have been close friends with our pastor and his family for a long time. As their friend, and as their intercessor, I affirm and say AMEN! to your words. I pray many will find your blog encouraging and instructive as they seek to support and pray for their leadership. I pray pastors will hear and heed your warnings as they seek to surround themselves with people who will stand with them.

Your words have encouraged me!

Michelle Bolanger