First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV)
This is our third week in our Core Values Series and the third of four from Rainer's I am a Church Member. We will be addressing the chapter on prayer, chapter four. I think it is greatly valuable for all of our classes to hear the introduction that Rainer provides to this chapter:
It's Thursday morning. Pastor Mike [not Haley] has a clear calendar, an aberration in his busy schedule. Actually, the calendar is not really clear. He has set aside time to finish his sermon for Sunday. His Bible is open. Study aids are nearby. He begins to study.
Then the phone rings.
His assistant tells him about a car accident involving a family in the church. The ambulances are already on the way to the hospital. Mike leaves all his study material on his desk and jumps into the car.
On the way to the hospital, his assistant calls him again. The entire Godsey family of five were in the car. None are seriously hurt except for Gary, the father and husband of the family. His condition is grave.
Pastor Mike walks into the emergency room. The family has just been told that their husband and father did not make it. They see their pastor and run to him sobbing, in total shock. Mike is there for them. He stays with the entire family for three hours until he is certain enough people are around to care for them.
He stops by his home to see his wife and grab a quick sandwich. It is now afternoon. He's not sure if he can return to his sermon preparation, but he knows he must. He must fight the emotional exhaustion of the morning and finish the message. But as he walks back to the church, his assistant apologetically tells him that two people need to speak with him. They consider it urgent.
Mike meets with the two men. One of them is the worship leader of the church. He is struggling with his ministry and is considering giving up. For two hours Mike listens, consoles, and attempts to encourage the staff member.
The next visitor then catches Mike off guard. George is one of the key lay leaders in the church. Mike considers him a friend and an incredibly vital person in the overall leadership of the congregation. George struggles to speak: "My wife is having an affair . . ." There are no more words for five minutes. Just tears and sobs.
Mike stays with George for over two hours. They pray together and talk about the next steps.
It's nearly five o'clock in the afternoon. Mike is too drained to get back to his sermon. Instead he begins to look at his crowded e-mail inbox. He cringes when he sees one of the senders of an e-mail. But he cannot stop himself from opening the message. It's from one of Mike's most frequent critics in the church. She has two complaints. The first irritation was something he said in last Sunday's sermon. The second complaint addressed Mike's failure to visit her sister-in-law who had minor outpatient surgery yesterday. The woman is not a member of the church. And mike knew nothing about the surgery.
Pastor Mike shuts the laptop cover and moves to his car slowly. He'll stop by the house to grab a quick bite to eat. Then he needs to check on the Godsey family. He will stay with them for a while, but he must leave prior to 7:30, when he is to give the invocation for a local high school basketball game.
Several people corner him at the game, so he doesn't get home until after nine o'clock. He goes to his small study in his home, shuts the door, and begins to cry.
Gary Godsey, the father and husband who was killed in the car accident was Mike's best friend.
This was the first chance Mike had to grieve. (Rainer, 43-46).
I find this story to be a sobering glimpse into the reality of the life of a pastor. Sure not every day for a pastor is like the one Rainer pointed out, but these days exist.
In this lesson we will cover two different aspects of the life of the church member. First, we will look at the nature of intercession in a church member's prayer life. This is an indispensable job for every member of the body on behalf of every other member of the body. Second, we will look at the importance of that intercession especially applied to the pastor, the man for whom God has called, equipped, and gifted to shepherd the flock He gathered at a particular place. Because of this divine calling, this person has many demands and many adversaries. We need to be aware of the important ministry of intercession for these men in our lives.
The Nature of Intercession
If we are going to argue that intercession is a needed activity of the body of Christ, the church, then we should have an appropriate working definition of what intercession in our prayer lives is. The passage in 1 Timothy lists intercession alongside other types of prayers in which we are to be involved. So we need to understand what it means. To intercede means to change a person's standing by personal involvement in the circumstances at hand. In terms of prayer this means we take up the cause of another and pray as though it were our problem not theirs.
This means that we are to become a people that stand in the gap for others, so to speak. The prime example of this is our own salvation in Jesus Christ. Our sin left us in a precarious position before God since there was nothing we could do to save ourselves. Then in steps Jesus, the only one who could stand in the gap for us and overcome our sin problem. His life was an act of intercession to God, but He also has a continual ministry now as an intercessor for us: Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25). So just as Jesus is constantly making intercession to God the Father for us, so we should make intercession for others.
Last week we looked at the unity of the church from Ephesians 4, which encouraged us to bear with one another. Part of bearing with one another is found in the way in which we pray for one another. Often we are aware of the problems of those in the church and we long to pray for those people. This is intercession; it is us asking God to take care of others in our church. Now this raises an interesting theological question: Is God unaware of our church's problems? If not then why are we praying? Though one can argue because the Bible tells us to I like the answer that Philip Yancey provides in his book Prayer:
I once envisioned intercession as bringing requests to God that God may not have thought of, then talking God into granting them. Now I see intercession as an increase in my awareness. When I pray for another person, I am praying for God to open my eyes so that I can see that person as God does, and then enter into the stream of love that God already directs toward that person. (Yancey, Prayer, 303).
We need to realize that intercession is far more than petitioning God on behalf of others. In praying for others through intercession we are able to act as the body that rejoices and grieves together as 1 Corinthians 12:26 exhibits. In short, by interceding to God for others in the church we are able to come to love and support them in a manner similar to how God does.
The Necessity of Intercession for our Pastors
With the command from Paul for us to intercede on behalf of all people, we need to remember that within that grouping are those who are called to lead the local church. We as Baptists usually refer to these shepherds as the pastor. And though there are different job titles there really is only one set of qualifications for these titles.
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
There are a variety of practical reasons for all of the requirements for the life of the pastor of a church, but they all can be boiled down to the difficulty that comes along with the job. Managing people is never easy, but shepherding (that means managing lovingly so) people is even harder. Now add to that mix the constant assaults from the enemies of God and you have quite a difficult job. This is why the end of the text says, so that he may not fall into reproach, and a snare of the devil. Pastors are in need of our intercessions since the job is difficult.
There are quite a few lists of things that pastors personally deal with:
- Feelings of Inadequacy
- Spiritual Warfare (Maxwell, Partners in Prayer, chapter 6)
In addition to these striking problems he also provides these statistics of pastors:
90 % work more than forty-six hours a week
80% believe ministry has affected their families negatively
33% say that ministry is a hazard to their family
75% report a significant stress-related crises at least once
50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job
90% feel inadequately trained
70% say they have a low self-image
40% report a serious conflict with a church member at least once a month.
70% do not have someone they consider a close friend (Maxwell, Partners in Prayer, 80)
Given these statistics and requirements for our pastors in the church we should definitely be interceding for them as 1 Timothy exhorts us to. The question that only remains is: How? Rainer provides four areas in which we can pray:
- Praying for Pastors, Staff, and Church Leaders
- Praying for the Pastor and His Family
- Praying for the Pastor's Protection
- Praying for the Pastor's Health
In addition the following is an exemplary prayer for pastors.
"Things I pray for pastors and leaders:
I pray that they would love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that their ministry would never steal from them their first love, Jesus Christ.
I pray that they would love and serve their wife and family with glad hearts and that their family would have love for the ministry instead of resenting it for "stealing" their husband and daddy away.
I pray for a passion; for conviction and dedication to their calling and to Jesus Christ.
I pray that they will walk in confidence while kneeling in humility as gentle shepherds who care for their sheep.
I pray for encouragement in their faith and ministry, and against those who attack, slander, harm, or speak evil against them.
I pray that their teaching and preaching will be accurate, true, bold, convicting, encouraging, anointed, and Christ-centered.
I pray that God will guard them from burnout and depression.
I pray that they will never fall prey to envy, jealousy, insecurity, or comparison.
I pray for their holiness and purity, and against lust, affairs, love of money, and pride.
I pray for rest spiritually and physically, and that they know that it is not their ministry they are leading, but God's.
I pray that they will finish better than they started.
I pray that they will take time to have fun, do things they enjoy, spend time with their wives and play with the kids, and get away often to find peace and solitude.
I pray for God to raise up people around them to assist them, serve them, honor them, encourage them, pray for them, admonish them, and protect them.
I pray that ministry, teaching, preaching, and leading will never become a chore for them, but that it would always be a joy and blessing to serve the Lord and His people with kindness and gladness, and that they would enjoy every aspect of leading, whether easy or hard, for the glory of God.
I pray these things for pastors or leaders. I hope all of us will pray them for one another." (Written by Pastor Dick Hester)
As you close out your time with your class let me suggest that you take time to pray for our pastor. Perhaps you can pray in groups or you may just want to pray altogether, but the best application to this lesson is to be an intercessor for our pastors.