As a pastor, I tried diligently to prioritize preaching. I believed it was the main thing I was called to do and something no one could do for me. Others could do pastoral care and various leadership functions, but no one could do my preaching. I sought to do my best by praying, studying, sharpening my skill, searching high and low for good illustrations, and limiting my Saturday activities so I would be physically and mentally sharp for delivery.
I love great preaching and I love to preach. So, this note from Christianity Today‘s “Today in Christian History” caught my eye: On this day 131 years ago, June 7, 1891, “English Baptist Charles H. Spurgeon, who preached to (on average) 6,000 people at each of his services, delivers his last sermon at London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle.”
Get to vs. got to
But maybe I was wrong.
The older I get, the more I wonder if it is the combined impact of all a pastor does that makes the greatest impact on the individual, congregation, and community. This is not to diminish preaching the Bible in any way. Rather, it’s an elevation of the other responsibilities a pastor gets to do, or sometimes has to do.
Ministry and life are always better when we view it as a “get to” privilege rather than a “got to” duty. So here I recommend that you seek to do all of the “get tos” of pastoring as “unto the Lord,” joyfully knowing that God is working through all of it.
Pastors get to pray
That brings me to the privilege of praying or interceding for others.
James 5:16 directs us to pray for each other. Paul modeled it at the start of virtually all of his letters. I’ll admit that I don’t know how to measure my prayer practice. Why do I think I need to score my engagement in prayer?
In recent months, I found myself asking the Spirit to teach me more of what it means to “ask, seek, and knock” as Jesus urged on his disciples in Luke 11:9–10. If we take Jesus at his word, then prayer becomes more intentional and, at times, more intense. Asking in prayer requires a sacred level of humble trust. We don’t ask unless and until we admit our limitations. Asking requires that we have needs we can’t meet on our own and a willingness to ask for help.
Seeking requires focus, intention, and passion. We know what it is to seek or search for something that’s misplaced, like a phone or car keys. Seeking has energy and diligence to it. It requires investigation, asking questions, getting help from others, and movement.
Knocking is my favorite. To knock on a door is to believe there is someone on the other side who can and will answer and wants to help. We know Jesus’ invitation from this verse in John’s Revelation: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20 NIV). That is the great promise of salvation. When sinners hear and open the door of their hearts to Jesus, he answers, forgives, saves, and adopts. The heart door of every person has a knob only on the inside. Jesus won’t force himself in but is passionately hoping every person will open their heart to his mercy and grace.
But then, as his children and followers, we have some spiritual knocking of our own to do. Every healthy child and pastor of God needs to learn to knock on Jesus’ door through the Spirit for his wisdom, encouragement, and clarity for all you are doing today and this week.
A prayer plan for every day of the week
Praying can be overwhelming. Years ago, I decided to organize my prayers by the days of the week. I pray for a specific group and a different continent each day. Here is how I try to ask, seek, and knock in my conversations with Christ:
- Sunday: Worship preparation. Praying for pastors and church servants. North America.
- Monday: Praying for immediate family: spouse, kids, grandkids. Central and South America.
- Tuesday: Praying for my extended family. Europe.
- Wednesday: Praying for my ministry partners. Asia.
- Thursday: Praying for friends, mentors, and colleagues. Africa.
- Friday: Praying for all who are in authority. Australia.
- Saturday: Whatever comes to mind.
Today I was inspired and instructed by Scottish minister John Baillie who offered this prayer for others:
“O Lord, you yourself are everlasting Mercy; give me a tender heart today toward all those who in this morning light are less joyful than I am.
Those in whom the pulse of life grows weak;
Those who are unable to get out of bed to enjoy the sunshine;
The blind, who are shut off from the light of day;
The overworked, who have no joy of leisure;
The unemployed, who have no joy of labor;
The bereaved, whose hearts and homes are desolate;
Have mercy on them all.”
Now, here is my prayer for you:
Bless, help, encourage, affirm, teach, equip, and empower every pastor, minister, and servant who reads these words today. Let each one know you better in this moment and day. Let them know more of the eternal life and joy you long to give. Heal any diseases or injuries—physical, mental, or relational—that limit their focus and activity. Move any mountains that are causing disunity in their church and ministry. Make the work of their hands and hearts effective. Make your joy, peace, and power overflow each person, in each place for your glory and our good.