IVP - Online Pulpit - Get to Work Pastor: Pray!

June 1, 2009

Get to Work Pastor: Pray!

In his classic book Power Through Prayer, E. M. Bounds said, “Prayer is the Christian’s mightiest weapon.” Leonard Ravenhill asserted that prayer is “the highest ministry of all human offices.” I know you believe this, pastor. We know—maybe better than anyone—the necessity and value of prayer. We long for the special connection with God that comes through our times of prayer. We know that prayer connects God’s dynamite power to the work we do in our churches.

Perhaps the problem is churches! Congregations say they want a praying pastor, but they also demand so much from us that we rob from our prayer time. I am not sure if we pastors encourage that ambivalent “take it or leave it” attitude toward prayer, or if that attitude comes from our people and then subtly works on us. The end result however is that prayer is one of the things we talk about most but do the least.

In the Online Pulpit I have been sharing some of my observations and experiences since I have resigned as pastor of a small, rural church. Here is another: We (I include myself in this indictment) do not believe that prayer is real work. “How do you like retirement?” I am constantly asked these days. No matter how I try to explain and justify my calling to prayer right now, the conclusion people come to is predictable. I am not doing “real work” anymore, therefore I must be retired. Good for me, I am so lucky. Prayer, it seems, is considered a luxury that most people put in the category of “Hobbies When I Retire.”

Do you know what else I have noticed? When I talk to pastors about the prayer I am doing, and the wonderful sense of intimacy and connection to God that it has renewed in me, I see the longing in their eyes. They are hungry for it too. It is my own fault. I allowed my church to steal my relationship with God. How many times was I told, “You have to make the time. You have to do it for yourself. No one will do it for you.” And still I found myself in a dry and arid place, hungering for God. I read Andrew Murray’s classic The Believer’s Prayer Life, and had to own up to what he calls “the sin of prayerlessness.”

I am writing to encourage you, pastor, not to lay guilt on you. Prayer is the most important work you do in your day. So make some decisions that will once again put it in its right place.

  • Rework your daily schedule, or live by the schedule you have that allows ample time for prayer.
  • Let your elders or church board know of your new or renewed commitment to prayer. Have them or a trusted colleague hold you accountable.
  • Take the time to pray beyond your usual habits (e.g., “laundry lists” and one-sided conversations). Take time to listen to what God might have to say to you.
  • Include fasting in your prayer times. This allows you to pray with your body and your spirit.
  • In addition to your daily prayer, set regular times of extended prayer at a park, local retreat center or chapel.
  • Read books—new or old—on prayer. They are a wonderful encouragement to live a life of prayer.

E. M. Bounds said, “Real ministry is made in the closet of prayer.” So get to work, pastor! Pray!

Posted by Joan Tyvoll at June 1, 2009 10:15 AM Bookmark and Share

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