Praying for Your Pastor

Self-improvement is hard.  Mostly because it is rarely something imposed on us.  Perhaps pastors are unique in this to some degree.  Once they’ve run the gauntlet of seminary (assuming such a gauntlet is necessary to their ordination), they graduate, are examined, ordained, installed, and then pretty much left with the assumption they are doing the right thing.  Continuing education is something encouraged and exhorted to in seminary and by ecclesiastical supervisors and leaders, but at least in my denominational circles, it’s not something that is enforced.  It could be, but it isn’t.

For those of us with an acute awareness of our faults and shortcomings, self-improvement and continuing education are necessary.  I can’t avoid it for very long because I’m so dreadfully disappointed with who I am.  Perhaps this is a unique function of making the Word my vocation.  That I can never get away from the reminder that regardless of how the world perceives me and even how I’d like to think of myself, God knows better, and when I am honest with myself, so do I.  Perhaps another seminary will help.  Another book.  Another degree.  Another experiential sort of thing.  There is always so much more to learn.  So much more to master.  So much more to become, that who I already am pales in comparison.

So it is that I ordered a couple of books on preaching this week and have begun reading both of them.  The first is Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy-Tale.  While there are places we differ significantly theologically (particularly in regards to what Scripture is), he has already breathtakingly demonstrated what a woeful story-teller I am through a breathtaking character development of Pontius Pilate just prior to asking Jesus What is truth?  (John 18:38).

The second book is One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills.  I’m not sure how helpful it will be (I’m only on the second exercise).  The first exercise was to create a group to pray for me as I’m working on  the sermon through the week.

At first, I wanted to skip over this.  I know my people pray for me.  I’m grateful for this.  But it’s hardly an exercise for me to hone my skills.  The author suggests a small group who covenant to pray for me through the week, and each week I send out reminders to them on a daily basis of how they can specifically pray that week.  It’s a good reminder that pastors need prayer and sermons need prayer and even though I balked at first, I’m going to ask my prayer group for some volunteers to take this on.

But he referred to a great little essay on the topic of How to Pray for Your Pastor on Saturday.  And while I don’t know much about the author of this article, at  the very least he does an admirable job of describing the issues a pastor faces on Saturday and also on Sunday morning leading up to worship and delivering a sermon.  In particular, his description of what it is like to step up into the pulpit and survey the congregation and how that can impact the pastor powerfully in those final seconds before opening his mouth and starting to preach is noteworthy.

I do need prayer.  So do pastors everywhere.  Speaking the Word of God to the people of God is risky business.  It’s risky when they all love you and risky when they don’t.  So if you don’t already, pray for your pastor, that he do his job well and faithfully whether you like what he will say or not.


5 Responses to “Praying for Your Pastor”

  1. Dreadfully Disappointed | Living Apologetics Says:

    […] Faith, Culture, Society, Life « Praying for Your Pastor […]

  2. JP Says:

    Thanks for the honest sharing. I know that feeling of wanting/needing to be more than you are. It can be hard to know whether that comes from a healthy or unhealthy place, so I pray God grant you discernment.

    On another note, had you read Buechner before? He’s one of my favorites. Beautiful prose, rich theological and emotional depth. When I’m stuck on a sermon, sometimes these three works give me some inspiration:

    Check out these collections of his sermons. They’re great for devotional use, though in his later years he does seem to go off the rails a bit theologically. But still fun to read with discernment.
    And his spiritual autobiography is one my all-time favorites:

    In the meantime, I honor your request in this post, praying that God would strengthen your faith in Christ when you feel weak or not _______ enough, even while praying that He provide avenues for further enrichment. Further, should you ever get to the point that you think you are killing it in the pulpit, I pray that God would mercifully grant you humility and discontentment.

    Keep living in the tension. Glad we can live in it as friends, brothers in Christ, and fellow self-doubting laborers in the field.

    • mrpaulnelson Says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful response. Yes, this is my first run-in with Buechner, but I don’t think it will be my last! Thank you for the recommendations – and the prayers!

  3. Preaching Progress | Living Apologetics Says:

    […] ten years ago – oh wait, it was really just this past February! – I began a book on improving my […]

  4. Covering the Bases | Living Apologetics Says:

    […] I continue to work slowly through a book on improving my preaching, the next chapter deals with different ways a speaker/preacher connects with the people they are […]

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