This Sunday is Pastor Appreciation Day. Here are six specific ways to pray for your spiritual leaders.
Often when I speak to a group of aspiring ministers, I greet them by saying: “Welcome to the war.” I also remind them that when they signed up to join the front lines of spiritual battle, a bright red target was painted on their backs. Ministry can be wonderfully rewarding, but let’s not kid anybody: Most of the time it’s a thankless job full of headaches, disappointments, conflicts, loneliness, frustration, petty complaints and tight budgets.
And while we might assume all pastors lead megachurches and drive new cars, keep in mind that the average church in this country has 75 members and the average pastor makes less than $34,000 a year–and may work an extra job to feed his or her family. The statistics are alarming: 90 percent of pastors work more than 50 hours a week; 70 percent say they don’t have any close friends; and 45 percent say they’ve had to take a leave of absence from ministry because of depression or burnout.
My friend Eddie Taylor, pastor of Church on the Hill in Dalton, Ga., has faced his share of ministry pressures and has looked burnout square in the face a few times. He dug deep in the story of Elijah (see 1 Kings 17-19) to learn how to survive, and he recently shared with me a message about how to pray for people in leadership. I decided to share his main points since October is Clergy Appreciation Month.
I’m sure your pastor would appreciate a nice card next Sunday, but he or she would be doubly blessed to know that you were praying regularly along these lines:
1. Pray against witchcraft and manipulation. As soon as Elijah stepped into the fray and challenged Israel’s idolatry, Jezebel went into attack mode. We must never be ignorant of Satan’s schemes (see 2 Cor. 2:11). The enemy targets Christian leaders, aiming to pull them into immorality, deception or pride; or he dispatches human messengers to control or discourage them. You can expose these demonic plots through prayer.
2. Pray for courage. Elijah had guts. He not only got in Ahab’s face, but he also organized a public showdown to challenge Jezebel’s false prophets. Yet right after the fire fell from heaven in response to Elijah’s prayer, Jezebel threatened him–and the Bible says “he was afraid and arose and ran for his life” (1 Kings 19:3, NASB). Leaders are called to confront, but they can’t do it without supernatural boldness from God. Ask the Lord to make your pastor brave.