I grew up believing that only women and children pray. That is, real men did not pray, except for the perfunctory prayer before the Thanksgiving or Christmas meals. Although I knew very little about prayer, without any prompting, I would pray to God each night. One prayer, however, stands out above the rest. On that particular night, I promised God that when I got my driver’s license and a car I would drive myself to church to learn about Jesus. Although I was an extremely rebellious teenager, as soon as I was on my own, I started attending random churches. From Catholic masses to old-school Baptist revivals, I was on a quest to know Christ. I attended any and every church that I could find. Sadly, my lifestyle didn’t (at that time) reflect anything remotely Christian, but I was determined to find out all I could about Jesus.
Interestingly, this journey to know Jesus started with a simple prayer, but the prayer wasn’t mine. It is hard to know how many family members were praying for me. Moreover, it is impossible (humanly speaking) to know how often they prayed for me to become a Christ-follower (i.e., born again). Yet, long before I ever thought to cry out to God, others were intervening on my behalf. Although I can’t know this for certain, I believe that God honored the prayers of those intercessors and placed a desire in my heart and mind to know Him. Ironically (or, maybe, providentially), the little boy who made that promise to God nearly thirty-five years ago, is now praying that God will place the same desire on the hearts of his seven children. Additionally, he prays that God will do a similar work in the lives of those he is privileged to shepherd.
Your Pastor’s Prayer Life Doesn’t Look Like a Hallmark Mini-Series
When you hear that your pastor is praying for you, what thoughts or images fill your mind? You may be under the impression that he remembers every detail of your latest surgery, pain, or struggle. In reality, your pastor cannot possibly keep track of your every temporal need. Remember, he is just a man who is trying to balance the demands of his own responsibilities while interceding for the congregation. In fact, his prayer life is messy, chaotic, and (sometimes) sporadic. No pastor in his right mind would admit that his prayer life is anything other than a neat, systematic, super-spiritual, deep and reverent time with God. In reality, his prayer life is a mess (most of the time!) and chaotic. For those of you who need an unrealistic and unhealthy view of your pastor, stop reading now and turn on a Hallmark movie or something like it. For the theology snobs, please spare me your long readings of the puritan prayers; it just makes me and the rest of my brethren feel like complete failures.
YOUR PASTOR IS PRAYING, EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T ASK
What if you discovered that your pastor was praying for things far more important than your bunions or back pain? Of course, he prays for you when you are sick or hurting, but he also knows that he must pray for issues that are far more important than your bad knee. That is, he is praying for your heart of stone! Pastors are well acquainted with the devasting nature of fallen humanity because they personally experience it every day. Pastors who love Christ desire to have their hearts set ablaze for the glory of God in Christ, but they know that it is not a human work. A man of God knows that his labor is in vain apart from the effectual work of the Holy Spirit. Honestly, pastors spend the majority of their time simply asking God to revive their hearts and renew their passion for His glory. Don’t be surprised when you discover that your pastor is making the exact same request for you. That is, he may be so distracted by his pursuit of God in prayer and crying out that God would revive your heart to remember your temporal physical needs. Although some may be offended by the notion that their pastor has forgotten their specific medical diagnosis, the faithful will rejoice to know that their pastor is preoccupied with begging God to pour out His Spirit upon His people.
Far from the grocery list of ailments you suppose dominate your pastor’s prayer life, his attention is focused on the heavy burden that God has placed on his heart and mind. While he is driving to pick up his kids, the pastor is expressing to God his brokenness over your apathy. As he is walking through Walmart (because that is what pastors do while their wives shop), he is preoccupied with praying quietly for the souls of those who walk past him. While he can’t sleep at night, your pastor’s mind is filled with a desire to witness revival among the church. While you are getting ready for church on Sunday mornings, he is already praying for a supernatural and eternal miracle in the lives of those who hear the Word. When you are enjoying Sunday lunch, he is struggling with God as to why another Sunday went by and the people didn’t respond to the Word. It may not be what you imagined, but your pastor is praying for you! Don’t worry, your pastor also prays for your felt and temporal needs; however, my point is that those needs must take a backseat to your eternal needs (salvation, sanctification, revival, etc.).
The next time your pastor says that he is praying for you, instead of imagining a generic, cookie-cutter prayer, picture a man desperately begging God to open your mind to the beauty of the gospel, to soften and warm your heart to the love of God, and to revive your life to such a degree that you become the spark that starts a revival fire in your church. Then, you may begin to really understand the prayer life of a pastor.
Real men do pray! That is, men who know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ pray. However, most of a man’s prayer life will never be heard by others, never written in books, and never really appreciated in this life. Yet, the man of God knows to whom he is speaking, and he is confident that he has been heard. Your pastor may not always remember your temporal wants, but he is always preoccupied with your eternal needs.
When no one else was watching and no one else could hear, God saw and heard that little boy promise to drive to church in order to learn about Jesus. What that little boy couldn’t have possibly known was that God would transform him into a man who wants everyone to know Christ! So, when you’re not watching, your pastor is praying the same for you!