As people speculate about a new period of turmoil it is a reminder that it has been a challenging couple of years for everyone. But it has been an especially difficult time to minister. It is never easy, but unique challenges and pressures have presented themselves in the spiritual as well as physical consequences of a period of turmoil. Seeking to pastor during a lockdown situation, constant changes in public health guidance as well as dealing with falling participation, discontent, increased criticism, conflict and polarised opinions has certainly meant increased stress and isolation. It is easy for people to focus their frustrations and struggles on an individual and make it personal. And there is no real getting away from it to try and forget about it all. Then there is the fact that crisis hasn’t gone away while they are trying to rebuild. No one would be surprised if many have felt on the brink of laying down their charge at times. It has forced everyone to look at themselves in a different way. It ought to be obvious then, that your own minister and other ministers need your prayer and encouragement more than ever.
The Covenanter Alexander Pitcairn wrote of how there is a mutual bond between pastor and people that obliges us to pray for them. Praying for their ministry helps to hear sermons in the right way. “What are Ministers, weak, frail men, subject to like passions as others are?”, he asks. They have their frailties and shortcomings but that is all the more reason to pray for them. Ministers are in greater danger than others, “the devil and the world are mad and enraged at a godly and faithful ministry”. “Principalities and powers stand in battle-array against us, and shall we have no help from our friends?” He points out that we are closely bound up with our minister’s trials, temptations and concerns. They have a direct impact on us too. Prayer is important for sending forth ministers where there are none, strengthening ministers to remain where they are and seeking that their ministry would be made powerful and effectual. He challenges those who complain about their minister how much they have prayed for him and his weaknesses.
Pitcairn says that “as you love your own souls, make conscience to pray for your ministers; pray that they may be faithful, and may stand in the hour of temptation, that they may be zealous for their master, and may diligently discharge their trust, that they do not become proud because of their gifts, that they do not become careless, secure, carnal, and worldly-minded”.
There are many places in Paul’s epistles where he seeks the prayers of others for him and his ministry. In your role in preventing ministry failure, we considered many of them. Here we can consider Paul’s urgent plea in Romans 15:30 for the Roman believers to join him as he agonises and strives in prayer. He uses the strongest motives: that they are brethren, the love of the Spirit and the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. John Brown of Wamphray helps us delve further into the meaning of this in the following updated extract.
1. If We Value Prayer We Should Pray for Ministers
The more of God’s grace there is in a soul, the more they will value the enriching trade of prayer. They will also be the more earnest to have the help of even the weakest Christians in prayer. We see how serious and earnest Paul is here, charging them for their help in prayer. The strongest Christian is not beyond the help of the prayers of the weaker. God has disposed things in His amazing providence that each may be useful to another. Thus, here the apostle is calling for the prayers of the Romans.
It is a most necessary and excellent thing to see Christians joining together in wrestling with God for any mercy: This is clear from Paul’s urging this earnestly with such a solemn charge. Whoever desires to have others wrestling with God for them must be careful not to neglect it themselves. Whoever sees any worth or usefulness in prayer will set about it themselves and set others to do it also: “strive together with me.”
In our prayers with and for others, we should strive to be serious and earnest not superficial. We should not do it simply for discharging our duty. Whoever bears another’s condition in prayer in a kind and heartfelt way will find it no easy talk, but rather a battle. There are many things Satan makes use of to hinder and mar us in this duty, all of which must continually be wrestled against with a resolute fervency of spirit.
2. If We Value them as Brethren We Should Pray for Ministers
Believers are all the children of the same Father and family. They should therefore heartily sympathize with one another in their troubles and difficulties and should be moved by them as if they were their own. When Paul would have them lending him support and help in his difficulty, he reminds them of their relation and of the brotherhood.
The best way that a believer can testify his sympathy and brotherly affection to his Christian brethren in their troubles and difficulties is to send up supplications to God for them. They should be laying out their case before God and wrestling with Him as though for themselves.
3. If We Love Christ We Should Pray for Ministers
All true Christians have a strong affection towards Christ as the only delight of their souls and the chiefest among ten thousand to them. There is nothing with more power to prevail with them to set about any duty than that the interests of Jesus Christ are concerned in the matter. This is especially when they know that the faithful and conscionable discharge of the duty will be advantageous to Him. The apostle makes use of this argument to stir them up to pray for him; “For the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake.”
4. If We Long for the Success of the Gospel We Should Pray for Ministers
The thriving and ongoing of the work of the gospel and kingdom of Christ is not a little concerned in the welfare and prosperous attempts of his most faithful and eminent servants. This should make their case and condition lie nearer the heart of believers. Paul is very earnest to have them praying for him and he uses this argument, “for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake.”
5. If We Have a Spiritual Affection We Should Pray for Ministers
Any true love and tender affection or compassion is in any true hearted Christian only comes from the work and operation of the Spirit of God. Whatever a good nature, education, or similar things may do with some, yet this true, spiritual, and tender love is only produced by the Holy Spirit. This true and heavenly love is produced in some measure in all true believers. He says, “by the love of the Spirit.”
6. If We Love Christ’s Body We Should Pray for Ministers
This true and tender love, wherever it is found will prompt the soul to a tender sympathy with other members of the same body. It will be like the natural heat keeping the blood warm through all the body. Thus, whoever are endowed with this blessing and gift of God, cannot but sympathize with any saint of God in their distress. This is his other argument, “by the love of the Spirit” (see Philippians 2:1).
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