Monday, December 17, 2012

Pray for Your Pastor (Especially on Mondays!)

As a pastor, I have become especially dependent on the prayers of God's people, especially those within my own congregation. Without the sustaining grace of our Lord, and the intercessory prayers of fellow believers, our pastoral labors would grow heavy indeed.

I am not sure how most pastors feel, but judging from some anecdotal conversations I have shared with other pastors recently, we are especially vulnerable to battles of the soul on Mondays.  (For what it is worth, I also tend to feel acute spiritual warfare on Saturday evenings as well).

There may be a few reasons to increase your prayers for your pastor on this day especially:

1) First, pastors are subject to intense spiritual warfare--regardless of the day--by the very nature of our work. There is nothing the enemy would like more than to discredit the Gospel by discrediting the Church. The easiest way to do that is to cause pastors to fail, quit, grow jaded, or fall lame. Church members need to know that their pastors are liable to the same--if not more intense--battles of spiritual warfare as the common Christian. The fact that we are ordained does not protect us from the trials and tribulations of the heart and soul that our people in the pews face. This can and does include depression, doubt, and anxiety.

2) Nevertheless, Mondays seem to be particularly hard because it is the day of "coming down from the mountain top." After preaching with body, heart, and soul on the Lord's Day, we must come down exhausted to the harsh realities of the "real world." School resumes for children, home repairs can no longer be ignored, cars need oil changes etc. A spouse's health concern is still there. After being in the presence of God so manifestly in sermon and sacrament, the normal grind hits again with a reverberating thud.

3) We are our own worst critics. We usually agonize over our sermons in our heads long after we preached them. Often we are harder on ourselves than even our worst detractors. Jokes that failed, points that were botched, or even a theological doctrine that was stated inarticulately can be deeply vexing. While the Word of God is infallible, the sermon is not. No one knows this better than us. Often our inability to preach better is a emotional frustration.  As one wise minister once said, however, "We surely could have preached better sermons, but we could not have preached a better Gospel!"

4) The criticisms of others ring in our ears. Since Sunday is the day that pastors are in contact with the most parishioners at one time, we tend to hear more criticisms that day also. Most are not meant to hurt us. Some are. While the Holy Spirit (and no little adrenaline!) gets us through the pastor's longest day, Mondays are left to mull over our peoples' concerns. While some critiques are very legitimate, others come across as disparaging. Either way, we tend to feel the soreness of the impact of those comments the next day.

5) The numbers come in. Attendance data and giving trends tend to make their way to our attention early in the week. Some weeks the numbers are an encouragement. As unhealthy as it may be to evaluate ourselves by numbers alone, often the only grades we receive are flat-line statistics. Giving and attendance may not be the best gauges of our church's spiritual health, but they do affect the pastor's heart.

6) Our labors of preparation start all over again. Since most pastors prepare all week long for their sermons, and deliver them on Sundays, the progress begins all over again as soon as the final 'amen' rings from the choir. Unlike other jobs where progress is demarcated by goals achieved and projects completed, the labor of preaching never ends. Sure, some sermons burst into full color like fireworks.  Other sermons fizzle on delivery. Either way, even the best sermons fade as the last echo dies in the sanctuary. On Mondays, we must begin preparations all over again with a blank sheet of paper.

7) The Lord conceals most of our fruit from us. This is for our good, lest we become prideful. I think that if God showed us how our people were growing under our ministries, we would be tempted to think we had done something wonderful. God would be robbed of His glory by human pride. Most often, pastors are not fully cognizant of the results of their labors. A sermon that really 'lands' with full force is not often readily apparent to our awareness. Like the agricultural metaphors of the parables of Scripture, most real spiritual growth is slow, imperceptible to the naked eye. And yet God is good to ensure the harvest!

So please, pray for your pastors. We need you. Especially on Mondays!

Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.

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