Many years ago one of my parents’ favorite pastors felt called to serve as a missionary to Brazil. For years we had regularly updated pictures and prayer cards from these missionaries and our family prayed for them. That missionary couple is now with the Lord but I still remember their prayer cards. Through the years I have accumulated prayer cards from Missionaries serving around the world.
One of the first assignments given to missionaries is to recruit prayer support. We know missionaries need wisdom, anointing and the leading of the Holy Spirit in order to make disciples in other cultures. We also know that serving on the front line as missionaries opens the door for all kinds of attacks from the enemy, so missionaries also need prayers for protection.
What is true for missionaries is true for pastors. As pastors, you serve on the front line of ministry in the United States. Your challenges may be different from those serving overseas but you are still in the crosshairs of the enemy. He works to destroy families, divide congregations and offer a smorgasbord of temptations.
This is Pastor Appreciation Month and most of our churches will find ways to express their appreciation. There may be gifts, cards or words of appreciation but the greatest ministry they can give you is to pledge to pray for you – but don’t wait for people in the pew or in leadership to offer.
Recruit a team. Just as missionaries recruit prayer support, you too need to recruit a team of people who will pray for you regularly. You don’t need to give them a picture of yourself since they likely see you regularly or have some form of regular contact but you do need to communicate with them.
Identify a group of 3-4 whom you trust explicitly. These are people you can call on at any time night or day to pray for you. You trust them enough to share your deepest struggles.
Then identify a larger group of 12-15 with whom you communicate weekly. Insist on confidentiality. Ask them to pray for sermon prep and delivery, for any meetings you have that week, and for your family. Early in the week, let them know the challenges you are facing.
In some settings, it is good to recruit a larger group of 25-60 with whom you communicate monthly, sharing the overall ministry of the church and asking them to pray for God’s leading in each part of the ministry.
Prayer support is crucial to the effectiveness of your ministry. You most likely (hopefully) already have people who pray for you. Feed prayer requests to these prayer warriors. They could be the most important team in your ministry.