People might assume that spiritual leaders naturally have dynamic prayer lives. I wish their assumptions were correct in every case. Unfortunately, pastors and other ministry leaders struggle with fatigue, time management, a heavy workload, and family responsibilities just like anyone else.
Dealing with endless to-do lists makes it tough to find time for prayer. When we do, we often fall into a rut in which we ask God to bless this endeavor, bless that person, bless the tithes and offerings, bless the Sunday morning service, and bless the missionaries. You get the picture.
My husband and I have been ministry leaders for nearly 25 years. During that time, I’ve struggled to keep my prayer life vibrant. I’ve found that changing my approach once in a while injects freshness and thus helps me stay on track.
For variety sake, I sometimes follow the familiar ACTS acronym—Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Often I pray Scripture prayers such as the ones Paul expressed in Ephesians 3:14-21. Occasionally I switch to the pattern we followed with our kids when they were young—on Mondays we prayed for missionaries, Tuesdays for our church leaders, Wednesdays for unbelieving friends and family, Thursdays for people who were hurting and our military friends, and Fridays for extended family and our government leaders.
Most recently, my husband and I have begun fasting and praying together every Monday for our ministry. I’ve also privately begun patterning my requests after the heart’s desire of eight biblical leaders. This inspiration came while reading the book Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership by Laurie Beth Jones. She summarizes the prayers of eight leaders as follows:
- Abraham – “Help me follow you.”
- Moses – “Help me free your people.”
- David – “Help me slay the giant threatening our people.”
- Esther – “Help me save these people.”
- Solomon – “Give me wisdom to rule your people.”
- Isaiah – “Give me clean lips to speak your words.”
- Peter – “Help me feed your sheep.”
- Jesus – “Help me show them your love.”
Meditating on these leaders’ character, ministry, and impact inspires me to trust God to use me—an ordinary person—for His extraordinary purposes. Expanding their desires, as summed up in these single sentence requests, helps me focus on particular aspects of my ministry responsibilities. Here are some examples of how you, as a pastor, can do the same.
- “Heavenly Father, thank You for Abraham’s example of following You into the unknown. Please give me the courage to trust and obey as he did when You ask me to follow Your lead. Your directives might not make sense to me at the time, but I needn’t fear because You never make a mistake. In Jesus’s name, amen.”
- “Dear Father, individuals in my care are enslaved by fear, selfishness, the desire for power, and the love of money. You’ve said that the knowledge of the truth brings freedom, so please help me free your people by teaching Your truth accurately and consistently. I trust Your Holy Spirit to then help them apply that truth so they can experience lasting inner freedom. In Jesus’s name, amen.”
- “Dear Father, I feel as though I’m facing the giant of ___________________. But David toppled Goliath by the power of Your might, and I trust You to do the same in this situation. I am an overcomer because of who You are and whose I am. Hallelujah! Amen.”
- “Heavenly Father, Your Word says that Satan seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He seems bent on destroying certain individuals and marriages within my church. Please come to the rescue, and show me specifically what I can do to help save these people from the enemy’s attack. In Jesus’s name, amen.”
- “Dear Father, I humbly admit my dependence on You to lead this congregation. Please enable me to fulfill this task with kindness and courage. Most of all, grant me wisdom to understand my people, how to address their needs, and how to lead them with love and integrity. In Jesus’s name, amen.”
- “Dear Lord, thank You for the privilege of preaching Your Word. Please cleanse my heart and my lips so I can teach Your truths with power and accuracy. May every sermon I preach find its source in You and You alone. I want to say only those things You tell me to say. In Jesus’s name, amen.”
- “Dear heavenly Father, You’ve entrusted this flock to my care, but You are ultimately the good shepherd who best understands its needs. Please equip me with everything I need to care well for these sheep so they will flourish. In Jesus’s name, amen.”
- “Dear Lord, sometimes I struggle with loving certain people in my congregation. Please give me Your eyes to see them as You do. Remove pride and selfishness from me so I can love from a sincere heart and bring You glory. In Jesus’s name, amen.”
No matter what prayer method or strategies you use, remember that God loves to converse with you. Share your heart with Him, and He’ll share His with you.
Grace Fox has authored eight books including Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation and produced its corresponding DVD-based small group Bible study. She and her husband co-direct International Messengers, a mission organization with 200 career staff in 20 countries. You can follow Grace on Twitter at @gracelfox and on Facebook www.fb.com/gracefox.author. Grace’s books are available on her website: www.gracefox.com/books, at bookstores nationwide, and on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/o6xhhzj