The Pastor’s Prayer Life
by Jon Payne
Prayer is indispensable in the life of the pastor. It is essential—a primary means by which he communes with God personally and leads his people corporately. Prayer is the air the pastor breathes. Without it, he suffocates in ministry. The prayerless pastor labors in his own strength and will eventually collapse under the weight and pressures of ministry or be led astray by the siren calls of the culture. Prayer is a constant reminder that God is God and we are not. It teaches pastors that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5). John Calvin states:
Words fail to explain how necessary prayer is and in how many ways the exercise of prayer is profitable. Surely, with good reason, the Heavenly Father affirms that the only stronghold of safety is in calling upon his name.
Therefore, a life devoted to prayer is a nonnegotiable for those called to the ministry. It’s the fruit of a pastor’s sincere walk with God and demonstrates a genuine reliance upon the Lord. It is prayer, not personality, that reveals the pastor’s true heart for God. John Owen writes, “A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.”
Regrettably, we ministers are mostly in our books and rarely on our knees. We spend countless hours sitting at our desks poring over God’s Word, reading good books, and writing expository sermons. Of course, these are worthy and necessary endeavors for the minister. Pastors must handle God’s Word rightly. Doing so takes dedicated and focused time in the study. Nevertheless, with all of the hours we spend crafting our messages, we allocate woefully little time to prayer. But this wasn’t the case with the Apostles. This wasn’t true for our Lord Jesus. Their lives and ministries were bursting with God-centered prayer. They are models of a holy reliance upon God in prayer.
Luke reports that the Apostles were steadfastly devoted to prayer (see Acts 1:14; 2:42; 4:31). To be sure, there were many important ministries occurring in the life of the first-century church, as there are in our own day. Many of these ministries involve practical matters such as making provision for the widows in the congregation. But never were these practical ministries meant to curtail or displace the Apostles’ devotion to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (6:4).
Dear pastor or future pastor, are you committed to prayer? Is prayer a priority in your daily schedule? Do you pray in private (Matt. 6:5–6) and with your spouse and children? Devotion to constant prayer—formally and informally—is of the essence of godly piety (1 Thess. 5:17). Let us, therefore, be men of prayer—not only for our own souls, but for those whom God has placed under our shepherding care.