Prayer: The Lifeline of Pastoral Ministry

A post on the pastoral ministry paradigm of preaching, prayer, and peopling, this post concerning prayer:

This semester I read the biographies Charles Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, two pastors from the two previous centuries whose pastorates proved that praying is the lifeline of pastoral ministry and a pastor’s own spiritual devotion:

Spurgeon was ever a man of prayer. Not that he spent any long periods of time in prayer, but he lived in the spirit of communion with God. (Dallimore, 178)

Throughout [Spurgeon’s] entire ministry many hearers remarked that, moved as they were by his preaching, they were still more affected by his [congregational] praying. (Dallimore, 77)

ML-J’s wife, Bethan Lloyd-Jones: “No one will ever understand my husband until they realise that he is first of all a man of prayer…” (Murray, 322)

[ML-J’s congregational prayer] left the impression that there is such a thing as first-hand communion with God. (Murray, 256)

These men’s lives witnessed the necessity of prayer in pastoral ministry, but in regards to Scripture the most crucial passage, as I understand it, concerning an elder’s responsibility to pray (and also to preach) is in Acts 6. The narrative describes that a dispute had broken out concerning Christian widows not being taken care of and how this problem should be solved. The twelve apostles brought together all the disciples and announced the inauguration of the office of deacons:

“It is not right that we should give  up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute…whom we will appoint to this duty (i.e. the diaconate). But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:3-4)

This passage does not suggest that all Christians cannot or should not be devoted to prayer, but it does suggest that pastors must be devoted to prayer. Likewise, this passage does not mean that pastors cannot at times fulfill practical service needs, but it does suggest that particular attention should be paid to prayer in the life of their ministries.

Based on this passage from Acts 6 I have thought to label prayer “the lifeline of pastoral ministry”. The apostles were freed from the burden of serving tables to have opportunity to be strengthened through prayer and communion with God. Not only were their own spiritual lives revitalized during this time of prayer but they were able to call down the Spirit of God to empower their preaching. Thus, their own souls and the souls of those whom they ministered to were given life through the praying of these pastors.

I do not know many Christians who would say they are satisfied with their prayer life. It seems a struggle for us all. Distractions abound as never before, but I imagine we are not the only ones in the Church’s history to have had problems with obtaining a satisfactory prayer life. As this is the case I will be helped and stimulated in my own devotion to prayer by thinking through it and writing about it on this site from time to time.

[Most helpful for me in growing my prayer life has been having other brothers in Christ who have modeled for me sincere and consistent devotion to prayer. Also, the teaching of Don Whitney and John Piper has proven especially useful.]

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