This article is excerpted from When the People Pray by Thom S. Rainer.
PASTORS, MAY I TELL YOU A STORY?
Many years ago, I pastored a difficult church. It was my third pastorate, but I had never before experienced the types of challenges that confronted me every day in this church. These challenges were not uncommon to pastors—critics, misunderstandings and misrepresentations, power groups, and a severe case of apathy among the flock—but it was the first time I had encountered such difficulties.
To be clear, I shared in the blame. I often responded poorly. I had my own attitude problem. And I could have used an extra measure of humility. Still, the church was difficult, and I really struggled. Not only did I have days when I wondered if I should stay at the church, but I sometimes wondered whether I should stay in vocational ministry.
Have you been there? I think we’ve all been there.
One Sunday morning, I was especially discouraged. As I walked to the pulpit, I did not feel like preaching. But somehow, by the grace of God, I made it through my sermon. At the conclusion of the service, I made some extemporaneous statements that I later xiii wondered if I would regret. To the best of my memory, here is what I told the congregation:
Folks, though it could be a risk, I want to be vulnerable and transparent with you. I am struggling. I am struggling as your pastor. I even had difficulty preaching today. I don’t need to share all the reasons for my struggles; I know, above all, it’s a spiritual battle. But at the risk of being presumptuous, could I ask something of you? Even if only a few of you are willing, it could make a huge difference for me. Will you commit to pray for me every day? Even if it’s just a couple of minutes, will you pray for my ministry and for me? I know it’s a big request, but I need prayers more than ever. I’m sorry to burden you with my own situation, but I really do need help, God’s help. Thank you for any help you can give me.
Within two days, more than one hundred members of the church told me they had committed to pray for me daily. I was told many more were also involved. One of the larger contingents said they had committed to pray for me for one minute at noon every day, wherever they were and whatever they were doing.
I wept at their response. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it today.
I was transformed. Our church was transformed.
The power of prayer was at work.
Why do I tell you this story? It’s simple. Like many pastors, you may be reluctant to ask your church members for help—and especially to pray for you. After all, you’re supposed to be the strong spiritual leader in the church. Can you really afford to be that vulnerable?
Yes, you can. In fact, you can’t afford not to be that vulnerable. You need to let go of any uncertainty or pride that hinders you from asking. You could be holding back something significant from taking place in your church. Yes, you could be hindering your own ministry.
After forty years of ministry, fellow pastor, I have learned a few things. I can be fiercely stubborn, too stubborn for my own good. But when I have asked and given permission for God’s people to pray for me, I have seen many incredible things happen. I have seen miracles.
It’s time. It’s time for you to let go—of your fear, your pride, your reticence—and ask the members of your church to pray for you... Ask them to pray. See what God can do. The apostle Paul asked for prayer. Why won’t you?
"Will you pray for me?" is a question pastors hear every day. But when have you heard a pastor ask that question for themselves? Frankly, it's rare. That was the question Thom Rainer asked his congregation. The response was overwhelming. Within two days, more than one hundred people committed to praying for him, and the church was transformed over the next year. Thom cannot imagine what would have happened if he hadn't overcome his initial reluctance to be that vulnerable with his congregation.
In this book, there are thirty reflections and thirty prayers that give church members a glimpse into the struggles most pastors face and helps them pray in specific ways. In the back of this book, there are instructions on how to start a prayer ministry for your pastor, a prayer ministry for members of your pastor's family, and a thirty-day prayer challenge.
God promises to honor the prayers of his people.
When the People Pray is an invitation to unleash those promises.