In one of Paul’s earliest letters, he expresses the cry of his own heart and that of every faithful minister after him: “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25). In this verse, he desires that the congregation in Thessalonica will continually pray for those who minister God’s word to them. Pray on our behalf! Paul expressed his need for God’s people to remember him in the presence of God. Every faithful minister of God still needs God’s people to faithfully, persistently, and deliberately make intercession for him.
You may ask, “Why should we pray for him?” Simply put: Your Pastor needs your prayers! Every faithful pastor of God’s people is painfully aware of his inability and powerlessness to be a blessing to God’s people, to help anybody grow spiritually, or convert anyone without the power of God’s Spirit resting upon him and his work. Although he needs your supplications for all aspects of his life and labor, I would like to focus on two areas related to the preaching of God’s Word for which your pastor absolutely needs your prayers week by week.
In Preparation to Preach God’s Word
As Reformed believers, we confess and uphold the truth that the Scriptures were written by men who were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21) so that every word they wrote was, and still is, the infallible and inerrant Word of God. We also confess that the same Spirit who inspired the Word is still necessary every time the Word is read, to provide insight and understanding into that word (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6–13). We call this work of the Spirit “illumination.” Your pastor needs the Spirit of God every week to illuminate God’s Word so that he may understand that Word rightly and preach it faithfully and powerfully. Without the Holy Spirit providing understanding and insight, your pastor’s work in the study during the week would all be in vain. No matter how many commentaries he reads, or how many hours he spends studying the Greek or Hebrew grammar, he will not understand God’s Word rightly, nor will his work be a blessing for God’s people, because his work will rest on human wisdom and be devoid of the power of God!
Your pastor needs your prayers for the Spirit of God to work in his heart and mind to bring home the truth of God’s Word as he labors in the Scriptures. Only the Holy Spirit brings the insight and understanding needed by the preacher and God’s people. So plead with your Father in heaven that while your pastor studies God’s Word, the Holy Spirit would be present to teach him everything he needs to know. Haddon Robison explains the process that should take place: “When an expositor studies his Bible, the Holy Spirit probes the preacher’s life. As a man prepares sermons, God prepares the man. . . . As an expositor masters a passage, he will discover that the truth of the passage in the hand of the Spirit masters him.”1 Your pastor so desperately needs this because as the puritan John Owen reminds us about the power of preaching: “If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us. . . . The want of this experience of the power of the gospel truth on their own souls is that which gives us so many lifeless, sapless orations, quaint in words and dead as to power, instead of preaching the gospel in the demonstration of the Spirit.”2
Do you want “lifeless, sapless” sermons, nice on the ear, but devoid of the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit? If not, then pray for your pastor continually during the week as he prepares, that God’s Spirit would work in him so that the Word of Christ may dwell richly in his heart and pass in power from your pastor!
In Preaching God’s Word
Not merely in his study, but more so in the pulpit, does your pastor need the Holy Spirit. As your pastor enters the pulpit, the task before him is great. He has received a word from God, a burden lying on his heart, that he must proclaim accurately, faithfully, pointedly, clearly and boldly. Every preacher who is worthy of this great call knows his inability and inadequacy for such a great task and cries out every time he steps up to preach: “Brothers, pray for us!”
What does you pastor need at the moment of preaching? Two passages are helpful in answering this question. In Colossians 4:4, Paul makes a request for intercession, pointing out two things that are needed for ministry: “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the Word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” God must supply the field of labor, and God must supply the ability to make the mystery of Christ clear! For your pastor, God has already answered the first request by providing him with a regular place to preach and teach God’s Word.
The second request is his primary need now. Paul uses an unusual word here for the task of preaching: “make manifest,” “reveal.” He knows that through his preaching Christ can either be hidden and veiled, or be made clearly manifest! The latter is how God demands the gospel to be declared (“which is how I ought to speak”). Any minister who veils the glory of Christ and obscures His saving power in his preaching is unfaithful to what he is called to do. Every faithful minister knows that without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to exalt Christ and declare him rightly. We need God to supply us with the ability to preach and reveal Christ. What is all the more striking is that this request is made by one of the most successful evangelists of all times. Even after many years of preaching, Paul still knows that without God’s supplying him with this ability, he cannot preach Christ rightly! How much more does your ordinary pastor need your prayers to God to give him the ability to make Christ manifest, as he ought to speak! Pray for your minister to receive from God what he needs to make Christ clearly known as he should.
The second passage reveals what specific ability God needs to supply so the pastor can preach Christ rightly: “To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Paul acknowledges here that he needs words to preach the gospel boldly, “as he ought to speak.” God must supply your minister with the very words he needs so he can boldly, fearlessly make known the gospel of Christ. This fearlessness in preaching Christ is not a natural bravery, but is a manifestation of the Spirit’s power resting on a man. Without this presence of the Spirit and the gift of his power, every faithful preacher knows that he preaches in vain. God’s people will not be edified, and sinners will not be saved through Christ, without the presence of the Spirit. That is why your pastor cries out: “Brothers, pray for us!” He needs the presence of God’s Spirit to supply him with words every time he opens his mouth. Only if his words are supplied by the Spirit does he know that the faith of God’s people rests not in his persuasive words of human wisdom, “but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).
Oh, do you see why your pastor needs your prayers? He needs God’s Spirit to rest upon him, to supply him with the ability and the words to make clear the gospel of Christ in boldness and power. Your prayers on his behalf are vital in fulfilling his task of preaching God’s word. Your prayers are like the hands of Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses; they support your minister in his great calling and assure the continuance of God’s blessing upon his ministry. As the prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon put it:
The sinew of the minister’s strength under God is the supplication of his church. We can do anything and everything if we have a praying people around us. But when our dear friends and fellow helpers cease to pray, the Holy Ghost hastens to depart, and ‘Ichabod’ is written on the place of assembly.3
I hope it is clear that your minister needs your prayers. His work depends completely upon God mercifully granting him the insight, the ability, the words, and the power! He can do nothing, accomplish nothing, without the power of the Holy Spirit resting upon him and his work. He will not be a blessing to you without God’s Spirit resting upon him. So you need to pray for him so that he will be a blessing to you!
There is an added blessing in your intercession for your pastor. It will stir you to come to worship with a greater expectation and interest in the preaching of the word. You will know that you have prayed to the Lord of Glory to supply your pastor with the words you need to hear, and then every week you will come anticipating to hear what God wants you to hear. This anticipation and expectation of hearing the voice of your Savior is one of the greatest gifts that a congregation can give a pastor. When you are eager to hear, then he is eager to preach. Spurgeon again expresses this beautifully:
I have had great success in soul-winning . . . but I have never taken any credit for it, for I feel that I preach under great advantages; the people come with an intense desire to hear, and with an expectation of getting a blessing. . . . When a congregation expects nothing, it generally finds nothing even in the best of preachers; but when they are prepared to make much of what they hear, they usually get what they come for. . . . Our work is, no doubt, greatly affected, for good or evil, by the condition of the congregation.4 May God stir your heart to pray for your pastor without ceasing, and so create in you a hunger for His Word. Hear the cry of you pastor’s heart: “Brothers, pray for us!”
1. ‘What is Expository Preaching?’ Bibliotheca Sacra 131 (January-March 1974):59.
2. The Works of John Owen (repr. ed., Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1968), vol. 16, p. 76.
3. From An All-Round Ministry Quoted by Arturo Azurdia III, in Spirit Empowered Preaching (Mentor, Fearn, 2007), p. 163.
4. An All-Round Ministry (repr. ed., Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972), p. 355.
Rev. Jacques Roets is the pastor of Redeemer United Reformed Church in Dyer, Indiana.