People sometimes ask me ‘how can I pray for you?‘. Truth is, every church leader needs all the prayer they can possibly get. It is both a massive joy to pastor a church, but it can also be an incredibly vulnerable experience too.
The latter might sound surprising. But when your head is above that parapet, you’re immediately exposed to the harsh winds of critique & the raw edge of judgment. I guess that’s just par for the course in any form of leadership in life…yet in church leadership it carries the added dynamic of spiritual experience and emotional investment. Meanwhile as a church leader, you’re all too aware of your own flaws. They are out there for all to see and this is something which needs to be managed with humility & grace. After all, leaders are imperfect humans who don’t always get it right. Yet, the bible is clear that part of the role of spiritual leadership is to protect God’s church against unhelpful influences. This presents a tension which every pastor must manage between doing what you believe is right – and knowing that the heart behind this might be misunderstood. Ultimately, it’s God to whom leaders are accountable, and this sobering reflection concentrates the mind more than anything else.
Any good shepherd will always watch out for wolves who pose as sheep. With deceptive charm and cunning subtlety, they pursue personal agenda’s, slowly turning good people against each other and creating division. In the first few years of pioneering the Junction Church, we encountered this challenge. I must be honest, I didn’t even always see it. Truth is, a fledgling community could easily have been devoured. But it is amazing how the Holy Spirit helps. I have no doubt there were people praying for me, and God graciously answered their prayers.
So if you want to pray specifically for your pastor, here are four key things to ask God to give:
1) Wisdom to see what God sees
2) Discernment to hear what God says
3) Courage to stand firm during the challenges
4) Grace to keep moving forward into God’s purpose
Remember, prayer works. So be intentional about it!!
Prayer & fasting is not only naturally beneficial but it has huge spiritual benefits too. It’s not something that should ever be approached legalistically but rather as an act of love for God. Whilst it can involve complete abstinence from food, this may not always be practical. In this case, it might be an idea to fast a particular type of food? Alternatively, how about fasting something which isn’t food such as social media? Whatever you choose, set a realistic time frame (perhaps 3 days) and take time to prepare for it.
Here are my top 5 tips for you to bear in mind when fasting:
1. Remember, fasting doesn’t score you points with God. That’s because you can’t make God love you any more than He already does. So fasting is not some form of penance – rather an expression of devotion.
2. Fasting should not be entered into without proper preparation beforehand. For example, check your diary and see what your schedule is like well in advance.
3. During a fast, set aside specific periods for prayer and bible reading. For example, if you’re fasting food, then this might be at the times when you would normally eat. This discipline will not only break the monotony of not eating but will help you focus on the reason why you’re fasting and will also help keep you going for the length of time you have intended to fast for.
4. Be prepared for a rollercoaster of emotions during your fast, especially when fasting food. You’ll experience bursts of incredible energy and alertness contrasted by times when you feel lethargic. Remember that part of the purpose of a fast is learning to make God your fulfilment in whatever emotion you’re experiencing.
5. Expect God to speak to you during your fast – however long you do it for. You may come out of it with a clearer sense of direction about your life, or perhaps even a greater revelation of your involvement in Gods purpose. Often, people come out of a fast with a deeper conviction of just how much God values them. One thing is clear – if you will take time to listen, you will hear God speak to you.