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Not too long ago, my wife and I went through a difficult ordeal-not anything between us as a couple, but with some medical issues that proved to be painful for the body and the heart. In the midst of this trial, one of my elders gave me very good advice: he encouraged me to share our experience and ask for prayer through our church’s prayer chain. I wasn’t trying to keep any secrets. I just hadn’t said much because I didn’t want to draw attention to our family or make a big deal out of something that is fairly common. But with his urging, I wrote up several paragraphs about what we were going through and sent an email to the church.

The response was predictably wonderful. People brought meals. People prayed for us. People send us notes. People stopped to express their concern. I saw the same thing a year ago when my dad was in the hospital and near to death. The body of Christ was eager to help, eager to sympathize, and eager to pray. Many people thanked me for letting them know the details and asking for prayer.

Every Christian needs the care and compassion of the body of Christ. Pastors knows this better than anyone. But we can be slow to accept it for ourselves. Obviously, I’m not suggesting we embrace a martyr’s complex or take advantage of our people’s kindness. But there is something deeply biblical, fundamentally wise, and particularly powerful about the shepherd acknowledging he is first of all a sheep. Pastors are real people-real fallen, hurting, human beings-and we need the church like everyone else.

When my elder suggested I ask the congregation to pray for me, he argued that a church learns to truly love her pastor by praying for him, comforting him, seeing him in need, and exercising their pent up desire to minister to him as he has ministered to them. If we aren’t careful as pastors, we can fall into the bad habit of thinking we must always be Christ to others and no one can ever be Christ to us. We get comfortable as the grace-dispensers, without recognizing our greater need to be grace-receivers. Such an attitude has the appearance of humility, but is actually the hardening of pride.

So men, don’t hesitate to tell your elders about the real issues in your lives. Don’t be scared to share your heart with your small group. Don’t pretend to be more spiritual than Christ by never crying, never admitting you’re tired, or never taking a nap. And, no matter what, don’t be afraid to ask for prayer. Let people in. Not everyone into everything, but a few people into everything, and everybody into something. If Jesus asked his meager disciples to pray for him, surely we can ask our wonderful congregations to pray for us.

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11 thoughts on “Pastors, Ask for Prayer”

  1. Dave Vander Laan says:

    Kevin, I agree with you – 100%.

    But I also found very hurtful and disappointing the response of my church and her leadership when I shared with them the struggles one of our older boys was dealing with regarding his emotional health and substance abuse.

    There were a few that responded as the Body of Christ. But there was too loud of an awkward silence.

    Granted, the topics I shared with our church most definitely fall into the ‘hard to know what to say’ category. But it was precisely for these reasons that I asked for my family’s permission to share our hurt, pain and bewilderment – not because we wanted care & sympathy as much as I was trying to model vulnerability and how it’s OK to have the light of day shining on these issues in a church.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the broken and hurting world lives inside a church – and finds itself even in a minister’s family.

    Brothers and sisters in Christ will not always response with grace and mercy.

  2. EBG says:

    Are you suggesting that a pastor should share particular prayer needs with the congregation at large, or just the “inner ring” of his small group and board of elders? Your article seems to promote both?
    Great article. Spot on.

  3. Thanks, Kevin. We definitely needed this reminder. :-)

  4. Brett Cox says:

    I have been searching for where Jesus asked his disciples to pray for him and cannot find it. This is a huge statement if He did that, but I can’t find it. Please help.

  5. Priscilla Lohrmann says:

    @ Brett: I think Matthew 26:38 might qualify. Jesus expresses his personal sorrow and asks his closest disciples to watch with him as he prayed.

  6. krisakson says:

    This is an excerpt from an email I sent a number of weeks ago to the Pastor of my church. “I’ve been thinking that I should send an email for a number of weeks since we actually get to converse for 30 seconds or less per opportunity. As you are aware (or maybe not), you and the family along with (names removed) are on the A list for my daily prayers. Some times that may come across as trite discourse but when I think of that I am reminded of Scrooge in “The Christmas Carol”. When he wakes on Christmas day and he is running around with a new found appreciation/understanding of Christmas, he runs into the fellows that just the day before were trying to solicit a donation from him for the poor. Scrooge whispers in to the ear of one of the gentlemen and amount that he would like to contribute. The man, asked if Scrooge if he was sure of the sum of the donation. Scrooge replied that he indeed meant what he said and that there were a great many back payments included. So, in my long-wind analogy, that is why I make such a big deal of praying for you. Prayer, without question, was the single thing I could have done at any time for pastors that I know of who struggled, and in some cases, went down in flames. Having been an elder and felt the lash, as it were, makes me somewhat better qualified to understand the burden of ministry…The needs of any particular body seem so petty and insignificant compared to the grandeur and majesty of the God who created everything for His good pleasure. Yet, they are not insignificant and God is immensely interested in the welfare of His children. We think and act on our time scale which is nothing but a dot on the time line of God’s eternity. I have written this note in the hope that He will use it to edify you and (name removed) and at the same time, glorify the LORD.

  7. Brett Cox says:

    @Priscilla…I don’t think it qualifies. He asks them to keep watch while he goes and prays. This article is saying Jesus is asking the disciples to pray for him. Can’t find it.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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