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.