Prayer for Ministers
James Smith, 1858
The ministers of Christ NEED the prayers of their people, their work is arduous, their weakness is great, their foes are furious, and their hindrances are many. They DESIRE the prayers of their people — for they know that prayer has power with God, and brings down great and invaluable blessings.
The prayers of the people influence the preaching of the minister, and no people should ever expect their minister to preach successfully, or to their souls' profit — except they are much in prayer for him. As the prayers of the people influence the preaching of the minister, so the preaching of the minister influences the prayers of the people. The people therefore ought so to pray — as to bring down gifts and grace on the minister; and the minister ought so to preach — as to stir up the minds of the people, to seek these great blessings from the Lord. We are mutually dependent the on one other. Ministers cannot get on well, except prayer is made without ceasing by the church to God for them; neither can the church prosper, except the minister preaches the gospel with savor, unction, and the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven.
These thoughts, lead me to put the question in all affection to every member of a church of Christ: How much have you prayed for ministers? Do you pray for them daily? Have they a place in your private prayers, and family devotions? Do you ever set apart special times to pray for them? Do you pray for them in proportion to the importance of their work? Think of the importance of a faithful and successful ministry — to a world lying in darkness, and the shadow of death. How much the enlightening, reforming, and saving of sinners — depends on the preaching of the gospel. How can sinners call on Him, in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe on Him, of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach except they be sent?
Now it is God's work to qualify, commission, and send ministers to preach the gospel to the world — and he does so in answer to prayer; therefore our Lord says, "The harvest truly is plenteous — but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest." If therefore you have pity for this poor perishing world, if you sympathize with the Lord Jesus, who came not to condemn the world — but that the world through him might be saved — you will intensely feel the importance of ministers, right-hearted ministers, being sent to preach the glorious gospel among all nations; and will therefore pray — fervently pray, frequently pray, that God would raise up, and send forth the right men for the work. Now, is there any proportion between the frequency and fervency of your prayers on this subject — and its importance?
And then when the men are raised up and sent, their success depends wholly on God's blessing — and that blessing is promised to the prayers of God's people. It is not enough, therefore that you pray for the men — but that you follow them with your sympathies and prayers wherever they go. Prayer should be made without ceasing by the church to God, for his blessing to attend every preacher of Christ's gospel, and to accompany every gospel sermon with power and unction. Without this, we have no right to expect success. God in his holy and gracious sovereignty, may bestow it — but we have no right to expect it. Whenever, therefore, you look over this poor world, and think of its miseries and woes, whenever you turn your thoughts to Christ's ministers preaching his word, whether at home, or in heathen lands — you should make up your minds to pray more earnestly, that the Spirit may be poured upon them from on high, that the wilderness may become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted as a forest. Brethren, believing as you do, that the success of the gospel depends on the blessing of God, and that the blessing of God ia promised to the prayers of the saints — do you pray as much as you ought for the ministers of Christ?
Again, think of the importance of the ministry to the Church. It is by the ministry — that the Lord's people are to be fed, instructed, and edified. It is by the ministry — that the weak are to be strengthened, the unruly warned, and the sorrowful comforted. It is by the ministry — that backsliders are to be restored, and wanderers be brought back to the fold. It is by the ministry, that error is to be refuted, and the truth of God preserved in its purity among us. It is by the ministry, that the Lord works in conversion, consolation, and restoration. If, therefore, the Church is to be increased, if believers are to be built up on their holy faith, if the sheep of Christ are to be folded and fed — it is of the greatest importance that our ministers be holy, energetic, and successful.
But we have no right to expect to have the right men, or that they be preserved in the right spirit, or that they should be blessed and honored in their work — but in answer to the fervent effectual prayers of the Lord's people. Once more then, I ask, considering the importance of the ministry to the Church — do you pray as you ought, or as often as you should, for the stewards of the mysteries of God.
And now, let us bring the subject a little nearer home, and in reference to the man whose ministry you have chosen, and under whose teaching you generally sit. Allow me to ask, How much do you pray for your minister? He fills an arduous post. His is a glorious — but a solemn, and difficult work. He has to watch for souls, as one who must give account. He has taken the oversight, and is expected to be an example to the flock. On him, in a very important sense, your comfort, edification, and growth in grace depends. He needs great grace, special assistance, and indomitable courage. He has, in a peculiar sense — to do battle with the principalities and powers in the Heavenly places. He has to bear with much from every member of the Church, and more from the whole flock. He is often bowed down under a sense of his unfitness for the work, and oppressed with a sense of its overwhelming importance. He is often among his people, as Paul was — in weakness, and fear, and much trembling. He sees more imperfections in his poor sermons than his people see, and finds more faults with his ministrations in private, than they do in public. With what bitterness of soul he often asks, "Who has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" He dreads the thought of his gifts decaying, his graces withering, or his usefulness decreasing. He travails in birth for many, he stands in doubt of many, while he longs for the salvation of all.
O how solemn it often appears to him — to stand between the living God, and sinners dead in trespasses and sins; to be put in trust with the gospel, charged to be faithful unto death; and to realize, as at times he does, that that gospel will either be a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death. Brethren, beloved of the Lord, with such views of your minister's position and feelings before you, I again affectionately ask, How much do you pray for your minister?
Do you pray for him as his office and work demands? Do you pray for him as he entreats and beseeches you to do? Do you pray for him now, as you once did? Do you pray for him as your conscience will admit you should? Do you pray for him, as perhaps, on your own death-bed, or when God is about to take him away from you — you will wish you had? Would not many of your past hours have been better spent in prayer for your minister, than in talking about him as you did? Have you not wasted many an hour, which might have been spent with much profit to yourself, and benefit to him — if spent in praying for your minister.
But the past is gone, and gone forever — we may regret, we may deplore, we may wish it had been different — but we cannot alter it now. Shall the present, the future, if any future is granted unto us — be spent differently? Will you pray for your minister more frequently, more sincerely, more urgently? Will you lay his case before the Lord, with more minuteness, more in detail, plead for him the promises of God's grace, and ask for him greater blessings, with greater fervor, in the precious name of Jesus? Will you? Will you?
Can you justify your past conduct on this point? Are you satisfied with it? Have you not lost many, many a blessing, by neglecting to pray for your minister; or by merely praying for him in a cold, customary, formal manner? Brethren, we need your prayers! We beg your prayers. We beseech you to pray for us. We can adopt and use the language of the Apostle as our own, "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit — that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me." Romans 15:30. "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." Ephesians 6:19-20
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should." Colossians 4:3-4. "Brethren, pray for us." Thessalonians 5:25. "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, even as it is with you." 2 Thessalonians 3:1. "Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way." Hebrews 13:18. If Paul with all his gifts, graces, and success, thus prized and requested the prayers of the Lord's people for himself, then how much more may we; and with how much greater earnestness and importunity would we cry, Brethren, pray, pray, pray, for us!!