One of the greatest risks in local church ministry is not having specific people pray for you as a leader.
Serving as a pastor for 38 years has continued to teach me the importance and the power of prayer. Too often leaders attempt to carry the prayer burden alone and therefore become spiritually unprotected.
One of my favorite Old Testament stories is that of Moses interceding for Joshua and the Israelite army in the battle against the Amalekites.
The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.Exodus 17: 8-13
The larger context and scope of this passage reveals God’s abundant ability to save his people, but it is also a powerful image of intercessory prayer.
Moses’ role to lift up the rod was not only to be an encouragement to the Israelites of God’s presence, but in essence, it was intercessory prayer.
There was a huge battle taking place, but notice also how personal prayer is.
Joshua had prayer coverage by Moses himself, and Moses is backed up by Aaron and Hur.
That’s a beautiful picture of how praying for the leaders can work.
We need others to pray for us.
I truly believe that it’s dangerous to be a church leader without having specific people pray for you with passion, purpose and consistency.
I’ve learned that my prayers are not enough, I need intentional prayer support, and so do you.
For the past 18 years I’ve had 7 prayer partners, one for each day of the week.
Many wonderful people pray for me at 12Stone Church, and I’m grateful for their prayers, as I also pray for them.
But these intentional intercessors are the ones I count on, each on their day of the week.
When I was at Skyline Church in San Diego, I had 30 prayer partners, one for each day of the month. Upon arriving at 12Stone, God directed me to 7 saying, “I want you to pray for your prayer partners as much as they pray for you.” God knew I couldn’t do that with 30 people!”
A 4-step plan to build your personal prayer team:
1) Select your prayer partners carefully.
Whether you have one intercessor or three or seven or ten is up to you. The number isn’t quite as critical as your choices.
Selecting your prayer partners isn’t about spiritual superiority, it’s about spiritual strategy.
There is a spiritual battle in play and it’s serious. Just like you choose carefully who is on your worship team or your staff, your intercessors are just as important.
There are many who will pray for you on occasion, and that is great. It’s needed. God may prompt one person to pray for you that you’ve never met, and that prayer can be life changing.
Your personal prayer team, however, has truly got your back on a consistent basis.
Your prayer partner(s) should be:
- A person who is called and committed to pray for you. (Your invitation may unearth their calling.)
- A person who loves to pray and has a track record of a strong prayer life.
- A person who loves the church and cares about you.
- A person you know and trust and can remain confidential.
- A person who takes God seriously but doesn’t take themself too seriously.
Last, but very important, ask for a one-year commitment at a time.
The purpose is to keep the commitment fresh. And if they choose to step off, no guilt only gratitude!
Together you can discuss if “signing on” for another year, one at a time, is agreeable.
2) Cast vision.
I’ve mentioned that prayer is personal. It’s personal because it’s intimate in its connection with the spirit of God, and in the relationship you share with your prayer partners.
That doesn’t mean you necessarily pray with your prayer partners in person. That can be good but is often impractical.
Keep it simple, you don’t need to call meetings when you need prayer.
Vision helps keep that aligned, healthy and in perspective.
Taking spiritual territory is the purpose of having prayer partners, and the relationship is a blessing. When you keep that straight, it works incredibly well.
That doesn’t mean “church prayers only.” Not at all, many of your prayer quests will be personal, but the big picture is your leadership and the progress of the church in its mission.
3) Communicate regularly.
Communication is another area to keep it simple. I suggest that the vast majority of your prayer requests be communicated through text. It’s fast, easy, and great for remaining in real time.
I don’t recommend bombarding your prayer partners with several texts a day. Keep it realistic. Especially if they pray for you on a certain day of the week. Honor the agreement.
That said, there is no need to remain overly ridged, but be sure it’s okay with each prayer partner to occasionally “sneak” in a request beyond what they committed to.
As each relationship matures, this becomes very natural, just be sure to talk about it rather than take it for granted.
Another important thing is to communicate answers to prayer back to your prayer partners. I don’t always do that, but I do as often as I can remember, and they often ask when I don’t!
Few things motivate an intercessor more than knowing how their prayers were answered, or if they need to keep praying.
And if you adopt my approach of also praying for your prayer partners, while you can pray as the spirit prompts you, it’s good to ask them for specifics on occasion.
4) Equip them and express gratitude.
I like to send a book or two a year on prayer or spiritual leadership. You can also send a really good blog post that encourages prayer.
Don’t make it more complicated than that.
The exchange of your prayer requests and answers to prayer is real time equipping for personal intercessors.
Expressing gratitude is easy when it comes from your heart. Personally, I’m so deeply grateful for their prayers I can’t help but to say thank you often!
Don’t miss out on the power and blessing of personal prayer partners. If you don’t have any, start with one!
I didn’t start my ministry with prayer partners, but I wouldn’t dream of one day without intentional prayer support today.
I wrote a post offering a practical plan of seven points to pray for your pastor. This plan can be used to pray for any of the leaders. You can read it here.