A Pastor’s Prayer for Parishioners

By Barry Howard
Good and gracious God,
I come to you praying for those who are members, formally or informally, in the congregation I serve.
I pray for the young and the elderly, the sick and healthy, the employed and the unemployed, the happily married and the unhappily married, the active and the semi-active, the veteran saint and the new believer, and the spiritually passionate and the spiritually frustrated.
I am aware at this moment of the diverse and divergent life experiences confronting each individual on this day.  I pray for those who are at the top of the mountain, experiencing success in their business, stability in their home, growth in their faith, good health, and/or unspeakable joy in their heart.
I also pray for those who are currently in the valley of despair, experiencing frustration in their business, anxiety in their home life, lukewarmness in their faith, mounting concerns with their health, and/or perplexing grief in their soul.
I pray for every member of this spiritual family to know the deeper purpose of congregational life, to worship and to serve with faithfulness, to listen and to speak with intentionality, to be honest and to be humble, to be reverent and to be respectful, and to weep and rejoice, privately and together, as needed.
Help us as your family to balance those ongoing tasks of reaching out to those outside our family while ministering to each other within the family, so that neither task is lacking.
Help us as your people to work energetically for the common good of your community-yet-under-construction, so that our personal ambitions and our preferential agendas do not derail or defeat your initiatives that are often invisible to the self-absorbed eye.
Help us as your church to experience an emerging momentum toward faithfulness, the elation of cheerful giving, the gratification of serving, a growing willingness to make sacrifices, and the inner peace that comes only through your divine presence within.
Help us as your children to continually and wisely realign our lives, not conforming to the mirage of pop culture, but always being transformed by the durable and timeless work of Jesus Christ. 
Keep us in tune with your Spirit who convicts and comforts, guards and guides, and equips and encourages, and who is working actively to generate good in all circumstances, especially those things that we perceive as devoid of good.
Since life in this world is imperfect and every individual life including our own falls short because of the brokenness of sin, teach us to be more gracious and less judgmental, more inclusive and less exclusive, more compassionate and less condemning, because we have already seen this kind of grace demonstrated in the story of Jesus.
In this crucial day in time when  many  have forsaken spiritual community for religious conglomerate, replaced worship with trendy entertainment, and prioritized self-interests above service, remind us that we are people of the towel, both to wash each other’s feet, to dry each other’s tears, and to wipe clean the slate of sins on earth even as you have purged our sins from our private record in heaven.
Encourage and equip us to be your hands and your feet, your light and your love, and your disciples and your servants in a world that needs authentic witnesses of your love and your mercy.
May we receive each day as a gift, and like Jesus, to value relationships above the quest for riches and the preservation of traditions, and to prioritize covenant loyalty above comfort, convenience, and temporary gratification.
As you free us to live life to the fullest, make us to be incarnate representatives of your presence and illustrative constituents of your grace, for we pray in the name of the one who came to give us life and life more abundantly.
Amen

A Pastor’s Prayer for Pastors

by Barry Howard
(This prayer was offered at the Mercer Preaching Consultation on St. Simon’s Island on September 26, 2011.)
Gracious God,
 I come to you as a pastor praying for pastors.  I pray all men and women from every walk of faith who are called into this peculiar work of encouraging and equipping others for their journey.
First I pray for pastors to be encouraged. For all its rewards, this work can be discouraging.  I pray for those pastors who are right now living through the dark night of the soul, some experiencing darkness because of the challenges of their congregation, others experiencing darkness because of emotional depression, and still others experiencing darkness because of physical or spiritual fatigue. I especially pray for those pastors who are discerning whether to go to a new place of service, and for those pastors who have confirmed the call to stay where they are to seize the opportunities and tackle the challenges.  I pray for the energy of pastors to be revitalized so that pastors can dream dreams and have visions, do their work with the right spirit.
I pray for pastors to be faithful.  I pray for pastors to live in faithful covenant to their families, both their parish family and their personal family, and to always know the difference between the two.  I pray for pastors to be faithful to our calling, always discerning and following your kingdom initiatives, and to be continually engaged in dialogue with you.
I pray for pastors to be anointed with a fresh dose of courage. These are stressful times and it is no time for your shepherds to be sheepish.  You did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of courage, so help us as pastors to speak and act courageously with moral and ethical conviction for causes that are just and right.  Help us to act with courageous conviction in living and preaching the good news to all people regardless of ethnicity, creed, or economic status.  And help us to have the courageous insight to navigate our congregations toward the ways of Christ, and away from any popular fads, trends and perceived shortcuts to growth that both trivialize the gospel and minimize the Christian experience.
I pray for pastors to have endurance.  I pray for pastors to work intentionally and intelligently, to carefully manage the demands of an unpredictable schedule, to faithfully practice Sabbath-keeping, and to respond with tough love to those occasional high maintenance saints who can become like thorns in the flesh and pains in all of the wrong places.
I pray for pastors to be effective preachers.  I pray for us to be both prophets and poets, who tell the truth and love the people.  I pray for pastors to speak with authority from on high and yet have street level savvy, so that we can simultaneously be heavenly minded and do some earthly good.  In a world filled with bad news, I pray for pastors to be articulate and welcomed voices of good news, bringing your right word at the right time.
Lord, it is an exciting, but gut-wrenching time to be a pastor.  And although faith no longer enjoys privilege and preference in the public square, we are confident that the message of faith is astoundingly relevant at the major intersections of life and that the message may be heard more profoundly in the congestion of the daily grind than from the assigned seats of privilege.
In a world where people are not content with easy answers; where truth is sometimes black, sometimes white and sometimes gray; where superficial spirituality is insufficient; and where seekers are searching for authenticity; help us as pastors to rise to the occasion to speak the truth in love, and to be more about the business of the kingdom than the kingdom of business.  Help us as pastors to find security in our belonging to you and not in the whims of the culture in which we live or the opinions of the beloved people we service.
For every pastor, and especially me, O Lord,
I pray for clarity of call and clarity of conscience.
I pray for physical health and spiritual vitality.
I pray for emotional stability and spiritual sensitivity.
Restore unto us both the joy of our salvation and the joy of ministry,
That the fire in our bones will be transformed into the energy and enthusiasm with which we serve.
In the name of the one who calls us, who encourages us, and the one who will see us through until the end.    Amen