How to Pray for Your Pastor

When Roman legions invaded Caledonia (modern-day Scotland) in the late first century AD, it was said by the historian Tacitus that the powerful Celtic chieftain Calgacus emerged and rallied his tribes against the might of Rome, famously declaring, “They make a desert, and they call it peace.”

Today’s Christian pastor is likewise making similar stands for biblical Christianity in the midst of a secular desert created by an anti-Christian culture. The Bible describes a faithful pastor as an elder who oversees the flock and the household of God. According to Paul, pastor/elders rule the church (Titus 1:5) and guard the treasures of Christ (v. 9). Additionally, they minister to the people by teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).

If ever there was an era in Christian history that believers should be committed to praying for their pastors, it is now. James rebukes our prayerlessness when he says, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). And what prayers are we offering up to God on behalf of our pastors? Let me suggest several.


If your minister is not being blessed and instructed by the Word, it is highly unlikely that you will be. Your spiritual well-being is directly linked to your pastor’s seeking the Lord in his preparation for the sacred desk. If he is not diligently seeking the Lord, you won’t find Him in his preaching either.

A godly pastor is a joyful, dutiful herald of the most high King. His enthusiasm for proclaiming God’s Word will be infectious and unstoppable, and it will be readily apparent to all who hear him that this is a man who knows his God. Second Timothy 4:1–2 reads:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.


I suspect that many people who sit week after week in the pews of their particular church have no idea how difficult a Sunday is for a minister and his family. Pray for your pastor’s Sundays. Robert Murray M’Cheyne says: “A well-spent sabbath we feel to be a day of heaven upon earth. … We love to rise early on that morning, and to sit up late, that we may have a long day with God.”


Pray that God would help your pastor in the midst of busyness to taste and see that the Lord is good. Pray that his children would grow up loved and cherished in the household of faith. Joel Beeke says: “Family worship is the foundation of child rearing. As family worship goes, so will go the family. The Puritans thought family worship was the whole backbone of society.” We read in Deuteronomy 6:4–7:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.


May your pastor have a Christlike love for the lost and a joy in telling others about the Shepherd-King. If a man loves the Lord, he will love telling others the old story of the gospel. He also will teach and model for others a renewed sense of evangelism and mission. He is worthy to receive the glory and honor due Him (Rev. 4:11). Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is worthy to receive the reward. We need our pastors to have a zeal for the lost.


A growing personal relationship with Christ will supply the motivation and zeal needed for a pastor’s duty to God. It will be tiring. It will require an all-in, total commitment. Pray that God would provide every physical and emotional need for the call to serve. Pastors are often subject spiritual temptation, so pray for God to protect these men from the evil one. Pray that they would guard themselves and be granted personal holiness. Pray that they would apply the means of grace to their own hearts, by God’s help.


Thomas Smyth of the antebellum historic Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, S.C., once charged a young pastor by saying:

Preaching is your pre-eminent employment, so the Gospel is the sum and substance of your preaching—the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation. 

Necessity is laid upon you, yea, woe is unto you if you preach not the Gospel. … Preach Christ as set forth in the Gospel—the sum and substance of God’s testimony, and the author of eternal salvation to all who believe upon him.

Preach—this glorious Gospel of good news—first and last, every way, and everywhere, in public and in private; in the pulpit and by the press; to the living and to the dying; to the lost and the saved.

Pray for your pastor, pray as if your very life and those you love depended upon it.

Melton L. Duncan is a ruling elder at Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C.


Meet the Puritan John Browning, D. D.

John Browning, D. D. —
This learned divine was senior fellow of Trinity college, Cambridge, and afterwards domestic chaplain to the Earl of Bedford, but was deprived of his fellowship for his puritanical opinions. Having delivered a sermon in St. Mary’s church, in which were contained certain heretical opinions, as they were called, he was convened, February 1, 1572, before the heads of colleges, and commanded to abstain from preaching, till he should be purged from his dangerous heresy. Under these circumstances, he looked upon it to be his duty to obey God, rather than men, and therefore refused to obey their command, and still continued in his beloved work of preaching; on which account he was cast into prison for contempt. Whatever were the pretended charges of his enemies, his principal crime was his nonconformity.

Dr. Browning having remained for some time in prison, was at length released, upon giving bond of two hundred marks, and obtaining two sureties bound in forty pounds each, for his appearance to answer such charges as should be alleged against him, and to abstain from preaching till further leave should be granted. Being called before his spiritual judges, they resolved, ” that if the said John Browning shall from time to time appear and answer, when and wheresoever he shall be lawfully called within the realm of England, to all such matters as shall be objected unto him, touching certain words uttered by him in two sermons, for which he hath been convened before the said vice-chancellor, until he shall be lawfully discharged; and also shall abstain from preaching, until he shall be permitted or called by the said vice-chancellor, or his deputy, or successors: And further, shall behave himself quietly and peaceably towards the queen’s majesty, and all her subjects, and especially within the university of Cambridge, that then the recognizance to be void and of no effect, or else to stand and remain in its full power and strength.” The day following, Dr. Bying, the vice-chancellor, sent a statement of his crimes, with an account of the above proceedings, to Lord Burleigh the chancellor.

Dr. Browning himself, after his release from prison, appeared before the chancellor, subscribed a submission with his own hand, and was so far acquitted that he was sent back to the university, and the vice-chancellor and heads were urged to re-admit him to his former office and preferment. But this will best appear in Burleigh’s own words, addressed to the vice-chancellor and heads, which were as follows:—” Having received from you a declaration of two errors committed by this bearer, John Browning, in his sermons, one of them containing matter of heresy, and the other tending to sedition, I have caused him to be further examined hereupon, in the presence of Sir Thomas Smith, her majesty’s principal secretary; and finding as well by the relation of Mr. Secretary, as by his own confession subscribed with his hand, that he utterly abhorreth them both, and affirmeth that he hath been much mistaken in the same, I thought it best, for preserving the university’s reputation, and for the reverence of the church of God, wherein he is a minister, to suppress the memory and notice of the said errors, especially that which may be drawn to an interpretation that he should be justly thought seditious and offensive. Therefore, my advice is, that you should receive him again into his place; and if he shall willingly acknowledge before you the same doctrine, and misliking of the foresaid errors, whereof I mean to send you his confession under his hand, and then he may continue quietly among you.”

Though he returned to his office in the college, and to his public ministerial exercise, his troubles were not over. Having taken his doctor’s degree at Oxford, two years earlier than he ought to have done, brought upon him many fresh trials. For this singular offence, which some deemed a mere trifle, and others accounted a very grievous crime, he was deprived of his fellowship, and in effect expelled from the university. This oppressive sentence was inflicted upon him in a most clandestine and illegal manner by Dr. Still, and even above four years after taking his degree at Oxford. This was done a long time after Dr. Still had signified his approbation of his taking the degree, by allowing him to deliver public lectures in the chapel, according to the statute of the university, and by allowing him to be incorporated in the same degree at Cambridge. He also confirmed to Dr. Browning his fellowship and place in the college, not only by suffering him quietly and peaceably to enjoy it, with all the privileges thereof, for more than three years, but also elected him by his own voice to be senior bursar of the college, and to be vice-master for two years by two separate elections.

Moreover, Dr. Still’s conduct was in many particulars most shameful. He proceeded against Dr. Browning with great injustice and inhumanity. Not content with illegally depriving him of his office and benefice, he would not suffer him to dine in the hall of the college, nor any one to eat or drink with him. When Dr. Browning kept his chamber in the college, this inveterate enemy would not permit any of his friends or acquaintance to come to him, or converse with him; and those of his friends who had any private intercourse with him, he strictly examined by threatenings and oaths to confess what had passed, with a view to accuse them from their own mouths. He also complained in this case to a foreign judge, expressly contrary to the statute of the college. And though he caused the name of Dr. Browning to be struck out of the buttery, he commenced an action of £300 against him, merely on supposition that he had done the same by him. He, moreover, procured a restraint of Dr. Browning’s liberty, by watching him and keeping him in his chamber for some time as in a prison. Not satisfied with these tyrannical proceedings, he assaulted Dr. Browning’s lodgings in a most violent manner, and broke open his doors, and dragged him out of his chamber, to the great injury of his body; notwithstanding the Earl of Bedford by his letters had previously required all proceedings against him to be stayed, till the cause should be heard. To finish the business, this cruel oppressor of the Lord’s servants prohibited Dr. Browning’s pupils, servants and friends, from coming near him, or bringing him any thing to eat or drink, intending to starve him to death.

During these rigorous and illegal proceedings, the Earl of Bedford, as intimated above, wrote to the Chancellor Burleigh, desiring his lordship not to give his consent to the sentence pronounced upon Dr. Browning, till after he had heard both parties. He spoke, at the same time, in high commendation of his character; that he had good experience of his sound doctrine, his useful preaching, and exemplary conversation, saying, that his deprivation was hard dealing. If his deprivation of his fellowship was hard dealing, what must all the other proceedings have been ? These troubles came upon him in the year 1584: but we do not find that this persecuted servant of Christ obtained any relief.