If your church is searching for a pastor, you will likely be called to prayer at significant moments during the process. Perhaps the Search Committee is having difficulty deciding between a small number of good candidates. Perhaps they have extended an invitation to a candidate and the church is awaiting his response. Maybe the church is experiencing conflict as the search continues, and the call to prayer is simply to restore the church’s unity. The possibilities are endless, but know this: the church should devote much time to prayer during the search process.
If you do so, you’ll be following in the footsteps of Jesus.
The Priority of Prayer
In Luke 5:16, we read that as the news about Jesus continued to spread in the early days of His ministry, the crowd size continued to grow. Everyone wanted to hear Jesus and to be healed by Jesus. Yet as the crowds gathered around Him, He would often slip away to the wilderness to pray.
Over and over again, we read how Jesus made prayer a priority. The time of day didn’t matter; Jesus’ disciples often found Him praying. He prayed early in the morning (Mark 1:35), in the middle of the day (Matthew 14:22-23), and sometimes all night long (Luke 6:12). While He often prayed alone, there were times when He prayed with others (Luke 9:28). Not only did He pray with others, but He prayed for others (Luke 22:31-32). Truly, Jesus made prayer a priority.
The Problem with Prayer
Unfortunately, while prayer was a priority for Jesus, it was often a problem for His disciples. In Matthew 26:36-46, we read about Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane immediately before His arrest. He had taken Peter, James, and John along with Him, asking them to watch and pray as well. Unfortunately, while Jesus was only a short distance away praying, His disciples were napping. After waking them up, Jesus went away to pray a second time. Again, His disciples fell asleep. Upon discovering them sleeping once again, Jesus didn’t even bother to wake them up. He went away and prayed alone for the third time. Indeed, prayer was a problem for the disciples.
But we can’t be too hard on them. The reality is that prayer is a problem for many Christians today as well. Prayer is something we know we should do, but often don’t take the time to actually do. While research reveals that prayer is the best practice during a pastor search, those who consult churches during this season of transition identified a lack of prayer as one of the biggest mistakes made during the process.
In other words, the problem with prayer is that we often don’t spend enough time doing it.
The Power of Prayer
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. If church members like yourself will make the commitment to be prayer warriors throughout the search process, it could make this season one of the greatest displays of God’s power that you ever experience as a congregation. Indeed, I believe that prayer is one of the most powerful weapons at your disposal during this season.
Prayer was certainly a powerful weapon for the first-century church. In Acts 4, we read about how two of the disciples – Peter and John – were arrested and warned not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus anymore. After their release, they went and told the church all that happened, and the church prayed: “And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand for healing, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30). Then we read, “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). That’s a powerful moment!
Think back to the time when Jesus prayed all night long. Notice that He had a specific reason for doing so: “During those days he went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. When daylight came, he summoned his disciples, and he chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13).
Stop and think about that for a second. Before Jesus selected His twelve disciples, He spent an entire night praying about His selection. This is simply amazing! If the Lord of the universe found it necessary to pray all night long before selecting those who would lead His church, how much more do you and I need to do so?
Just as prayer was a powerful weapon for the early church, it can also be a powerful weapon for your church – but you must commit to making it a priority during this interim season.
4 Ways to Pray
There are many ways you can pray throughout your church’s search for a pastor. Let me suggest four:
- Pray for your church. A season without a pastor is one of the most important seasons in the life of a church. During this time, pray that your church would remain humble and unified. Pray that they would be patient and wait on the Lord’s timing. Pray that they would be productive, recognizing that the church is still the church – even without a pastor. Pray for evangelistic faithfulness, recognizing that the Great Commission still applies – even without a pastor. There are so many ways to pray for your church during the search!
- Pray for your Pastor Search Committee. The Pastor Search Committee has been entrusted with the weighty responsibility to identify the man that God is calling to be the church’s next pastor. This is not an easy job. Pray that they would be unified and practice godly wisdom and discernment. Pray that they would be thorough in their screening of potential candidates. Pray that the Lord would protect your Pastor Search Committee from unnecessary and unfair criticism from impatient church members.
- Pray for your next pastor. While you may not know the identity of your next pastor, God does. And you can rest assured that the Lord can respond to any prayers uttered on behalf of your next pastor. As you pray for your next pastor, pray that God will give him the strength to leave his current ministry. Pray that God will give him a deep love for your church and community. Pray that the Lord will give him a strong desire to teach and preach the whole counsel of God and to fulfill the other biblical roles of a shepherd. Finally, pray that he will not allow the demands of ministry to cause him to neglect his family.
- Pray for your next pastor’s family. Whenever you call your next pastor, there’s a good chance he won’t join your church alone. If he’s married, he’ll be accompanied by his wife and any children still living at home. And they need your prayers just as much as he does. Pray that your next pastor’s wife will adjust to the community and the church and will develop new friendships quickly. Pray that she will not be subjected to unrealistic expectations. In addition, pray that your next pastor’s children will also adjust to their new church family and community.
Prayer is such an important component of any pastor search. I’m confident that the church that fervently prays together during this season will witness God answer their prayers in amazing ways. If your church is currently searching for a pastor, will you commit to pray in these four ways?