The Pastor's Daily Prayer
(paragraph 3 of 13)
O God of all grace and mercy, you have also called me, a poor unworthy sinner, to be a servant of your word and have placed me into that office which preaches the reconciliation and have given me this flock to feed. In and by myself I am wholly incompetent to perform the work of this great office; and, therefore, I pray, make me an able minister of your Church. Give me your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, of grace and prayer, of power and strength, of courage and joyfulness, of sanctification and the fear of God. Fill me with the right knowledge, and open my lips that my mouth may proclaim the honor of your name. Fill my heart with a passion for souls and with skillfulness to give unto each and every sheep or lamb entrusted to my care what is due unto it at the proper time. Give me at all times sound advice and just works; and wherever I overlook something or in the weakness of my flesh speak or act wrongly, set it aright, and help that no one may through me suffer harm to his soul.
Any pastor who takes God's word seriously is filled with trepidation over what has been entrusted to his care. The writer to the Hebrews declares, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account." (Hebrews 13:17) While Americans chafe at the words "obey" and "submit" and may even find it degrading to think that a man keeps "watch over your souls," the pastor hears these words that remind him he "will have to give an account." (Hebrews 13:17) And this is why most pastors feel wholly incompetent. We are aware of our own weaknesses and faults, and we know that we make mistakes. We even sin against those we serve. Sometimes the members are not very forgiving about that; we pray fervently that God will be merciful and forgive us our trespasses. We pray the members might, too.
We are also filled with trepidation that we will given to each of God's people "what is due unto it at the proper time." This is wisdom that God must provide. Is the member engaged in sinful behavior which needs to be rebuked and admonished because he is embracing it, or is the member like a bruised reed who is struggling mightily with his sins and needs to hear God's grace and encouragement? How is a pastor to know? He makes his best judgment. And he can get it wrong. Therefore, he prays that God will use his word as is best for his people, and the pastor prays that what he says and does will not cause harm to the souls of any.
There are many stories by people who say that they have been mistreated and disrespected by the church. When that happens, it is especially sad; for, people are driven away from the Church and, therefore, Christ, because of the sins of men. There are others who mistake a call to repentance as disrespect and are upset that the pastor did not cater to their ego and commend them in their sins. This is completely different, but to those who tell their stories, they sound the same. Since the pastor cannot always know what is needed, he prays that he is not the cause of anyone's alienation or pain.
Martin Luther's sacristy prayer states: "Lord God, you have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in your Church, but you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had lacked your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I call upon you: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon your word. Use me as Your instrument -- but do not forsake me, for if ever I should be on my own, I would easily wreck it all." This is a common theme and prayer for the pastor. May God work and send his Spirit to keep his people faithful -- through or even despite their pastor.