I take it for granted that one of the many duties of a local church’s pastor is to pray for the sheep. But prayer is difficult when you don’t know what is needed. By “needed” I am not referring to what people want for a birthday present, but what spiritual growth is necessary in their particular situation.
This growth might include stopping some things and starting other things. It may mean a wholesale shift in worldview. It may be something as simple as learning how to handle conflict more effectively. The common denominator in all this real change is that it requires real prayer if it is really going to happen.
Thus, as mentioned in my last post, when we go to visit one of our primary goals is to complete what we refer to as data-gathering. We are out to get as much information as possible about the Christians under our care. And the first thing this information does is allow us to pray in specifics for the individual.
A Dad that is struggling to maintain family devotions – he may need a little instruction and encouragement on how to do this, but more powerful than this will be intercessory prayer on his behalf. A mom that demonstrates she is not in control of life but is being controlled by it – we can pray that God would have mercy on her, drawing her closer to Himself, filling her life more fully with His Spirit so that the promised fruit of self-control would grow in her day-to-day existence.
These are just a couple of made-up examples, but you see the point. How can we pray for folks we do not know? Sure we can pray in general ways... and we can always pray the Scriptures for our flock (which ought to be handled in another post!). But there is much to be said for praying in specifics.
It is a great encouragement to your church member when you are able to say to him that you have been praying for something in specific. Once they see the work of God in answering this prayer, their faith will be bolstered.
I think the one aspect of pastoral ministry I enjoy most is watching God change a man. The more you pray for this kind of real change, the more you will see God at work and the more your delight in Him will increase! So, meet with your sheep in order to pray for them more deliberately and specifically.
In the next post I hope to deal with some of the ways you might practically instruct your members during pastoral visits.