This past Sunday at my church I had the privilege of leading the church in our pastoral prayer.
Before we planted Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville almost 9 years ago, I had never been a part of a church whose Sunday meeting included a pastoral prayer. It wasn’t long before we realized how much we had been missing.
In his Lectures to My Students, the renowned pastor/preacher Charles Spurgeon said:
It is my solemn conviction that the prayer is one of the most weighty, useful, and honourable parts of the service, and that it ought to be even more considered than the sermon…If I may have my choice, I will sooner yield up the sermon than the prayer.
Fortunately, Spurgeon never had to choose between the sermon and a pastoral prayer. We don’t have to either.
The Benefits of a Pastoral Prayer
Among other things, a weekly pastoral prayer is an opportunity to:
- apply Scriptural admonitions to pray (1 Thessalonians 5:28; Philippians 4:6; Psalm 62:8)
- care for the church
- model how prayers can be rooted in Scripture
- lead the church in expressions of gratefulness and intercession to God
- highlight the significance of prayer
- express our dependence on God’s Spirit
- connect our trials and temptations to God’s provision for us in Christ and the gospel
- see God work powerfully in and through us in response to our requests
So while we took time this past Sunday to honor and thank dads later on in the meeting, I spent a good part of the pastoral prayer on issues related to fatherhood. Sunday afternoon, a few people asked me for a copy of what I prayed, so I decided to share it here. Whatever “father” brings to mind for you, I pray it’s encouraging.
Praying for Fathers
Our Father in heaven, on this day when fathers are being remembered and honored throughout the world, we honor You, the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1, ESV)
How amazing. We acknowledge that apart from Jesus Christ, we could only fall back in fear at the thought of approaching a God so holy, righteous, and just. But your Word says we did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but we have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)
Because the sinless Savior died, our sinful souls are counted free. Our debt has been paid. We are no longer your enemies, but dearly loved children. Enable all those who have trusted in the atoning death and bodily resurrection of Jesus to live in the good of that reality.
Father, we thank you for the fathers among us: soon to be fathers, young fathers, middle age fathers, old fathers, and grandfathers. Thank you for their sacrifices and their desire to reflect your heart to their children. Make them aware of the privilege, gift, and responsibility of fatherhood. Cause them not to provoke their children to anger, but to lead them in your gracious discipline and instruction. Fill those who are weary with fresh strength for the task. May they know your Spirit’s power in their weakness.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for our fathers, whom You specifically chose for us, whether by natural birth or adoption. For those who had good fathers, we thank you for their example, their care, their counsel, their presence in our lives. May we honor them appropriately through our words and deeds.
For those who don’t have good memories of their fathers we pray they would be strengthened with power through your Spirit in their inner being, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith—that they would know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. We pray for patience to understand, mercy to forgive, and courage to stand fast in the truth of the gospel.
For those fathers who are estranged from a child or children, or anyone who is unreconciled with their own father, would you bring to pass this promise in Malachi 4:6: ‘And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.‘
For those who have never known their father, may they be more aware than ever that you are the ‘Father of the fatherless’ and that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus, thank you that you assured us of our heavenly Father’s care when you said, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?’” (Matthew 6:26)
I went on from there to pray for particular health and financial needs in the church, express gratefulness for recent events, and ask God’s blessing on the preaching of his Word.
A Means of Grace
For years now, God has used the pastoral prayer as a significant means of grace for our church, and something that both guests and members frequently say they appreciate.
If you’re a pastor or leader whose church doesn’t incorporate a pastoral prayer in your gathering, I pray you’d consider it, for the sake of your church, your own growth, and God’s glory and purposes.
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8, ESV)