As a pastor, I'm always praying for people, and telling people they should pray for others. It struck me that I don't always remember to ask people to be sure to pray for me. Maybe it's a kind of secret pride, that I'm always the one people turn to for prayer. But I suddenly realized how essential it is to know that people are praying for me.
Being a minister is a great job. Sometimes I think, "I can't believe they pay me to do this." But it's also hugely demanding in ways that few people really understand. It's not, as many people think, that you have "to be available 24/7." Nobody really calls me in the middle of the night or on my day off.
The demands of ministry are just the sheer number of different things that you're required to do in a week -- everything from writing a sermon to talking to a family about baptism to visiting the nursing home to helping people debrief from a contentious meeting to filling out paperwork for Presbytery -- it's a constant stream of different demands and requests that can drain you.
So, as much as anyone, I need prayer. And I need to remember to ask for it.
I went through a dark valley a few years ago. I was frustrated, discouraged, and even depressed. Nothing was working. I wondered if what I was doing made any difference. I wondered if I needed a change of scenery. I even wondered if this is what I was meant to do. I felt like a failure.
Happily, things have changed. I have a sense of joy and confidence in my work that keeps me going. I feel excited and encouraged. I'm in a very different place than I was even two or three years ago.
I've often wondered why. And then it suddenly occurred to me that maybe it's because of the prayers that have been offered up for me. I know a couple of people who tell me they are praying for me as their minister all the time; but I know that they aren't the only ones.
I'll never know if people's prayers are the reason for the renewal of my spirit -- or if people were praying just as hard when I felt down. You can't always draw a straight line between prayers and results.
But I know that pastors and ministers are "standing in the need of prayer" as much or even more than others -- and that I need to remember to ask people to pray for me.