Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” ~ Samuel, 1 Samuel 12:23
This post is going to be short and sweet. I just want to encourage my fellow pastoral brothers: let God’s people you lead know you’re praying for them regularly.
I think Samuel’s words are spot on for under-shepherds today: I’m not going to sin by failing to pray for you and I’m going to teach you how to do good. Even when you look at what the apostles say in Acts 6 as they appoint the seven to oversee serving food to the widows, they point to these two things as their primary duties: prayer and the ministry of the word.
I don’t doubt that every good pastor prays regularly for his church. But how do we let them know we are praying? It is one thing to say it, generally, from the pulpit. It is another thing to demonstrate it so they truly know it. Here’s what I do to let my church know that I’m praying for them:
First, I have all the families/households of the church divided into a 28-day calendar. Presently there are 66 such “units” in my church—these are the people that I know, that I have met, and that I interact with on a regular basis through the life of the church. They include everyone from a family of eight to widows living by themselves. Divided up like this, I am praying for two to three households almost every day of the month.
Second, I send out a prayer card every other month. Of the 66 households, I divide into “A” months and “B” months. Half the households receive a handwritten card from me one month and the other half the next month. The cards are simple: I let them know I prayed for them on a certain date, I ask if they have any updates or requests, I include some items that I prayed about if they have been sharing requests with me, I conclude with a Bible verse to encourage them and remind them that I love them, and I place a return card inside. This return card is a sixth of a sheet of paper that gives space for their requests, which they can either hand to me, place in a prayer card box, place in the offering plate, etc.
All of this takes time and a little bit of money. I usually by 50-packs of decorative blank Hallmark cards for $8-$12 at WalMart. Plus, I have to buy stamps. And honestly, I never get back as many cards as I would like; but it is still worth it, and with those I do, I pray for the request, date the card, and keep in a notebook to remind me later of their requests and answers.
Also, all of this is not original to me. I can’t remember in which pastor’s guidebook I first read the idea (though I want to say it came from either W.A. Criswell or O.S. Hawkins). And within the past year or two I have seen something similar suggested by Brian Croft over at Practical Shepherding (I’ll just maintain that he used some sort of sixth-sense to steal the idea from me…or not).
Third, I have a visitation program with my deacons. The three of them rotate and go visiting with me, so we are in people’s homes usually a couple of times a month. Each trip we can make it to two or three homes. I know this is out of style for some, but my church is small enough and the community small enough that we can still do it effectively. And unless it’s someone new to the church, no I don’t call ahead. It’s more fun, in my opinion, to just drop by. 🙂 But, I do my best to end each meeting asking for prayer requests and praying for them on the spot.
Fourth, especially for the guys I mentor, I will send them a note via text or facebook and let them know that I just prayed for them and what I prayed for them. I can’t say I’m always perfect in sending out that message, but I want to encourage them as much as possible to continue to fight the good fight and grow in their faith.
Pray for God’s people you lead, and find ways to let them know that you’re praying for them.