Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Pastor's Prayer Time

The duties of pastor are wide and varied.

This morning I was reminded of one of the duties that often gets neglected in the life of a pastor.

Personal Prayer and Study of Scripture.

My wife and I have been taking time each morning to read a passage of scripture and pray together with Bug, our 9 month old girl. This has been healthy and healing for all of us, and I am grateful for the practice.

Last month I took some time one day, shut my doors at the office and at home and went out to one of the retreat centers in Ojai just to pray. How vital that was to my learning and growth. I have tried this from time to time, and know that Jesus set the model for just such away time in the Gospels.

I have proposed to the church I served that I should be provided time in my schedule of pastoral duties time for personal prayer and devotion to the scriptures, over and above time to prepare for Bible Studies, Sermons, and praying with parishioners, individually or communally.

I was surprised at the resistance to such a thing. Then, I remembered that most people think this should be personal time, and that the pastor would have no particular need to set apart time in pastoral duties to do so. I even went back to the Book of Discipline for reference. In the duties of pastor, these important activities are not delineated as part of the pastoral role, at least not explicitly.

There are a couple of clauses in par. 340.2.a.1 "To preach the Word of God, lead in worship, read and teach the Scriptures, and engage the people in study and witness" and par 340.2.a.1.b "to lead people in discipleship and evangelism outreach that others might come to know Christ and follow him."

These clauses hint at study of Scripture, and leading the congregation in discipleship. Somehow that gets distorted in the reading and transmission into something that does not include time for personal study and prayer that are the core of leadership. One must do, in order to lead. The other option is to just order, and the role of Pastor was not intended to be one who just orders the people around.

I am thankful for those who have reminded me of these activities of leadership. Now to the practice that goes along with leading. It is time to restore these activities more fully to my ministry, and to the congregational understanding of the duties of pastor.




At April 29, 2009, Blogger johnsue said...

I have long been impressed by your willingness and ability to read and study since you left the halls of academia. I am delighted with your reference to your and Anna's and the "Bug's" prayer and Bible study time. I am thrilled actually! This is soooo meaningful for you as a couple and for your child in what she sees and hears modeled for her in addition to the power of spoken and answered prayer. Wish Dad and I had arrived there much earlier than we did. Praising God for your seeking your God and Creator. Love, mom

At April 30, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would justify that by the following rather than the Discipline's "job description":
1. Ask them to read things like "Fresh Wind Fresh fire", the work of Bill Easum, the work of the pastor of New Hope Church in Hawaii. These all point to time in prayer as an integral part of ministry.
2. In our tradition they need to look back to Wesley and his practice and expectation of pastors. They are trying, it sounds, to make you a program provider rather than a spiritual leader.

At April 30, 2009, Blogger David said...

Dear Anonymous,
If you get a chance to identify yourself it would be helpful to the conversation. I am not a fan of generally anonymous statements, and it doesn't sound like you meant to remain that way.

At April 30, 2009, Anonymous David Youngdale said...

I would recommend to the anonymous gentleman to read "Abundant Living" by E. Stanley Jones.

At May 01, 2009, Anonymous Hillary said...

David, you have found one of the ironic spots for Methodists. We know all about Acts of Piety... but to actually do them in the framework of our pastoring can sometimes mean we have "carve" out the time when it should be such a natural part of our ministries! Keep it in front of us!

At May 01, 2009, Anonymous David Youngdale said...

This is special. We finally got someone famous and well known to make her contribution. Hillary Clinton, thank you so much for the feedback. At least you provided for us your first name, and not like the anonymous gentleman who still would not rather share his full name.

At June 17, 2009, Blogger Christopher Dart said...

Please spend much time in the Word and in prayer. Wake up two hours early, if you must, to seek God in diligent prayer. Don't expect the board members to pay you to pray. Certainly, they know not the importance thereof. It's up to you to show the example Jesus showed.
It's not mere example, though, it is your responsibility to lead in this. It is the only way to allow the power of Christ to work in you. You are the temple of Christ. Christ must be shown forth as residing in you. He is not shown in you by your title or the clerical collar nor yet the robe.
Let us covenant together. I will pray for you to have your hours in prayer every day. You must set your face before God for solitary prayer.



At September 01, 2011, Blogger The Rev. David Goodwin said...

Bro. David,

Thanks so much for speaking on this issue. I whole-heartedly agree. I am a local pastor for the UMC. I am working toward becoming an elder. Currently I am over a 4-point charge. I understand that we, like our anonymous friend states, should refer to the life of Wesley as an example. Easier said then done I believe. In this world of cell phones, internet, twitter and facebook, pastors can find them selves trying to answer so many lines of communication that the very simplest forms of communication are overly trampled. I for one cannot even make a visit in some one’s home or at the hospital without a multitude of phone calls and other media interruptions. If you turn off your phone or let it go to voice mail you are then accused of “never being available”. We live in a world of instant gratification where people want every thing right now. This includes their families their doctors, their preachers even their entertainment. If it is not made available then we become like young children lashing out at those who do not give us our way. Not to beat a dead horse as the old saying goes. I believe that your idea of asking the church for time carries much merit. I also believe that it will require not an asking on the part of the pastors, but rather an educating leading and telling the congregation what is needed for effective pastor ship under God’s direction. Leading us to one final thought on the overall leadership of the Pastor. Is the pastor of any given church supposed to follow the leadership of man or of God? The Bible leads us to believe that we should follow where God leads. In doing so every person that followed God went away to pray alone. This is an overall pattern and one that Wesley himself followed. If this is our example and we are to follow God on behalf of the people. Then maybe our lectionary mentality that has led the church to believe that it is more important to be good babysitters than to be good pastors who actually lead people to a fulfilled purpose for God. I am not saying that we should stop our procedures and I am not condemning the lectionary. I am saying however, that we as God’s leadership make sure above all else that we are letting him lead and direct our ministries before we get to heaven and find out that he had no part of us.


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