How Failing Pastors Pray

If I had a dollar for every time I prayed for you, I’d probably pray for you more.



There is an idea floating around that if a pastor prays for you, you will be granted your request. I’m not sure where this comes from. Perhaps some sort of notion that pastors have an “in” with God more than the average layman.

People ask me to pray for them frequently. I do pray for them, but I doubt I pray for them what they want me to pray, but I do pray.

I pray that people would grow in Christ, that they would stop being distracted by earthly things and pursue spiritual growth. I pray that they would do the right thing, obey God’s Word, and deal with the consequences of doing the right thing in a wrong world. I pray for spiritual things.

I have told my church this many times. When people ask me to pray for their knee pain, I do, and I pray that through this knee pain, whether it stays or goes, it will work out to their spiritual growth. Pain can cause growth, so can the immediate cessation of pain. I can see growth happening either way. So my concern is for spiritual growth; let the knee feel how it’s supposed to in order to facilitate spiritual growth.

Yet people keep asking me to pray that pain would go away. That so-and-so would get healed. That everything would work out and they can come home soon. I continue to pray for spiritual growth and for the power of the Gospel to save souls through these things.

Many years ago I heard a pastor say, “When people ask me to pray for them, I always say ‘yes.’ But sometimes I forget, so then I’d be lying when I told them I would pray for them. So now, when people ask me to pray for them, I say, ‘yes,’ and in my head I pray for them right then. That way I am not lying cuz I prayed for them.”

That’s not bad advice. I’ve done it many times myself. Pray before I forget. But it’s also funny how we would forget to talk to our Creator and Lord about someone’s sincere desire for prayer!

But there are people who push the issue. Like, several times a week they contact me to pray for some weird thing, and there’s always a weird thing. It’s strange how those who want me to pray for them all the time keep having problems! You would think this would be a hint!

“Hey look, people who never call me to pray for their problems, seem to have fewer problems than you who are obsessed with having me pray for your problems.”

And, if they don’t personally have problems, they will tell me everyone else’s problems.

“My aunt’s, brothers, grandma’s, nephew lost his job. Can you pray he would find work soon?”

Yes, it is a bummer that people lose jobs. I will pray if I agree to pray, and I will pray that “the aunt’s brother’s grandma’s something something, whatever it was, you know Lord, you were there, will find the Gospel and grow in Christ through this challenge.”

I don’t even remember my wife’s health problems, go ahead, ask her, she knows I don’t remember such things. So, no, I will not remember your distant relative, their name, their relation to you, nor the disease they have. Not only because I don’t remember such things because I’m male, but also because ten other people are telling me diseases and relatives and stuff. I get them all mixed up.

I do not know what to pray for as I ought. The Spirit makes intercession, for which I am glad, as should you. Prayer is a cool thing. We should all do it more. What to pray for? I have no idea. Who I’m praying for? Probably don’t remember. But prayer is part of the pastor’s job and, you are, in fact, getting paid to do it. Do it.



Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
–Romans 8:26

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