It is well documented that the apostle Paul had a hard ministry. He didn’t exactly have an ivory palace gig where he studied the ancient writings of Moses and churned out volumes of commentaries. Instead, he was God’s chosen instrument for the work of spreading the gospel to the world—to the Jew first and also the Greek (Rom. 1:16). Paul was used by the Lord to write nearly half of the New Testament. Paul, in my opinion, is the greatest pastor-theologian and church planting missionary in church history. However, he experienced great difficulties—from the beginning among the Jews who rejected him to his beheading in the streets of Rome.
At one point, in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, we find a list of Paul’s sufferings. Notice what he states:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the 40 lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant (2 Corinthians 11:24–29)?
While we see a list of hardships, there is one statement that sticks out to me in 2 Corinthians 11:28) and after being imprisoned in Rome he was beheaded for his faith—he suffered internal wounds based on the struggle of the churches that he planted, served, prayed for, pastored and labored for their joy in Christ. In case you haven’t picked up on the issues related to pastoral ministry—it’s difficult and full of discouragement and an array of pressures. If Paul experienced anxiety—you can be sure that your pastor does too.
- Pray for your pastor’s sermon preparation.
- Pray for your pastor’s wife.
- Pray for your pastor’s children.
- Pray for the sanctification of your church (including yourself in this prayer).
- Pray for the spiritual growth of your church (including a self-evaluation in this prayer).
- Pray for the numerical growth of your church.
- Pray for the unity of your church.
- Pray for the unity of your pastors (the elders).
- Pray for the unity among the officers (elders and deacons).
- Pray for protection from the schemes and attacks of Satan.
Did Paul struggle with anxiety or did he simply feel the daily pressures mounting upon him for the care of the churches? To the church at Philippi, Paul wrote these words, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
If Paul pointed the church at Philippi to prayer in order to take away their anxiety, he too understood that prayer was the solution for his personal ministry and life pressures. If we can learn anything from this, we can learn that Paul was a real human who felt the pressures of ministry, and if the greatest pastor-theologian and church planting missionary felt these pressures, you can be sure that your pastor likely battles these pressures too. The best thing you can do is to pray for him and support him in the calling that the Lord has on his life.