“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:35-38).
Do you pray for preachers? Jesus, seeing large numbers of harassed and helpless people, realizing their need for good news and healing, told his disciples to ask (pray) to the Lord that he would send workers (preachers, teachers, healers) to help the suffering. During the past few years, I have read several articles and books that lamented a shrinking number of people who were training to be a preacher, an increasing number of preachers who were leaving preaching for other work, churches that were closing down or shriveling, and preachers whose behavior betrayed their hearers and their calling. Meanwhile, people still hurt. They complain about injustice, wonder about the meaning of life, and ask whether there is a reason to keep trying. Those hurting people need someone to tell them good news. Those dying churches need someone to guide them back to the Good Physician (Jesus). Those scarred and hurting former preachers (whether they were treated badly or they were the ones who treated others badly) need someone to listen, to help them heal. Today, as when Jesus lived, people still need preachers who guide them to the good news and healing found in the message of Jesus about the kingdom of God. Jesus urged his disciple to “call for fire,” to cry to God for reinforcements in an emergency situation. We still need to pray that prayer- that God will send preachers – today.
We also must pray for the preachers who are engaged in helping now. Preaching can be emotionally draining. Sometimes preachers can feel isolated and alone even when they’re preaching to large congregations. Who asks them where they are hurting? Who encourages them?
Recently I learned something new while I was going through some of my mother’s files. Mom was the daughter and granddaughter of preachers. There were even more preachers farther back and in connected branches of her family tree. I found among her papers advertisements for revivals preached by her father and grandfather. But I also found a poem that seems to have been written to and about one of them. The poem is not dated. No location is given. I didn’t recognize the name of the poet and a search online was fruitless. The people in my family who might have answered my questions are dead. The poem tells one of my preaching ancestors that someone always is praying for him. Grace Crandall was heeding the call from Jesus, and from the apostle Paul also, to pray for preachers. Here is her poem, her promise of prayer support:
A Traveling Taylor
In the short time we have known you,
Impressions you have made
Upon these lowly hearts of ours
That time will never fade.
You have preached us Gospel sermons
As we wanted you to do,
To the best of your ability,
Though listeners be few.
You cared not if we watched you,
Even closely as we did,
For when you ever made mistakes
You didn’t want them hid.
If all preachers were converted,
(We have often heard it told)
The sinners would not be confused,
But enter the right fold.
So, preacher, keep on preaching,
As God would have you do,
And remember in your journeys
Someone always prays for you.
Your travelings may take you
Into far and distant parts.
Yes, you may leave our country,
But you’ll never leave our hearts.
by a true friend —-Grace Crandall
The poet says that the impact of the preacher’s work will endure. She refers to his integrity. She urges him to “keep on preaching.” She reminds him that wherever he may go, some still cares and always is praying for him. The preachers that you know need that assurance, too. They need to know that people care, that people trust them, that people are praying for them with love. As I mentioned earlier, Paul also requested prayer for preachers, specifically that Christians would pray that he would not be discouraged, but would continue to speak courageously. He wrote,
“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20).
Pray also for the preachers who are prepared, but who are not being fully used. Part of the cause for the preacher shortage, in my opinion, is that many churches seeking a new preacher are considering seriously only those who currently are preaching for another church. Preachers who have stepped away because of family illness or education, or have served in chaplaincy for a time, or are “too young” or” too old,” are overlooked. Pray that we too will persevere. Pray that your children will grow up to be preachers. The harvest is still plentiful and the workers are still few. Pray that the Lord will send the workers where they are needed. Pray for preachers.
• Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version.
Lord of the harvest, thank you for preachers who seek to heal the hurting and to bring the good news of Jesus into despairing hearts. Thank you for preachers who live with integrity and preach truth lovingly. Thank you for preachers who persevere when it seems that no one cares. Thank you for Christians who do care and who pray for and encourage those who proclaim the good news of Jesus. Thank you for churches that still strive to be a healing place and a family for the abused and confused. Thank you for the church members who asked me when I was very young, “Are you going to be a preacher?” I pray for those who despair, that they will learn of the way to hope again. I pray for the confused and hurting, that they will find identity and healing in Jesus. I pray in the name of Jesus, amen.