, Christian Post Reporter
| Saturday, May 26, 2007
A high school in Omaha, Ark., allowed two students to open and close their graduation ceremony Friday with prayer and a youth ministry leader to act as the commencement speaker after originally barring both.
The senior class of Omaha High School had unanimously voted for prayer and for David Griffith, director of Christian ministry K-Life in nearby Harrison, Ark., to speak as part of their ceremony. However, the class was told by officials that they could not support such practices, however, due to separation of church and state.
Following legal counsel from Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit organization that defends religious freedom, the school reversed its position.
“It is a shame that school officials continue to make it difficult for students to commemorate their graduations with an acknowledgement of God,” said Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, in a statement. “Rather than being an alien to the Constitution, religious speech is a preeminent freedom.”
After receiving news of the school officials’ original decision, Kendon Underwood, vice president of Omaha High’s senior class, had contacted Liberty Counsel to challenge the school’s decision. When Liberty Counsel attorneys confronted the school district to overturn their position, the legal experts explained that it went against First Amendment free speech rights and was viewpoint discrimination.
The lawyer on behalf of the school district responded and agreed that the student’s did have a right to prayer but also maintained that the area superintendent did have the justification to decide that there would be no speaker.
Still, Liberty Counsel, representing both Underwood and Griffith, continued to affirm that the speaker was also allowed alongside prayer. The school district officials eventually agreed to both.
According to Liberty Counsel, Underwood went on to give the school’s invocation and Griffith’s speech included references to his “heroes,” the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesus Christ, as well as “encourag the graduates to do worthwhile things that mattered because their lives are valuable gifts from God.”
Pastoral ministry is a business unlike any other. It is a dangerous business. A sacred business. A business where the souls of people are at stake.
I was a pastor for many years, so I have a feel for the perils and pleasures of ministry. It’s very hard, supremely rewarding work.
Gardiner Spring said:
It is at a fearful expense that ministers are ever allowed to enter the pulpit without being preceded, accompanied, and followed by the earnest prayers of the churches. It is no marvel that the pulpit is so powerless, and ministers so often disheartened when there are so few to hold up their hands…When the churches cease to pray for ministers, ministers will no longer be a blessing to the churches.
In light of the challenges of ministry, here are 8 prayers every church member should pray for their pastor(s) on a regular basis.
#1 – For Protection From Satan
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
If Satan can take down a shepherd of God’s people, the odds are much higher that God’s people will scatter. That they’ll become bitter and disenfranchised. They will question everything they’ve ever been taught by that pastor. Satan targets pastors because the damage is exponential if they fall. Pray for your pastor that he would be kept safe from Satan.
Father, please protect my pastor from the attacks of Satan. Give him the strength to endure temptation and stand firm against the accusations Satan loves to whisper in his ear. Help him stand firm in your service, always fighting for the faith and for his people.
#2 – For Protection Against His Own Sinful Heart
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
Pastors don’t fall because one day, out of the blue, they decide to dive headlong into sin. The slide into sin happens slowly, over time, in small increments, as the pastor believes the lies presented to him by his flesh. Pray for your pastor that he would be on guard against the lies of sin. Pray that he would have a proper fear of God.
Father, please protect my pastor from the deceitfulness of sin that we all are so prone to. Guard him from sin. Keep his conscience tender and fresh. Keep him close to you and close to your word.
#3 – For Deep Spiritual Encouragement
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12)
Pastoral ministry can be brutal, discouraging work. Pastors find themselves in the midst of terrible situations on a regular basis – divorce, death, apostasy, and much more. It’s also challenging because they don’t see progress in the sense that other jobs do. Christians are always in progress. Because of this, discouragement and depression can be a regular companion of the minister. Pray for your pastor to be encouraged.
Father, please encourage my pastor by the power of your Spirit. Let his soul be refreshed with the love of Christ. Let him have faith for the future. Help him to keep pressing forward even when the way is littered with landmines. Let him be refreshed by the fact that your grace is sufficient for him.
#4 – For Wisdom
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
Many elements of pastoral ministry are not black and white. A husband and wife are in serious conflict, and the husband has one story while the wife has another. A church member needs financial support but has a history of mismanaged finances. A young man struggles with same-sex attraction while still wanting to follow Jesus. Pastors need God’s wisdom to navigate these gray areas.
Father, please give my pastor your wisdom. Help him know the way to go even when the way is not clear. Give him discernment to know good from evil, even when evil is dressed as good. Help him apply your word to even the most confusing situations.
#5 – For Doctrinal Faithfulness
By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you (2 Timothy 1:14).
Pastors can be tempted to modify or even abandon biblical doctrines for a variety of reasons. Cultural pressures, vocal church members, even legal actions can press hard upon pastors, making them feel that the only way out is to give up the clear teaching of Scripture. They need God’s grace to stay faithful to the good deposit of God’s word.
Father, I pray for my pastor that you would help him hold fast to Scripture, even when everyone else tells him to let go. Help him stand on your word and only your word. Protect him from the temptation to abandon the precious truths laid out in Scripture.
#6 – For A Healthy Body
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Ministry can take a tremendous toll on a pastor’s body. Yes, our bodies are temples, but they are often broken temples. Long nights at the hospital, high-stress situations, and ever-present discouragement can quickly lead to burnout and body betrayal. Not only do pastor’s need spiritual strength, they need physical strength as well. Pray for your pastor that he would be sustained in body and mind.
Father, please give my pastoral supernatural strength. Protect him from sickness and disease. Give him your energy to keep serving faithfully. Help him to find periods of rest and recovery. Guide him to still waters.
#7 – For A Strong Marriage and Family
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church (1 Timothy 3:2-6)
Church history is littered with the skeletons of pastors whose marriages and families fell apart under the strain of pastoral ministry. And as 1 Timothy states, if a pastor can’t manage his family, how can he manage the church of God? Satan loves to sabotage a pastor’s family, and your pastor needs prayer that God will give him a healthy marriage and family.
Father, please give my pastor a supernaturally healthy marriage. Strengthen the bonds between him and his wife. Encourage them both in ministry. Give both of them wisdom to manage their family and to keep you at the center, not ministry. I also pray for their children that you would let them know you and follow you.
#8 – For Meaningful Friendships
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
Pastoral ministry can be surprisingly lonely. Something about being in a position of leadership isolates the man. People look to him to be a teacher and leader, not be their close friend. Pastors need close friends who will encourage them, hold them accountable, and push them toward Christ.
Father, please give my pastor true, deep, sustaining friendships. Give him friends who stick closer than brothers. Who uphold him when he’s weary. Who help carry his burdens.
Sustained By Prayer
In some ways, pastors are sustained by the prayers of their people. Obviously, God is the one who ultimately sustains pastors, but one of his primary means is through the prayers for pastors.
When it comes to why you should pray for your pastor, take the words of Charles Spurgeon to heart:
No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me.
Do your pastor a true kindness today. Pray for your pastor.
- 6 Signs Of A Bad Pastor and Spiritual Abuse
- Tapping Into The Sacred, Overwhelming Power of Prayer
- 16 Mighty Prayers For Children God Delights To Answer
- Why Do We Pray? 3 Profound, Staggering, Compelling Reasons
- How Do We Pray Without Ceasing?
Please find a variety of online resources that may be helpful to your parish’s Youth Ministry.
- Faithful Citizenship for Young Catholics
A great website that explores our participation in goverment. “Even those who cannot vote have the right to have their voices heard on issues that affect their lives and the common good.” – Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, no. 16
- Life Teen
An online community for Catholic Teenagers. Learn about your faith, your relationship with God, actively live your Catholic life, connect with the Life Teen community.
A TV and online outreach from the Diocese of Trenton connecting faith with life. A great real and relevant youth centered ministry.
For Youth Ministers:
- Busted Halo
Busted Halo is an online magazine for Catholics and spiritual seekers in their 20s and 30s. It is a current resource regarding culture and faith.
- Catholic HEART Workcamp
A Catholic organization that helps to coordinate service/mission experiences for young people. Workcamps are open to those that will be in the 8th grade and older.
- Catholic Youth Care for Creation, Care for the Poor
Catholic youth ministry has always taken seriously the need to form young disciples in Catholic Social Teaching. As committed Catholics, and disciples of Jesus Christ, our faith commits us to act and advocate for the least ones among us. The call to solidarity requires that we consider how our individual and collective attitudes and actions impact our care for the poor. Being good stewards of all that we have received from the Lord: individual gifts and talents and well as the Earth and its resources, is a fundamental Catholic value.
- The Center for Parent and Youth Understanding
A Christain nonprofit organization commited to building strong families by serving to bridge the cultural-generational gap between parents and youth. This is an excellent resource regarding cultural trends.
- The Center for Ministry Development
The Center for Ministry Development provides training, resources and consultation for pastoral ministry and catechesis with youth, young adults, families, and the intergenerational community. Since 1978, Catholic parishes and dioceses have trusted CMD to provide a vision and practice for ministry that is rooted in Church documents, Scripture, and best practices research. Through our partnership with ministry leaders, CMD strives for excellence and innovation by providing practical, field-tested ministry solutions and resources.
- Faithful Citizenship for Youth Ministers
A resource with skits, prayer services and discussion starters to engage your young people in participation in our public life.
- Free ESource from St. Mary’s Press
Free resource for youth ministry leaders and Catholic educators.
- Instituto Fe y Vida
Fe y Vida enables Catholic leaders at the grassroots, professional, and institutional levels to respond to the human, spiritual, and socio-cultural needs of Hispanic youth and young adults.
- International Education and Resource Network
IEARN is the world’s largest non-profit global network that enables youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world. Primarily for educators and students, there are also ideas and projects that youth ministers can implement.
- National Association of Catholic Youth Ministry Leaders
A professional organization of ordained and lay ecclessial ministers dedicated to the field of youth ministry.
- National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry
The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry is an organization of Catholic diocesan youth ministry offices in the United States. Many great resources are available on this site regarding Catholic youth ministry and its components.
- The National Initiative for Adolescent Catechesis
This site is designed to provide a new paradigm for how the Catholic Church effectively forms the faith of young people and to assist parishes and schools across the country in assessing and rethinking the method and structure in this new light.
- Sacred Space
We invite you to make a ‘Sacred Space’ in your day, and spend ten minutes, praying here and now, as you sit at your computer, with the help of on-screen guidance and scripture chosen specially every day.
- St. Mary’s Press
Saint Mary’s Press is a contemporary expression of the Catholic Church’s mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Lasallian mission to provide a human and Christian education for young people, including those who are economically deprived.
- The Saint Vincent Pallotti Center
The newly revamped Saint Vincent Pallotti Center website contains resources for persons preparing for, currently in, or returning from service or mission experiences. An improved search function also gives viewers access to over one hundred Catholic-based mission and volunteer programs.