Praying Pastors or Mini-Messiahs?
"People would rather talk to the pastor than to God and so it happens that without anyone actually intending it, prayer is pushed to the sidelines. And so pastors, instead of practicing prayer, which brings people into the presence of God, enter into the practice of messiah: we will do the work of God for God, fix people up, tell them what to do, conspire in finding the shortcuts by which the long journey to the Cross can be bypassed since we all have such crowded schedules right now. People love us when we this. It is flattering to be put in the place of God. It feels wonderful to be treated in this godlike way. And it is work that we are generally quite good at."
There is so much packed into a few lines here... but it essentially comes down to how we as pastors model things for those who have been entrusted to our care.
Do we model
- The Primacy of Prayer, or
- The Minister as Mini-Messiah?
Yesterday I had a conversation with two friends that I don't see half enough of, and they were, with some justification, bemoaning the fact that they have been at a number of prayer "events" recently, where there has been a lot of talk about the need for prayer, but not a lot of time given over to the practice of it. Most damning was their comment that the ministers talking about prayer clearly didn't believe a word of what they were saying...
I have frequently been heard to say that often we are the answers to our own prayers, however, we need to ask the questions first before we hear what the answer should be. Prayer must precede practical engagement with any problem, rather than simply be a prayer for God's benediction on what we have already begun.
But this goes hand with my previous comments on busy-ness... we are too busy for prolonged prayer... we need to be up and going, and at best have substituted hastily shot-off "arrow prayers" on the hoof, for real, reflective prayer.
And this is further reinforced by the temptation to become a mini-messiah... To be seen as a fixer... Always only a phone call or an email away when needed. Who needs prayer to an insubstantial deity, when you can have an omnicompetent pastor on your doorstep in 5 minutes?
Following the announcement of my upcoming move away from my current appointment I've had a number of people say lots of nice things about how helpful I've been and how they aren't looking forward to me moving (thankfully those who are cheering at the thought of my departure have kept their feelings to themselves). It's very flattering, but too much of that, at any time can feed an inappropriate sense of my importance in things... I am only A channel of God's grace... one among many. But to encourage people to turn first to me rather than to the source of that grace can do them profound spiritual harm... It encourages dependency on a fallible human being rather than on our always faithful heavenly Father.
And our public practice is shaped by what happens in private, where we are unobserved by anyone but God... James the Elder was said to be called camel-knees because of his devotion to prayer. But private prayer forms more than callouses on our knees... It determines the whole direction of our ministry, and may have profound implications on the spiritual lives of those entrusted to us.
So... that said... I'm off for a time of prayer...