Who has God brought into your life to teach you the Bible and help you grow in your faithfulness in following after Christ? Is it your pastor? Are there also others who have taught you the Scriptures, or who are teaching your friends or family members? In most churches, the Bible is being taught in a variety of places to different groups of different ages and stages of life. From children’s classes to youth group settings, to small group ministries, throughout the week God’s Word is opened and studied in churches around the world. This is one of the most powerful agents for change in our lives.
In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul writes that God has given to his church those whose ministries are to equip us for “the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (ESV). Included in that list of called-out ones are shepherds (pastors) and teachers, or “shepherd-teachers.” This passage clearly applies to those God calls to the pastoral/elder roles in our congregations. I believe it also applies to others who take on teaching roles in other specialized ministries, such as Bible study leaders, Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders. These ministries, carried out by gifted and called members of your congregation, multiply the ministry of the Word, providing a context for the Holy Spirit to work in transforming us. Hebrews 4:12-13 reminds us that God’s Word is living and active, able to pierce through our protective outer selves and show us our thoughts and the intentions of our hearts. It is here, naked and exposed to God in the light of his Word, that hope comes for our transformation from unfaithful to faithful disciples.
Given the importance of these ministries of the Word, we who benefit from them should be praying for our pastors and teachers, all those who serve God’s people the “bread of life.” But how can we pray best for those who teach us? Let me offer seven suggestions that every pastor and teacher would welcome:
Praying for Those Who Preach and Teach God’s Word:
1.Pray that God would meet them in their study of the Scriptures. Preparing to teach the Bible is not just a matter of exegetical accuracy, as important as that is. It is also a matter of reading and receiving the Word as if God were present with us, speaking his Word to us fresh. We don’t just read about God, we meet God as we open ourselves to his inspired Word. Pray that your teachers will experience this.
2.Pray that they would be open to God’s teaching and correction in their own lives. God has not called your pastor or teachers to dispense truth at arms length, but to take it in and allow God to teach them first before they try to teach others. In Ezra 7:10 it says, “Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statues and rules in Israel.” God wants to teach your teachers first before they begin to teach others. Pray that your teachers will learn and grow from study of the Scripture, for from this will flow deeper teaching.
3.Pray that God would help them understand the circumstances and needs of those they teach. Understanding the Scriptures is an important beginning, but to teach well, they must also understand and empathize with those they teach. This helps them understand which aspects of the Scripture will be most important to understand, where hope needs to be offered, where correction or rebuke is needed, where encouragement in the light of hard truths is critical. Pray that your teachers will grow to know those they teach well, so God can use them more effectively.
4.Pray that God would help them understand how to make the meaning of the Scripture clear. It is one thing to gain insights through the study of Scripture, and another to know how to pass them along in meaningful ways to others. It takes insight to understand how to help others see the meaning and significance of what a passage says. This requires both discernment and creativity, so pray that God will help them have both and be able to help others clearly understand the message of the Scripture.
5.Pray that God would give insights on how to lead those they teach in connecting the Scripture to the life challenges you face. Understanding a passage is often easier than seeing the connection with what is happening in our lives. Many of us are experts at identifying and even debating about what the Scripture says and means while avoiding its implications. Pray that your teachers will have the insight needed to lead those they are teaching to be open to the intended impact of God’s Word, to be eager not just to hear it and understand it, but to see where and how God wants to use it in their lives for his purposes and for their good.
6.Pray that the Holy Spirit would empower them to teach and speak with boldness and humility. This may sound like an odd combination to pray for, but both are desperately needed. Those who teach need a boldness to be able to speak and teach what God says in his Word, even when it may meet with resistance from those who hear it. Truth can be hard to receive at times, and it can make us uncomfortable. At the same time, those who teach need humility as they preach, making it clear that they themselves need God’s help to follow after God in the difficult areas being studied. Those who teach are not perfect, and they are often painfully aware of where they fall short of God’s teaching. Their example of boldness and humility can help us all be bold to follow after God, and humble as we recognize our need for God’s grace. Pray that your teachers would teach with the boldness God gives, and model a humble spirit.
7.Pray that the Holy Spirit would take their teaching and move in the hearts and lives of those they teach. Nothing is more satisfying to a pastor or Bible teacher than to see how God takes his Word and moves in the hearts and lives of God’s people. Nothing is more encouraging than hearing from others how God has been at work because of the ministry of the Word. Pray that your teachers will have that blessing, that joy of seeing the fruit of the work God has called them to, and glorify God for it.
There are other ways to pray for your pastor and teachers, so don’t let this list limit you. The important thing is to pray for them, knowing that God desires to use them to build up the body of Christ and equip others for the ministries God has prepared for them, as channels of God’s truth and grace. Support them in their efforts, encourage them, and above all, pray for them!