Seven Reasons Pastors Don’t Lead In Prayer

Frequently, as I speak in conferences and seminars, I am approached by an attendee with a pertinent question.  Each inquirer comments up front on their deep appreciation for their pastor.  They typically extol their pastor’s preaching, administrative skills, shepherding focus, and personality.  Then they ask, “Why doesn’t he lead our church in prayer?”

Understanding the Reasons – Praying for New Resolve

In churches across the country today, congregations are eager for a prayer movement.  They look to their pastors for consistent example and passionate leadership.  From my personal struggles as a pastor for almost 30 years and through interactions with many peers, I have discovered seven basic reasons why pastors are reluctant to lead the way to a dynamic prayer ministry in the local church:

1. Many grew up in a prayerless church environment

A Brazilian proverb states, “The heart cannot taste what the eyes have not seen.”  Today’s pastors often lack first-hand experience of what a dynamic prayer-energized church looks like. 

Many pastors recall sparsely-attended prayer meetings they’ve attended in the past.  These prayer meetings involved prolonged grocery-lists of physical needs and personal woes.  A handful of faithful saints attended each week.  However, a church where the majority of the people gather in dynamic, worship-based prayer does not register in the experience of most pastors’ radar screens.

2. Most were trained in a prayerless educational process

I received seven years of formal undergraduate and graduate-level theological education.  While grateful for all the fine classes and grand truths, I never had a professor or pastor personally influence me in the area of prayer.  I heard great sermons on prayer and studied theological truths about prayer, but no one took me aside and taught me to pray by praying with me on a regular basis.  Today, church leaders commonly receive many years of instruction about the ministry of the word while practical mentoring on the prayer ministry in the local church is neglected completely.

3. Some are not sure how to lead effective and life-changing prayer experiences

This lack of experience and training causes pastors to feel unsure and inadequate about the nature of a truly life-giving prayer experience.  Since most were not trained in the dynamics of biblical, balanced prayer times, they struggle to lead prayer gatherings that are transformational and attractive to the congregation.

4. All minister in a prayerless, success-oriented culture

In many churches, “man of prayer” no longer ranks high on the list of desirable leadership traits for the local church.  Instead, churches search for a CEO or manager for the many programs and funding needs of the church.

Recently, I was in Utah teaching at a state-wide church leadership conference.  After my session, a man approached me explaining that he was the chairman of the pastoral search committee for a congregation in that area.  He pulled out a list of over 85 desirable attributes for their next pastor which had been compiled through a survey of the congregation.  Many of the qualities centered on communication skills, management ability, pleasant personality, and strong pastoral care interests.  Nowhere on the list was there any mention of the priority of prayer as an essential for the new pastor.

Our American society tends to value strong, natural leadership, dynamic programming, entertaining services, and impressive technology.  The idea of a pastor locked away in extended prayer does not strike the average churchgoer as a mark of effective leadership.  Some church members think it wastes time if the pastor spends energy attending prayer meetings.  Realizing this, many pastors decide not to go against the grain.

5. Many want to avoid the embarrassment of a prayerless church

Pastors often sense a fresh motivation to call the church to pray collectively in some fashion.  Unfortunately, the participation can be very low.  Concerning prayer meetings, AW Tozer said, “Don’t expect a big crowd when God is the only attraction.”  In a day when most church efforts are evaluated by the numbers, pastors feel embarrassed by the poor turnout and decide to abort the effort rather than face the embarrassment of a sparse crowd.  The hope is that people will just maintain a dynamic and consistent personal prayer life.  Most often, they don’t.

6. Some battle a prayerless personal life

It is hard to take the church farther than you have journeyed in your life.  This sense of failure and guilt immobilizes many pastors in the church prayer ministry.  The “accuser of our brethren” works overtime to condemn and demoralize.  Author and seminary professor, Bruce Demarest, has noted that the average Christian spends barely five minutes a day with God in prayer; the typical pastor, only seven.

7. Every pastor is a special target of the enemy

The enemy does not need to destroy pastors; he simply needs to distract them.  He works overtime to divert, discourage, and derail well-meaning church leaders at every turn.  It has been said that if the devil cannot make us bad, he will just make us busy.  As long as the pastors do not tap into the supernatural work of prayer, the church will be content to engage in a nice, socially-pleasing ministry, but will have little Spirit-empowered impact.

How Should We Respond?

These seven observations are not intended as cause for condemnation, but are simply given to promote a greater understanding. Do you find any of these to be true in your own life and ministry? 

Some of the reasons above are matters of our own fear or need for acceptance from man. Those can only be resolved in your own heart. If God is revealing those to you, confess those to Him and ask for a fresh desire to have a life and ministry that is most pleasing to Him.   

Some of the other issues are things we simply need a willingness to learn and grow and be trained in.  If that is the case, The 6:4 fellowship is the right place for you. We offer practical resources to help you effectively lead the church to becoming a true "house of prayer".  Please be sure to look through all of our other helpful material under the "resources" tab at the top of this page.

The need is greater now than it has ever been!  We need a fresh revival in our churches and our nation.  Let it begin in you as a pastor by continually giving yourself, first and foremost, to "prayer and the ministry of the word".


Copyright © 2013 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.