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WHEN PASTORS AND INTERCESSORS STRUGGLE
By Phil Miglioratti
I’ve lost count of how many times an intercessor has spoken to me about the lack of interest or cooperation from his or her pastor in building a prayer culture throughout their congregation. And I have had too many conversations with pastors regarding the unpredictability of a prayer leader in a church.
These situations, no doubt, explain why “Let the Healing Begin” is the opening chapter of Eddie and Alice Smith’s groundbreaking book, Intercessors and Pastors: Th e Emerging Partnership of Watchmen and Gatekeepers. They recognize that “the relationship of respect, effective communication, and meaningful partnership of the watchmen and the gatekeepers must be restored if the church is to regain her spiritual integrity, glorify Christ, and demolish the gates of hell” (p. 8).
More than a decade later, sadly, the work of restoring this crucial ministry relationship is far from
complete. Th e following four realities continue to compromise upward-reaching, life-giving, forward-
moving prayer in the Church.
Reality #1. Satan hates unity.
God’s enemy knows that the unity of the Church powerfully demonstrates to lost people that God loves
them and sent Jesus to show us His love (John 17:23). Satan is eager to steal our attention from prayer,
kill the voice of the Spirit heard only in intercession, and destroy hope-filled praying (John 10:10). We
play into the enemy’s hands when we wrestle with our flesh-and-blood brothers and sisters in Christ
Reality #2. Some pastors are insecure.
Not every pastor is eager to break tradition or try new approaches to ministry. Some assume the ritual
or routine they have learned is the only theologically correct way to speak with God. Others have a need to be in control. Delegating a ministry or relinquishing responsibility to another member of the Body is disconcerting, especially when it allows the Holy Spirit greater freedom in shaping the direction and style of praying across the congregation. And, sadly, some pastors have ineffective prayer lives and are therefore weak when it comes to leading church members into “upward-outward-forward” prayer.
Reality #3. Some intercessors are peculiar.
Peculiar is not a derogatory term; I use it to assert that many individuals--gifted or called into a ministry
of intercession--have a personality very different from that of an organizational leader. They are attuned
to times of quiet and introspection with high sensitivity to hearing from the Lord. This can intimidate a
pastoral leader. Sadly, intercessors can confuse hearing from the Lord with having authority from the
Lord to issue “prophecies” without submitting them to pastoral protocol. In these cases, it is easy to
appear as if they fail to respect godly authority or they are eager to be in the spotlight.
Reality #4. Trust is a delicate thing.
Relationships require TLC (truthful, loving communication, Eph. 4:15). Making the pastor-intercessor
relationship even more challenging is the reality that many intercessors are female and most pastors are male. Protecting the partnership with appropriate and safe boundaries can also create distance and
hinder personal or intimate communication.
Working Toward a Better, Biblical Partnership
The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:2, provides a good start for working together effectively: “I entreat and advise Euodia and I entreat and advise Syntyche to agree and to work in harmony in the Lord” (amp). Both names appear to be feminine, but the first half of each name is instructive: euo means “good”; syn means “together.”
Applying this principle also to pastors and intercessors, they are exhorted to agree, urged to work together because, as one translation says, “you belong to the Lord” (nlt).
Pastors need to remember their responsibility: “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Eph. 4:12). Teaching people to pray and training those who are most gifted to lead meetings or ministries of prayer is a direct application of that instruction. Intercessors need to remember that in many situations, their role is to be nearly invisible because humility is the primary component of a life God blesses. God opposes the prayers of the proud but responds graciously to humble pray-ers who seek to only lift Christ and not themselves (1 Peter 5:5).
We all need to remember the key role of the designated prayer leader. He or she has the opportunity to
interpret the style and substance of the intercessor’s messages to the pastor and to help the intercessor see that their pastor not only believes in prayer but values it in all phases of the congregation’s ministry.
The Apostle Paul speaks to a pastor, Timothy, with an urgency to make prayer a priority (1 Tim. 2:1). It is incumbent upon every pastor, all intercessors, and each prayer leader to make sure nothing stands in
the way—so that every person, every program, and every plan is birthed and bathed in prayer.
PHIL MIGLIORATTI is the curator and coordinator for The #ReimagineFORUM @ Pray.Network, a
collaboration of prayer-fueled leaders who are applying Romans 12:2 (“don’t be conformed; be
transformed”) to their understanding and their ministry of prayer.
Phil, thank you for this honest discussion and the Reality Points from the book.
One of my fellow intercessors liked to say we were called to be 'peculiar' due to 1 Pet 2:9 KJV ...
As an intercessor for over forty years, I can joyfully say that most of my pastors over the years welcomed prayer and intercession. A special blessing because those churches experienced revival. One pastor always asked "Soak me in prayer". He was one of the most fruitful, in spite of great personal trials (his wife suffered and died of cancer).
One shortcoming was lack of training how to pray, but if so, that could easily be remedied by books written by intercessor-writers. To name only two here that had an enormous impact on my own life - Evelyn Christenson and Stormie Omartian. There are many others.
The biggest problem I saw was not the pastors, but other congregation members. Many didn't understand the role of intercession.
Some of their complaints:
* The prayer group is actually a gossip group.
Although this may be true in some cases, a few practical ground rules can remedy that, e.g. we prayed for confidential situations in general terms, however we prayed specific prayer points, e.g. for good communication in families and between marriage partners, asking God for revealing His grace and guidance, give His wisdom, etc.
* Intercessors use prayer as an excuse not to do something 'worthwhile'.
This sometimes hurt and in bad cases intercessors would even leave the prayer group. But it could also help intercessors not to get pridefilled and kept motivated to listen to God Himself, regardless of people's opinions.
But this also meant we had to forgive the critics... and continue praying. For some intercessors intercession really was all that God gave them to do, i.e. full time intercession, which is exhausting and draining at times and can take all the intercessor has to give, especially in spirtual warfare which can even cost the intercessor their life. The woman who was my first partner in intercession had been a retired missionary. She left the mission field due to bad health and became a full time intercessor. She taught me through her prayers and specific Bible verses. She was murdered a short while after she told me she had asked God to place her in the gap for our country. It devastated me, but God's grace healed me and afterwards I understood so much more of what Jesus went through on our behalf. He is the chief and greatest intercessor of all. His intercession cost Him His life.
Other intercessors had more than one gift and God provided strength and opportunities for them to serve Him in other ways as well.
* People who wanted prayer so that God would be persuaded to do what they wanted, rather than ask for His will in their lives. A diplomatic/wise answer usually helped, except when people got angry at God and the intercessor anyway, because they didn't get what they wanted.
* Very few intercessors are prophets as well. When people ask intercessors what God says (to them), we can only pray that God will show them personally. Some people don't like that.
* Intercessors are not miracle workers. Only God is. He does not always do miracles in answer to prayer. We also may not have the answer why God said 'no'.
Last word from me - who prays for the intercessors? Thank God - Lord Jesus does! And He is the best of the best! Thank You, Lord Jesus!!!
Thank you for these wise words and excellent teaching.
You have helped us #reimaginePRAYER as it applies to honoring and discerning from Intercessors.
We thank you for your faithfulness to Jesus and his praying Church,
Malva Birch said:
Phil, thank you for this honest discussion and the Reality Points from the book.
One of my fellow intercessors liked to say we were called ...