The Surprising Impact of Three Pastors’ Prayer Groups
with Pastor Rande Smith
PHIL>>> Rande, you and I participated in a Pastors' Prayer Group together for several years. What was that experience like for you?
RANDE>>> When I was called to be the Pastor of a congregation in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, I was told that a group of Pastors already met once a week for prayer. (The building was a large one, and space was rented out to several smaller congregations, and for the most part, this was the group that met for prayer.)
Throughout my ministry, I have always sought out other Pastors to pray with and for, so to have a group already established was a welcome plus to my accepting this call. My 1 st Sunday in the pulpit was July 1 st of that year, and my 1 st pastor prayer meeting was on Tuesday, July 3 rd . In addition to the 3 other Pastors that met in the building, I was introduced to Phil Miglioratti. It’s always interesting how initial connections lead to lasting friendships. I cannot remember anything any of the others talked about, but Phil and I bonded immediately over our liking the Beach Boys!
Well, it wasn’t long before a deep sense of trust developed within our group. Trust and honesty, by the way, are essential elements in praying for one another. We were able to share our needs, struggles, and disappointments with each other. Too often, I suspect, this is how Pastors communicate:
- “How’s it going?”
“Terrific! How about you?”
“Perfect. How’s the Church?”
“Couldn’t be better! And what about your congregation?”
And then they’re on their way, masking their hurts and disillusionment.
Well, we truly had a support group among us. Dare I compare it to an Alcoholics Anonymous organization? Honesty is required among those members. They truly need each other. And so do Pastors. And the outcome of our weekly prayer get-togethers brought a true sense of caring and support.
PHIL>>> You also started a Pastors' Prayer Group with the Pastors across your community. What prompted you to do that? How did it impact your congregation? The Community?
RANDE>>> This final congregation that I served was a “community church”, not affiliated with any denomination. I always had a Presbytery to be accountable to, which I liked. So upon arriving, I went to each of the other Christian congregations in the community, introduced myself to the Pastors, and invited them to participate in my installation service, which would be held the following month. Even though they had never done anything like that before, they all responded affirmatively.
Unbeknownst to any of us, 3 weeks later was 11 September 2001.
Because of our new connectedness with one another, we were able to have a combined community worship service on the 21 September 2001. It was an incredible example of Christian unity. That, in turn, led to a monthly prayer luncheon for the Pastors. And out of that came the 1 st Community Prayer Breakfast. (Many more were to follow.)
PHIL>>>Now that you’ve “retired” how has your pastoral prayer support changed?
RANDE>>> Pastors always joke about “retiring” but we realize that there is no real retirement in serving the Lord. And if we’ve been truly “called”, we honestly don’t want to “retire.” So one of my chief prayers was to discover how the Lord would use me in this new chapter of ministry. I soon discovered that my devotional time took on a whole new rich direction.
I was no longer reading/studying/mediating on future sermons or Bible studies topics. Now I was simply enjoying the Lord. But, because of my many years in ministry, I still understood the strains that Pastors deal with. And then COVID introduced new and unexpected stresses to leading a congregation. Not only were Pastors isolated from their congregations, but also from one another. So, I began communicating with many of the Pastors I have known and had developed a relationship with. I explained that I now had the time to specifically pray for them and I would like to. Almost all of them enthusiastically responded.
At the beginning of each month I contact them individually and they share their needs and concerns, (many of which are family oriented). And every morning I specifically pray for them. Having pastored for almost 40 years I understand what they are dealing with in the church and at home. Now, the rewarding thing for me, is that several of them contact me throughout the month as new concerns arise.
PHIL>>> How can the experience of praying and sharing with other pastoral leaders help someone apply Romans 12:2 to their ministry? ("do not be conformed; be transformed by renewing how you think")
RANDE>>> Churches should not look at other congregations in the same way businesses relate to other businesses. Most businesses will do anything to get ahead, even at the expense of rival companies. It’s almost an “I need to win, you need to lose” mentality. That’s how the world conforms us. But the Church (capital C) is different.
We are all brothers and sisters in the faith. We are to work hand-in-hand against a common enemy. We do not step on one another to get ahead. And when Pastors genuinely learn to care for one another and pray for one another, then we become transformed into something spiritual rather than secular.
PHIL>>> What else should we know? What more would you like to share?
RANDE>>> As I mentioned, my last congregation was in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago. I met with the local Pastors twice a month for lunch and prayer. Then on the alternate weeks I met with 2 other Pastors who rented space in our building. I had become extremely close to one of them.
Ron was a dear friend. He passed one Thursday unexpectedly. My heart ached. The following Wednesday I was to have been with him to pray. I was sitting in my office almost in a stupor, when someone knocked on my office door. It was Andrew, the Pastor of the local Baptist Church, who I prayed with on those alternate weeks. “Come on, Rande. Let’s go down to Ron’s worship area and pray.” Healing began for me at that moment. Andrew knew of my regular prayer time with Ron, and knew of my deep hurt.
Who Pastors other Pastors? Pastors who pray and care for one another.
Andrew did that for me on that day.
PHIL>>> Rande, please write a prayer each of us who read this can use
for our own spiritual growth...
RANDE>>> ”Jesus, the final evening of your earthly life, you sat in a room surrounded by those you had called to carry on your ministry.
You prayed that The Holy Spirit would protect them and enable them to succeed in that work. And to your glory, that prayer was answered.
Today, some 2,000 years later, you continue to call men and women to carry on your ministry. And just like those early disciples we need your help. So, we pray that Your Holy Spirit would protect us as well. And just as those 1 st disciples/Pastors needed the support and prayers of each other, so do we today.
Please Lord, lead your servants to each other, so that they may truly help and love one another in the calling you have given. We ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen”