In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” Nehemiah 4:10
My Lord and Father is good to never let me forget my first few years in pastoral ministry, of how the many walls I’d built up in my inner life regarding my calling and competency came crumbling down in those initial days of shepherding. He constantly reminds me of my need for prayer.
I was a neon-emerald shade of green when called to serve as discipleship pastor, serving in a 60-year-old Baptist congregation experiencing a new lease on life. The excitement was palatable among this people. I came in with so many grand plans to build up the church through small group disciple-making.
But what looked at first to be an oasis of blessing soon turned into a desert of spiritual depression. Under the weighty reality of pastoral burden, I quickly discovered that a single sermon or teaching was not a silver bullet. I began to see my ministry philosophy met with raised eyebrows (“Is he wanting to kill Sunday School?”) and discouragement (“We’re not in a place to do this kind of ministry here, Jared”). Mixed with my own sinful fear of man and people-pleasing insecurities, it was the perfect storm to paralyze a young pastor.
Surrendering to my introverted preferences, I went within. There were few people in my church and staff to whom I felt I could turn for true spiritual encouragement. I felt misunderstood and listless. I even began to avoid my fellow pastors as much as I possibly could. “Who would care to talk to this sad, strange little man pretending to be a pastor?” I thought. Such were the lies I began to believe.
One day in the midst of this struggle, a respected professor at my seminary invited me to join him and three other students in a Friday morning prayer group. It was an instant balm to my wounded soul. It felt like a big brother finally put his arm around me. I lived a week off of the encouragement of that invitation alone.
For the next two years, I spent every Friday morning in the office of Dr. Calvin Pearson, where the Lord began to rebuild my heart. There was very little intensive counseling involved. We simply let the Holy Spirit lead us in praise and petition before God. We learned to listen as we prayed. We interceded for each other in sorrows, frustrations and unparalleled joys.
The Lord used those Friday mornings to graciously tear down the sinful walls in my heart. He used the gift of prayer to rebuild my life and remind me that the praise of His name brings the greatest clarity and confidence. Those mornings forever changed the way I pray and pastor.
My mind often drifts back to Friday morning prayer meetings in Dr. Pearson’s office. I’m reminded of God’s faithful use of community to rebuild this young pastor and prepare him to shepherd more boldly and faithfully.
Do you need to be rebuilt by prayer? Pray for and seek out brothers and sisters who may labor beside you and lift you up.