If we’re all honest, prayer is often a very difficult practice to maintain and an easy area to neglect. If the surveys [PewResearch, Barna] are remotely accurate, prayer is an area of deficiency in the evangelical church today. If parents aren’t praying for their children’s salvation and the spiritual maturity of their household, we can rest assured that pastors are being greatly neglected in prayer as well.
You can’t pray for everyone. In fact, not everyone and every situation is worthy of your time investment for prayer. All of us must use our time wisely and superficial requests that popup on social media or come our way in casual conversations must be evaluated carefully before we commit to prayer. However, we don’t have to think twice about praying for our pastors. To neglect praying for our pastors is to walk in disobedience to the Lord.
The Imperative to Pray for Your Pastors
In Hebrews 13:17-18, we see some very important words as it pertains to pastoral ministry. In reading this text recently, it was verse 18 that really impacted me. The writer to the Hebrews says, “Pray for us.” Not only should the church submit and obey the pastors placed over them, but the church is likewise called to pray for them. This comes in form of an imperative. In other words, it’s a command and one that we must not neglect.
Hebrews 13:17-18 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.  Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.
It should be further noted that when the writer emphasizes praying for the pastors, he does so in the plural just as he begins in the previous verse with a command to obey leaders. Both are mentioned in the plural. It’s very probable that the writer of this epistle was a pastor in the local church or churches to which he was addressing this letter. Notice that he doesn’t call upon the church to pray for their “favorite” or “preferred” pastor. The church is called to pray for all of the pastors who were watching over them and caring for their souls. You can’t expect the shepherds of God’s flock to watch over you and your family in the night hours, lead you to spiritual nourishment, protect you from the wolves, and lavish you with affection if you’re dry in your devotion to prayer and refusing to engage in intercessory prayer for them.
The Fruit of Praying for Your Pastors
If you look at the context of Hebrews 13:18, you will see that in the previous verse, the writer to the Hebrews is laying out a case for pastoral authority and the need to submit to such God ordained authority. However, he doesn’t end his thought after the phrase, “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” He goes on to convey a very helpful thought.
He writes, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17). Notice the goal is for pastors to do their work of shepherding with joy rather than groaning.
Consider the practical and spiritual benefits of praying for your pastors:
- Your pastors will care for your soul with joy.
- Your pastors will stand before the throne of God one day and give an account of their ministry to you with joy.
- Praying for your pastors will make submitting to their authority easier as you consider their responsibility.
- Caring for your pastors is ultimately caring for yourself—practically speaking.
- Pastors are made out of the same flesh that the sheep are made of. They’re capable of sin, compromise, and falling into the traps of the evil one. It’s important to pray for their spiritual wellbeing.
- Pastors often have families too, and it would be wise to pray for the health of their family life, the pastors’ marriages, and the relationship with their children. The church will suffer if the pastors’ families are suffering with sin problems or spiritual deficiencies.
- Pastors need to be free to study and pray in order to properly feed the church from the Word of God. Pray for the pastors’ prayer life and devotion to God’s Word.
At the end of the day, when it comes time to stand before the Lord, we don’t want to be found negligent in our prayers for those who were entrusted to care for our souls. It was John Bunyan who once said, “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” 
- I.D.E. Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury, (Carlisle, PA.,Banner of Truth, 2000), 211.