The Private Prayer of a Busy Pastor

By Pastor Ken Hinkley

We often hear the call to prayer. There are many books, audio, and video material and an endless array of articles written about prayer. I have read or listened to as many as you probably have, almost to the point of being turned off. Prayer is very personal. It is a reflection of your relationship with God. When you come right down to it, it cannot be taught any more than learning to share your thoughts with another person cannot be taught. Prayer is based on a knowledge of God and a trust in God, much like sharing your inner feelings with someone close to you.

I am not going to try to teach you how to pray or how to fit it into your busy schedule. Those things I leave between you and God, with whom you are communicating. Instead, I’m simply going to share with you what my prayer time is like as a busy pastor overseeing two small rural churches. Perhaps you can relate, or maybe you can adapt some of my habits to fit your own life.

I consider my conversation time with the Lord as being intimate. It is me sharing what is on my mind and for Him to reveal to me certain things He wants to bring to my attention or to learn. Sometimes I can feel myself being transported out of reality to a place of deep intimacy. It is just the two of us, and the world is shut out for a time. The feeling is one of ecstasy but not a translation into another realm. It’s like I’m being elevated but still grounded. When that happens, I can release my mind to talk about whatever comes into it, from personal struggles to ministry issues to world events. This usually happens when I am alone in my office or, sometimes, spontaneously during the day.

This deep personal, private time with my God did not happen soon after I came to Christ for salvation. It has taken me years to get to this place in my relationship with God, and I haven’t arrived yet to where I truly want to be. But it is very precious. I don’t know where you are on your prayer journey. Keep pressing on until you find yourself so intimate with God that nothing can disturb you in your talks with Him.

I have discovered that prayer should also be a very frequent habit. Most people I know consider prayer time to be appropriate during their devotions or at mealtime. They don’t mind when others pray in public. Those are good times to pray, but if the Lord Jesus is our constant companion every day, all day, shouldn’t the conversations be ongoing? I find myself thanking God frequently. There is so much to be appreciative of. I can’t possibly exhaust all the reasons to rejoice in God, so when a particular reason is evident, I offer up a word of thanks or praise. I find myself also praying for individuals or families as they come to my mind through the Spirit’s promptings. I could be thanking God for bringing them into my life or, as is often the case, asking God to intercede on their behalf because of illness, sin, or indifference to spiritual matters. The Apostle Paul encourages us to “pray without ceasing.” I find that to be a wonderful experience.

One thing I learned about prayer a long time ago was that my prayers should be specific and with a goal in mind. If I prayed a vague prayer such as, “Lord, bless my family,” how would I know that it was answered? What does it mean to be blessed by God? A specific prayer would be, “Lord, draw my sister to yourself so that she knows you, and I know she is saved.” So most of my prayers now are specific and measurable. I cannot presume on the Lord to set a timeline because that is His prerogative, although there have been times when I relate to Him that I need a decision by a certain date. Being specific also tells me how much I care about that situation. If I pray a general prayer, I am simply shrugging it off and seem willing to accept whatever the outcome is. But if I pray toward a specific end, I can rejoice when I see the Lord come through with an answer.

One of the things I have to be honest about when I pray is to face up to my shortcomings. I would like to think that I am really good at what I do. But when I do an honest assessment, I find myself calling out to God for help, for wisdom, or for inspiration as I prepare Bible lessons or when dealing with an especially challenging situation. Confession is good for your own well-being, but more importantly, for your relationship with the Lord. As David said, “If I harbor sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear me when I pray” (Psalm 66:18).

Speaking of answers, I can’t count the number of times my wife and I have rejoiced together to see the Lord acknowledge our prayers. People being healed; provisions made for that person in need; an overflow of blessings on our ministry; and on and on it goes. Personally, we have seen God meet our needs above and beyond what we expected. Our assembled worship time often includes people sharing how God worked in their lives as an answer to corporate prayer. Know this: if we pray with faith, answers will come. God has promised to be faithful to those who are faithful to Him.

As a result of having this kind of prayer life, I have received, as a gift from God, a deep, abiding joy, not unlike what Peter talked about; a joy unspeakable and full of glory. I also have an inner peace that all is well with my soul and my relationship with God. Even today when I woke up, there was a song running through my head. A song of worship. What a great way to start a day, not knowing what will unfold as it progresses. It may bring sorrow (someone I knew well passed away), sadness (the daughter of the deceased is very confused spiritually), or great joy and blessing (it finally rained after a drought)! Every day is a good day when you walk with the Lord in a close relationship such that you and He are in constant conversation.

There is one other blessing I have experienced as a pastor. Having the opportunity to pray with someone who just needed a little assurance that someone cares and understands is invaluable. Many times I have had the privilege of listening to a person unburden himself to me simply because that person knows I am willing to listen and offer biblical counsel. The time may be brief, just a few moments, or lengthy like the one who would talk for an hour or more every time he called. How wonderful it is to have them thank you profusely after a time of pleading with the Lord on their behalf. There is no greater feeling other than when a soul is saved. In this case, a soul has been given release or freedom from the burden that was weighing it down. That is the kind of prayer that not only puts you in the presence of our holy God but requires that you speak quietly yet forcefully against the work of the enemy as well as to plead with the Father for Him to intercede. What joy it gives to see someone go away or hang up the phone, rejoicing in the Lord!

So, the prayer life of this busy pastor is not ritualistic; is not compulsory and is not boring. My time with the Lord of my life and the King of Kings is very intimate, exciting, and worth all the time I put into it.

I hope your prayer life is equally exciting. We serve an amazing God. Our relationship with Him should reflect His amazing character as well as keep us daily rejoicing that He is willing to listen to us when we pray.

© Ken Hinkley August, 2021