But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:1-3
Dear Lord Jesus, the season of Lent doesn’t just sensitize us to our needs for fresh grace; it also heightens our compassion and concern for others. Today we’re compelled to pray for your worn out and weary servants—women and men who serve in various expressions of vocational ministry. Stories of exhaustion, stress, burnout, complete disillusionment, anger and despair abound.
Before your throne of grace, we bring missionaries, pastors, counselors, para-church staff members, teachers—a wide range of friends you’ve called and gifted to share the gospel. No one is more welcoming than you, Jesus, or more merciful and kindhearted.
Some of our friends are simply in need of good rest, good eats and good fun. The demands of the ministry are trumping the delights the gospel, and that’s not okay. They don’t need ravens to feed them in the wilderness, they simply need to take a break and refresh. Once again, remind them (and us) of their limitations and the rhythms of a healthy life.
But others are living some version of Jonah’s story. In their heads they still know you to be a God who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. They still own the lyric of the gospel, but have lost its music. In their hearts they’re angry and disconnected. Running away to Tarshish has never looked so good. The ministry feels like an unfair set up to them. Jesus, you seem to be asking too much.
Still others are living a chapter from Jeremiah’s ministry. They feel betrayed. No course in seminary prepared them for how broken the church really is; how un-glorified your people really are (including themselves); how much of ministry is both baby-sitting and demon-exorcising.
Jesus, you know all the issues in each of these stories. You know what’s under the anger; what’s compounding the contempt; and what’s fueling the flight. Meet these dear servants of yours right where they are. Comfort them with your compassion. Grant them a renewed perspective of eternity. Rekindle hope in their hurting hearts. Refresh them with whatever means of grace you choose.
Where needed, may your kindness drive them to appropriate repentance. For those who are medicating destructively or who are already hooked into dark things, have mercy. If we need to put together rescue teams to find them in Tarshish, lead the way, Jesus. We, especially, pray for their spouses and children as well, for sometimes it’s the family members who suffer ministry pangs the most.
Until you return, Satan will continue to mount an all-out assault against you by attacking your bride, and especially those called to prepare your church for the great wedding day. The devil knows he’s lost us for eternity, so he will do anything and everything within his power to bring havoc, heartache and hell.
Use us, Jesus, however you choose, to encourage your servants, and all the more as we see that great Day approaching. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and loving name.