I was preparing for one of the most difficult sermons I have ever preached. It was for the 10 year anniversary of the events of September 11th.
I was not the only preacher preparing for that day. Preachers all across America were discerning what they would say that hadn’t been said a thousand times.
Honestly, I would rather forget the day. Perhaps we all would. But we cannot. We must not.
I sat there on my couch Friday morning watching The Today Show. As they recounted the events and interviewed various people that had been much more affected than I was, I had a sudden urge to talk to my former pastor.
Tom was the pastor of one of the most significant churches in New York City. I was an investment advisor working in Midtown Manhattan. Tom now heads a church consulting ministry in Atlanta. I pastor a church in Nashville.
On 9/11 Tom waived hundreds in from 5th Avenue for prayer services. He heard shocking story after shocking story. He led our church through this time with grace and compassion. He is one of the reasons I am a minister today.
I needed to talk to him. I needed to remember that day and the weeks after. I called him. It turns out he too was preaching that day as well. As he shared stories with me I had not heard in years, I could still hear the fresh emotion in his voice. It was almost like he never left that day.
He told me he would be praying for me throughout the weekend. I started to say I would do the same for him, but then I remembered my prayer resolution.
“Tom, I have a resolution to never save prayer for later. Can I pray for you now?” He paused. I could hear him close a door. “Absolutely, Paul.”
I prayed for him. He said with voice cracking, “Paul, you have no idea how much that means to me.” I did. Ministry can be a lonely life sometimes. Other ministers understand. He then said, “Now, let me pray for you.”
It felt like a warm spiritual bath. My anxiety and dread of the coming Sunday melted away. He was my last pastor before I became a pastor and in the moment he was still my pastor and I had become his.
Throughout the weekend, I received text messages from him. “I am praying for you. Praying that God speaks powerfully through you.” I returned the prayer.
Pastors need prayer too.