Should a Pastor Blog His Prayers?
Almost four years ago, I started a daily prayer blog (bobhostetler.blogspot.com), where I would post selected prayers from my prayer life, some of them original to me and others that I had sung, read, or recited in my times of communion with God. Since then, I've posted over a thousand prayers.
I do this for several reasons. It is just one more practice that I have found drives me to prayer and keeps me connected to God; sometimes I transcribe prayers from my prayer journal, and other times I pray while actually sitting at the computer. I do it because, if I could teach one thing as a pastor, it would be to teach my loved ones to pray, and so it may be that someone may benefit and learn from the example of a pastor who is desperate to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests" (Ephesians 6:18). I also do it because I want to model openness, honesty, vulnerability, and intimacy in prayer, thereby teaching by example that we don't have to confine ourselves to "proper prayers," but can go to our Abba with every emotion, every desire, everything on our minds or hearts. And I do it because I decided years ago that I don't want to play the "pastor game" with my church family; I want to be honest and open (never inappropriate) with who I really am: flawed, fickle, often fearful and too seldom faith-filled...but learning and becoming and growing.
All of that is fraught with danger, of course, because sometimes people don't like what they read in my prayer blog. Some don't think I should share my ups and downs. Sometimes they think (especially when I pray a psalm of lament or imprecation) that I'm talking about THEM! Or, perhaps worse, they think I'm targeting someone else with my prayer. And quite often, one or another of my loving church family will express concern because of the mood that is reflected in my praying....particularly when I've blogged a string of imprecatory prayers!
I've had to explain on occasion that (especially when I'm praying a psalm) I most often pray a lament or imprecation against the Enemy of my soul, the Adversary, rather than flesh-and-blood. On rare occasions I will have in mind a person or persons when I am praying, but I never name anyone except in the most glowing terms, and on most occasions, the reference actually applies to more than one person, group, or situation (unfortunately, any pastor could probably attest to the reality that in ministry there's never just one burden to carry or attack to counter at a time). If there were ever any possibility that a reader could connect such a prayer to themselves or someone they know, it stays in my journal! But lament is part of a Biblical, authentic prayer life, and so I choose not to exclude such praying from my blog (and, come to think of it, lament is a part of any authentic pastor's life, too, and it's okay for people to know that!).
But those among my flock who read my prayer blog have mostly been so supportive and encouraging as a result. It has been a blessing not only to know that others are praying along with me, but also to have someone approach me from time to time and say, "Are you all right?" One dear friend even called me once and said, in no uncertain terms, "You're coming to dinner tonight," because he wanted to encourage me and support me in the midst of an attack. Making some (by no means all) of my prayers public in this way removes some of my burden; too many of us pastors suffer unnecessarily because no one knows how human we are and how often we hurt.
Blogging my prayers has had another benefit, which I've only realized recently: It has driven home to my heart and mind the degree to which prayer lifts my head, to use the Biblical phrase. On various occasions, someone who has read my prayers has approached me to ask, "Are you all right?" and when they explain that they were asking because of something I had prayed and blogged, I realized...yeah, that's what I was feeling when I prayed it....but the very act of praying helped to such an extent that the lament or the burden or whatever it was had disappeared by the time they inquired after my well-being.
So I think I'll keep blogging my prayers. However, I may start adding a disclaimer when I blog a psalm (I've so far prayer-blogged my way through Psalm 97 of the 150 psalms, in order), to the effect, "Please don't panic when reading this prayer. I am praying with the psalmist, and therefore will paraphrase his words as best fits my situation. I may not be as desperate as the psalmist. And even if I am, God brought him through, so he'll bring me through, too." Or something like that.
(The photo above is of me journaling and praying by the Sea of Galilee in March 1987. Yes, I was thinner and younger then. Wanna make something of it?)