Pastoral Practice: Praying, Reading Scripture and Spiritual Counsel

Greg Strand – March 14, 2014 2 Comments

Three pastoral acts are so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else. The acts of praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. Besides being basic, these three acts are quiet. They do not call attention to themselves and so are often not attended to. In the clamorous world of pastoral work nobody yells at us to engage in these acts. It is possible to do pastoral work to the satisfaction of the people who judge our competence and pay our salaries without being either diligent or skilled in them. Since almost never does anyone notice whether we do these things or not, and only occasionally does someone ask that we do them, these three acts of ministry suffer widespread neglect.

The three acts constitute acts of attention: prayer is an act in which I bring myself to attention before God; reading Scripture is an act of attending to God in his speech and action across two millennia in Israel and Christ; spiritual direction is an act of giving attention to what God is doing in the person who happens to be before me at any given moment.

Always it is to God to whom we are paying, or trying to pay, attention. The contexts, though, vary: in prayer the context is myself; in Scripture it is the community of faith in history; in spiritual direction it is the person before me. God is the one to whom we are being primarily attentive in these contexts, but it is never God-in-himself; rather it is God-in-relationship – with me, with his people, with this person.

Eugene H. Peterson, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 3-4.

Greg Strand


Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

2 responses to Pastoral Practice: Praying, Reading Scripture and Spiritual Counsel

  1. Greg,
    So true, and I write that with tears in my eyes! I am presently on a 3-month sabbatical…but it’s because I have been diagnosed with severe depression and ministerial burn-out.

    Oh, that we, as pastors, could attend to the three items above without having to “run” the church! I have said it before, and repeat it here, I firmly believe that if Jesus would “pop in for a visit” He would look at our churches and say, “Hey guys, this is not what I had in mind! You’re all working so hard on the “stuff” of ecclesiastical non-importance that you are missing the real “stuff” of shepherding, and My Body (church) is less for it.”

    Well, forgive my ramblings, part of the stuff I am working through. Thanks for allowing me to spew. And, thanks for the important reminders you wrote of above.


    • Great to hear from you, Randal. I am encouraged to hear you are on sabbatical, much needed the way it sounds. I am also grateful to hear that Peterson’s words ring true to both head and heart. You are in a posture to hear and interpret in a way differently than if you were still fully engaged. I appreciate hearing of the things you are learning. I trust that it will remain with you once you return.

      May the Lord bless you and keep you.

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