Continuing what has become a series of posts on leading missional communities, those who lead well also pray well. While this is primarily about missional communities, I see this in my own life when it comes to my marriage, family, work, or anything I’m in charge of, the more I consider these things in prayer and declare my dependence on God in prayer, the better leader I am for those things.
A praying leader builds a prayerful community. Jesus’ instructions to His disciples when He had compassion the crowds and saw their needs, was to pray. The typical thought of the leader of a missional community is to rush hard into meeting needs, but Jesus’ call to us is to pray, seeking God who has the power to change the world.
As I consider prayer’s affect on leadership, I see its influence in 2 predominant ways.
1. Prayer Changes The Leader Who Prays Often
The Pattern of Praying Leaders in Scripture
In the story of Daniel in the Old Testament, we find a leader who is under authority that does not honor God. He faithfully serves the country and his authority, but also faithfully prays. Daily he seeks God and it becomes such a pattern that when his heart is burdened by needs as it is in Daniel 9, his first impulse is to pray and God responds.
You see the same reality in the story of Nehemiah. A leader who is burdened for those he loves and his first response is prayer. In the midst of his daily work, you see this leader pray and God provide for him in prayer.
It’s no surprise then that Christ follows the same pattern of seeking God privately and also publicly in the midst of everyday life. Prayer is not something only reserved for the closet and is not something only reserved for the midst of everyday life. The apostles and Paul in his letters continue to pray for those they lead.
It transforms them as leaders, bringing them in line with God’s heart for others and bringing them in dependence on the power of God, not their own strength.
To Be a Praying Leader, Pray for Others
All of these mentioned spend much of their time praying for other people. It’s fascinating to look at the prayers recorded in scripture, to see many of them follow a similar pattern of thankfulness to the character of God and asking for God’s work in others.
Leaders who pray selflessly, fixed on God providing for others become the selfless leader the community needs. Daniel & Nehemiah pray for the restoration of the nation of Israel, Jesus prays for his disciples and those who believe in Him. Paul prays for the churches he helped start. These men all have personal needs, found them met in God and spent their prayers asking for God to meet the needs of others.
Not surprisingly, they become the best models for leadership because they sacrificially serve those they lead. This is the result of praying well.
2. Prayer Invites God to Change Those You Lead
The content of the prayers recorded in scripture show the belief of the leader in the power of God to change any situation and any person.
Daniel believed in the power of God to change an entire nation to return to following God. Nehemiah believed in the power of God to restore the city where God’s people lived. Jesus knew the power of God to establish His followers in His ways and His joy. Paul believed in the power of God to reveal His goodness to His people and to move them to know and follow Him with their lives.
Leaders can easily become prideful thinking they are the ones with the power. This is usually quickly dispelled by their inability to change people or situations on their own. The counter to the prideful leader is the dependent leader, who trusts not in their own power, but entrusts their efforts to God through prayer.
God has recorded many prayers for us in the Bible that teach us how to pray. As leaders, we must recognize that God has given us direction in prayer, it is not focused inward, it is focused upward in praise to God and outward in requesting great things for others from God.
A prayerful community can change the world because it is a community dependent on the power of God to change the world. Their prayers change them into selfless people seeking the welfare of those around them and not seeking the provision of their wish list.
Leaders have the opportunity to join in God’s efforts, to develop God’s heart, and to see God answer our prayers. The great leaders are the ones who seek God in prayer.
This is a challenging reality. It has changed the way I walk to work, spending less time trying to be updated on the world news and spending more time asking God for great things for the people I love and have been asked to lead. It has changed the way I go home, praying for my family as I seek to enter the home to love my family and not just seek rest. It has changed the way I go about work and conversations, making me more willing to stop and pray in the moment as opposed to promising to pray later.
The strange thing about prayer is you never feel like you can do it enough. This can be a cause for guilt and a joyful invitation to find more time to be with God. I recommend the latter for leaders, so we remember it is a joyful and a joy-filling opportunity to talk with God and pray for others.
Pray well, lead well.