Growing in prayer as a leader
At this stage in my life and ministry, and given what I’ve learned about good leadership, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the secrets to longevity and fruitfulness as a leader is dependence on God and not depending on myself, my personality, my capacity, my gifts, my passion, etc. (Proverb 3:5,6).
Building on that, one of the clearest signs of dependence on the Lord in my leadership responsibilities is what my prayer life looks like. The dependent leader is spending solid time, extended blocks of time, in adoration, worship, confession, repentance, thanksgiving and asking.
You may have run across ACTS:
Today, I’d like to focus on the “Asking” part, noting that it comes last, not first. As leaders it’s tempting to come to Him mostly when we need something from Him, whatever that need may be.
Even though I’d put it last, it is nevertheless important that we ask God for things according to his will and his purpose.
Let’s think of asking in three categories.
- Asking God to do things for you ~ Help me
As leaders we are needy just like everyone else. Our needs may be a bit different because we have responsibility for the welfare and growth of other people. It’s okay, and even encouraged by Jesus in the gospels, to come to our Father and “Ask.” In this area, we want to be free to be honest with the Father about our fears, disappointments, questions, hurts, even complaints. We see in the Psalms David crying out to God about his hurts, his questions, his fears. In fact, a third of the Psalms are psalms of lament (or complaints) and we have, of course, the entire book of Lamentations to boot.
Jesus’ encouragement to ask can be best summarized with, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 ESV. But as a maturing leader you will want to go another step beyond only asking God to do things for you.
2. Asking God to do things in you ~ Change me
It’s a whole new level when a significant part of your asking is focused on you asking God to do things in you by changing you. For the most part this has to do with your character. When you read the key passages on leadership in the New Testament ( I Timothy 3, Titus 1, 1 Peter 5 and Acts 20) it is mostly about character lived out in the context of relationships. Most leaders who get disqualified or plateau do so over character issues, not competency issues. We can spend all of our time getting better at what we do to the neglect of getting better at who we are becoming by His grace. To be effective leaders, we need to be growing in Christlike character. It doesn’t end there either, but moves on to asking God to do things through you.
3. Asking God to do things through you ~ Use me
As you think, dream and ask God to use you, it should come from a place of increased clarity on your purpose, your passion, your calling, your gifts, your values and your vision. If your dreams don’t scare you, they are probably too small.
Who has God made you to be? What are you all about? What bothers you, keeps you up at night, causes you to wrestle with God in prayer? There’s tremendous power in focusing on one or a few key areas, not spreading yourself too thin. It’s better to be a mile deep and an inch wide as opposed to a mile wide and an inch deep.
What problem out there are you the answer to? You are more than likely not the answer to every need or problem you are aware of. That’s why as leaders we need to have a team and community around us to accomplish his purpose for us. There’s something powerful in focusing like a laser. It was CS Lewis who said, “Most people are composed of a few themes.” Most leaders I have known and coached are traveling too fast and trying to do too much, hence the growing cadre of exhausted and burned-out leaders.
As a fellow leader, may I encourage you to increase the amount of time you spend in prayer demonstrating your dependence on Him, starting with Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and then moving to asking.
And in your asking, focus on praying that your Lord would come to your aid in areas where you desperately want him to help you, as you grow in seeing him change you to be more like himself, so that you can pray specifically that he would use you based on how he has created you.