Today I prayed for my sons and everything changed… As a parent, or a leader, you will inevitably have the experience where you have tried to encourage change in a host of ways, but to no avail. You have tried to encourage a desired behavior or attitude through promised rewards, through warnings of adverse consequences, and through appeals to love and respect. And despite passionate and persuasive pleas nothing changed (except your increasing frustration). So, what changed?
- My desired request: There was an issue that I was trying to address through all the means that I just described, and nothing was changing. Then I changed my strategy to simply pray, and ask God to produce the desired change. And the very thing that I wanted to see changed suddenly and radically changed. Since all of my other efforts had not produced the change, and the timing of the change was essentially immediately connected to significant meaningful prayer, I choose to attribute the effected change to the cause of prayer.
I was declaring and demonstrating that God can do more through prayer than I can do in all of my best efforts.
2. My dependence upon God: I was declaring and demonstrating that God can do more through prayer than I can do in all of my best efforts. This is a reality that I understand as a theological truth, but in practice I often demonstrate a dependence on my efforts. Certainly as I labor, I’m seeking to be inspired and dependent upon God, but prayer takes my efforts out of the equation and establishes greater dependence upon God. I appreciate that God doesn’t change things because my prayers are so epic that he had to respond. There is simply a sense that when my prayers are consistent with His will, and produce His glory, that He delights to respond. I changed to become more dependent upon God.
…prayer takes my efforts out of the equation and establishes greater dependence upon God.
3. My devotion to prayer: The experience reinforced something that I know intellectually, but the experience changed my devotion to prayer. As an aside, I regularly pray, and gather with others to pray, but there are certain seasons when I’m changed and my dependence upon God and devotion to prayer increase. Dependence upon God and devotion to prayer are presumed to be critical to Christian life and leadership because, Jesus declared that His house would be called a house of prayer [Matt. 21:13]. Prayer has the potential to produce powerful change in me, in you, in those we influence, and in the world.
Prayer is essential to developing leaders.
What should we pray about? Who should we pray to? How should we pray? Paul’s instructions to Timothy in regard to a pattern for public prayer is a helpful case study: Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus [1 Tim. 2:1-5].
What should we pray about?
1.Pray for all : Preliminarily, “Therefore” [v.1] flows from the exhortation to fight the good fight [1:18-20]. Prayer is the critical weapon to fight the good fight! We are to pray for all: the saved and unsaved, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, and the “good and bad.” In contrast, the Pharisees prayed only for Jews, not Gentiles. Make request for their needs, intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for whom God is and what He does
2. Pray for leaders [2-3]: We are to pray for kings and all in authority. God’s people are likely to bemoan and complain about political (and spiritual) leaders. Generally, there seems to be a lack of prayer for leaders. Paul’s exhortation is even more remarkable when we remember the wicked Emperor Nero was in power. We can be comforted by the truth that God has appointed all leaders [Rom. 13:1]. The state is to provide peace for the church, and the church is to pray for the state. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God or is pleasing to God.
3. Pray for salvation : God desires all to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. All of our evangelistic efforts should be built upon a foundation of prayer. The Lord does not will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance [2 Pet. 3:9]. So we know that prayers for salvation are consistent with His will. We will experience the sense of God’s Spirit guiding our prayers for the salvation of souls.
Who should we pray to? There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus . Jesus is the only Mediator. We pray to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit [Rom. 8:26-27]. It is important that emerging leaders appreciate that we don’t pray to Mary, priests, angels, saints, departed loved ones, but to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit.
How should we pray? Paul describes four keys to help us know how to pray: I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting .
- Pray everywhere: God’s people are not to limit their prayers to Jerusalem, the temple, the synagogue, the church building, etc. Pray in the home, the job or school, restaurants and coffee houses, parks and public spaces.
- Have a holy life: lifting up holy hands refers to more than a posture where people stood in the synagogue with palms raised to God. God is more concerned about the position of our hearts than the posture of our bodies. Holy hands are related to a person’s desire to be set-apart to God.
- Without wrath: God’s people are to offer forgiveness, seek reconciliation and pray for enemies without anger or hatred towards others [Matt. 5:44].
- Without doubt: finally we pray in faith with expectation that God hears our prayers, and delights to change everything according to His perfect will through prayers.
Prayer changes everything! So what has God called you to change through prayer?
- Why do you believe that prayer is important for existing and emerging spiritual leaders?
- What has God called you to change through prayer?
- For a more detailed study on the subject of prayer generally, please download the free book “Prayer” here.