Kathryn Creasy | Executive Director Leadership Development and Discipleship Ministries
Look at the first two words in this article’s title, “Spiritual Leadership.” Now replace the word “spiritual” with any word that denotes effective Christian leadership—authentic leadership, compassionate leadership, visionary leadership, anointed leadership, fruitful leadership, compelling leadership, servant leadership, etc. This simple exercise reminds us that consistent, fervent prayer is essential to effective spiritual leadership.
Why is prayer the platform that spiritual leadership is built on?
Prayer invites and entertains the presence of God. Moses understood that God’s presence was a necessity if he was to lead God’s people. He said to the Lord, “If Your Presence does not go with me, do not carry us up from here!” (Exodus 33:15 CEF). When leaders pray, we invite God’s presence into every aspect of our leadership. We humbly recognize that we cannot move forward in the leadership role He has called us to without Him. In prayer, we acknowledge our deep need for the Father. From that place of prayer, we go through our days entertaining His presence. When decisions are to be made, when relationships are to be strengthened, when help is to be offered, we can turn our eyes and hearts toward Him knowing that He is present.
Prayer can do things only God can do. As leaders, we often face the impossible—lack of resources, unrealized goals, lost and broken people, and few who are willing to come alongside and “share the load.” Humanly, we are unable to make the impossible possible. Yet, God’s Word assures us, “Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37 CEB). His Word encourages us to keep asking through consistent and sincere prayer.
Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened (Matthew 7:7, 8 AMPC).
Prayer moves others toward God’s purposes. In his book, The Making of a Leader, Robert Clinton writes, “The central task of leadership is influencing God’s people toward God’s purposes.” Moses’ task was to lead God’s people out of slavery. Nehemiah’s task was to lead God’s people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Paul’s task was to preach the Gospel to the unbelieving Greeks and Romans. Yet, these and other leaders in the Bible did not influence people through their knowledge, skills, charisma, or even their spirituality. They moved people toward God’s purposes through prayer. Jesus clearly demonstrated this principle when speaking to Peter, “Oh Simon, Simon, do you know that Satan has asked to have you all to sift like wheat?—but I have prayed for you that you may not lose your faith” (Luke 22:31, 32 J.B. Phillips New Testament). Spiritual leaders recognize that it is God who works in the hearts of men. Clinton wrote: “In prayer we (spiritual leaders) deal directly with God,” who then influences the hearts of men.
Prayer allows us to experience His rest. Leadership can be burdensome. Every moment of every day, you have a God-given responsibility to lead well. But prayer is a daily opportunity to live out Matthew 11:28, 29, “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves” (CEB). As you come to Jesus in prayer, you can sense His willingness to come alongside you, to partner with you. While you are not sufficient to meet the momentary and eternal demands of spiritual leadership, He is. And as you pray, His sufficiency becomes yours. “In ourselves we are not able to claim anything for ourselves. The power to do what we do comes from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5 NIRV). Through prayer, you can rest in His sufficiency.
Spiritual leadership becomes a reality through faithful prayer. Yet, often we find it difficult to pray. Prayer becomes secondary to our daily list of “to-dos.” God’s Word is filled with promises that can be ours when we pray, and we can look to Jesus as our example of a prayer-filled life.
In his book, Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders states that prayer was the dominant feature of Jesus’ life and a recurring part of His teaching. Prayer kept His moral vision sharp and clear. Prayer gave Him courage to endure the perfect but painful will of His Father. Prayer paved the way for transfiguration. To Jesus, prayer was not a hasty add-on, but a joyous necessity.
As a leader, may prayer be the “joyful necessity” of your life.