-Leaders pray and influence others to do the same-
I absolutely dreaded them. As a young boy, my dad would take me to the church for the weekly prayer meeting. I remember kneeling at a pew surrounded by a few men doing the same. We prayed together, multiple groups of men on their knees were spread around the room. They used words I often did not understand. They prayed forever it seemed.
I remember thinking to myself on more than one occasion “God please stop them from praying such long prayers! I’m dying here!” Most of the time, I was just trying to keep from falling asleep! It’s a little funny right?
There was a chasm between these men and myself. These church leaders knew too well the ills of the world. I, on the other hand, was just a kid being raised in a good home. I was optimistic. A simple “Thank you God!” would have been good enough for me.
To be frank, praying has never been easy for me. I’m a get-it-done kind of guy. Independent and self-reliant. If I can do it, why bother anyone else, especially a God I cannot see?
Many decades have passed since those church prayer meetings. Life is more complicated now. I know too much. I’ve eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Love and pain seem to grow intertwined like a vine wrapped around a pole. There is a paradox in human blessings. You find a loving spouse, have children, they marry and have children, and there it is again. More to love and more pain to experience. Your heart belongs to what you love. Your heart belongs to who you love. And whenever what or who you love is not right, you’re not right. Love and pain are twins. To love is to willingly and sometimes unknowingly step into pain.
Where do we go for strength? Where do we go for comfort? Where do we go for perspective and guidance? We must go to God.
Prayer has become a refuge for me, a seat before the Almighty, a quiet place, and certainly a triage of need. I’m really not sure how anyone gets by, gains perspective, or finds hope without talking to God. Jesus shared these words when he taught us to pray:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:9-13, NKJ
If prayer does nothing else, it improves our memory:
- Prayer reminds us that Earth is not our home.
Vs. 9, Our Father in Heaven. We forget that the earth is not our home. We get attached here because it has a lot to offer. God created an amazing place. Yet it is not as it once was as a result of our sins. Our home is where God is. That’s where we belong.
Jesus teaches us to address the Father directly. He teaches us to go right to the Father because Heaven is where we find our citizenship. We are his kids away from home but we have a direct line to him through prayer.
Furthermore, Jesus is confronting a religious system that created hoops for people to jump through before having God’s attention. Jesus is clearly exposing various forms of spiritual abuse and corruption. This is the context of this teaching, to open the doors of heaven to all desiring to enter.
- Prayer reminds us that God is bigger than all our problems.
Vs. 9, Hallowed be your name. In ancient days, we read of prophets calling upon their gods to war against the gods of their enemies or deliver them from one calamity or another. They would perform various acts of worship and sacrifice in hopes of moving their god to action.
We don’t do that kind of stuff. We know we cannot manipulate God. He is not our genie in the sky but he is our hope and life. We honor him with our lives and we ask him to honor his own name by reminding the world and ourselves that he is God and is in control. When we focus our attention on him, it puts our challenges and problems in the right perspective.
What’s the worst thing that can happen? Whatever it is, God is bigger. He can handle it.
- Prayer reminds us that God is with us, God is helping us, and God is guiding us.
Vs. 10, Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Leaders seek wisdom from God. We want the wisdom of heaven applied to our earthly situations and opportunities.
God is patient with us. He will ultimately have his way but until his will is perfected, he offers patience. He allows us to learn. He allows us to come to our senses so-to-speak. He does not force us. He does not bully us. He wants us to seek him and his ways.
As we grow in faith, we consciously embrace our journey. We are not home but while we are passing through this experience on earth, we continue to study, learn and imagine how God’s kingdom operates. As a result, we are his apprentices learning and practicing his character.
Indeed, we are working together with our creator to redeem, to add value. We are building faith-filled families, businesses, and ministries. We are building as God would build. He is with us, helping us, and guiding us.
- Prayer reminds us to be content and to trust God for our needs.
Vs. 11, Give us this day our daily bread. I recently read a story where one man asked a friend if he had ever struggled with worry. The other man responded in a matter-of-fact way with these words: “I tried worrying but it didn’t work for me, so I stopped.”
I chuckled for a second or two when I read that. It’s true, isn’t it? What good does worry do for any of us? In this portion of Jesus’ teaching, he encourages us to focus on the needs of the day. To enjoy the provisions of the day. The opportunities of the day. To take our minds off the uncontrollables and trust God with the future. To be content.
Don’t be confused. Jesus is not saying we cannot think about the future. He is not saying that we cannot nor should not plan. What he is explaining is that there will be seasons of difficulty. During those times, focus on today. Take one step at a time and ask God for the strength to do so.
- Prayer reminds us to be people who keep no record of wrongs.
Vs. 12, And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Some of my friends believe people don’t change. I believe otherwise and have dozens and dozens of case studies to prove it. People do change.
Even more importantly, leaders cannot be small thinkers. Small thinking shrinks people into those who keep score, hold grudges, see with paranoid lenses, and lose the ability to solve problems. They tend to have only two tools at their disposal – fight or flight.
Spiritual leaders are always working from a perspective of redemption. This is not naive; it is ingrained into the idea of making the world better. The person who rejects nurturing bitterness opens their soul to the power of forgiveness which is unmatched by any other.
Some have said what makes us sick is often what we eat but I also believe what makes us sick is what we allow to eat at us.
- Prayer reminds us to do everything we can to avoid evil.
Vs. 13, And do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. It has been said that trust takes many years to develop but only a moment to lose. As leaders, people count on us. They count on you. It is a high calling. You jeopardize your calling when you flirt with unnecessary risk, sloppy decisions, and fatigue caused by a lack of healthy habits. We are all vulnerable so we seek God’s protection, even from ourselves.
Case Study –
I tell you this story for the purpose of seeing the power of a prayerful mindset. Though it happened to me, it is not about me. It is about the power of a prayerful consciousness.
I had just finished sharing a meal with my pastor at a local restaurant located across the street from the bank I managed. Our conversation was of great importance to me. We were talking about how easy it is to exclude God out of certain areas of our lives. Sometimes we do this consciously but most of the time we just don’t think about it.
We talked about the obvious benefits: increased wisdom, peace, and discernment, just to name a few. We also wondered how this might make the experience of life “feel” different. I vividly remember thinking to myself, “I’m going to talk to you all the time Lord! Why wouldn’t I?”
Even as I walked through the crosswalk heading back to my office, I started praying about the rest of my day, family, and a few other things I cannot recall at the moment. As I entered the lobby, I noticed my assistant. Our eyes met. I could tell that she wanted to see me immediately and it was not going to be a good thing. I was right.
The bank had made a clerical error on a vital collateral document. Our customer found out and was trying to liquidate the property without paying back his loan. We made a mistake and he was trying to take advantage of us. Bottom line, he was being dishonest. Our exposure was beyond a million dollars.
My assistant told me that the lending team was stressed out and considering several courses of action. None of them sounded wise to me. I called the team into the boardroom closest to my office. After listening to their concerns and ideas, I did something without thinking.
I said, “Let’s pray about this”. Then I bowed my head and began to pray. After the first few sentences, it dawned on me what I was doing. I took a quick peek to see how the team was responding. To my surprise, every person had their head bowed and their eyes closed. Relieved, I continued and closed my prayer.
Not one person ever said anything to me about it. But I’m willing to bet they had a lot to think about when just a few days later the situation completely changed. The customer walked in with a signed copy of the corrected document and apologized for what he had threatened to do and how long it took for him to bring in the document.
Application: Be comfortable talking about prayer wherever you are. And be open to sharing a prayer as you are led.
May God bless you and through you,
Jim Piper, Jr.
Founder of Lead Today