Adapted by Brian Kemper
If you don’t pray – you don’t deserve to lead! My intent in this article is not to hold your hand or cheer you on with sweet words of encouragement to a more fulfilling prayer life. My intent however, is to be clear and direct about what you already know you should be doing. I know the pressures, the schedules and the demands of leadership. So let’s not play games about why we don’t pray. Let’s embrace the truth even if it hurts.
Why We Don’t Pray
The truth is, we don’t pray because we are too busy, too lazy, or we simply don’t care. You and I both know we don’t need another book on prayer. We’ve read and highlighted most of them already, but still we are not praying. We have prayer books, prayer tapes, prayer calendars, prayer meetings and prayer lunches, yet we still don’t pray. We are in a prayer crisis in our ministries and in our churches. If you as a leader are not involved in personal prayer, how can you ever expect to lead God’s people?
According to “PRAY” magazine, the average pastor in America prays seven minutes a day. “Facts & Trends” magazine found only 16% of Protestant ministers are satisfied with their prayer life. It’s time to take responsibility for our lack of prayer. There is a leadership principle that states; “most people don’t change because they see light, but because they feel the heat.” Our churches and our ministries are feeling the heat, the effects of our prayerlessness, and our lack of organized prayer.
If you are not teaching those who follow you how to pray, you are failing them. You are denying them access to the supernatural power of God. It is your responsibility to teach them to pray and to introduce them to a relationship with a supernatural God.
Answering the Call to Pray
You and I are called to pray. In prayer you will reach more people, change more lives and be more powerful than you could ever be standing behind the pulpit preaching. If you only answer the call to lead others and not the call to pray, then you will limit your ministry to half of what is possible. If you teach without praying, your messages will be weak. If you lead without prayer; your leadership will continually lack. If you serve without prayer; you will grow tired and frustrated.
Answer the call to pray and follow this by becoming a student of prayer. The disciples said, “Lord teach us how to pray.” This simply means that prayer can be both taught and learned. You need to do both. You need to learn how to pray and be able to teach others what you know. You will need to prepare for this calling. You need to study the prayers of the Bible. Read books and articles on prayer. One simple and effective resource is Martin Luther’s short book, “A Simple Way to Pray” (available for free online). Fill yourself up with the knowledge of prayer.
Prayer is like the headlights of a car. Headlights allow you to see where you are going and to see what may be approaching. Leading without praying makes about as much sense as driving a car at night without headlights. You are an accident waiting to happen.
If You Don’t Pray - You Won’t Last
Ministry is too hard and life is too short to try to get through it without prayer! You will not make it. You will burn out, stress out, or strike out. If you are trying to do everything in your own strength, without prayer, you will go down in flames. Not only that, but on a personal level, if you’re not praying - you’re straying. Every day you continue not to pray is another day you choose to walk just a little further from God. Prayer is the umbilical cord that keeps you attached to God’s presence and influence. You can’t help others get closer to God when you are avoiding Him yourself. How can you possibly think you could ever be successful without prayer in your life? Ask yourself this question, “Why am I beating my head against the wall by denying myself the power of prayer?” Don’t look at prayer as a last resort but rather as a first response.
Think Inside the Vine
There is a popular catch phrase we thrown around quite often: “think outside the box.” In other words; do not be limited in your way of thinking and do not tie yourself down with traditional ways of doing things. Let me introduce you to a new catch phrase: “think inside the vine.” To think inside the vine is to abide in Christ and immerse yourself in prayer to the point that you are no longer limited to earthly resources or ideas.
Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches, if you abide in me and my word abides in you, then whatever you ask in my name, the Father will do it for you.” Life outside the vine is hard and dry. My advice is not to live there.
Give Prayer a Time and Place of Importance
You say prayer is important to you, but is it really? Often there is a huge gap between what we say we believe and our actions. If prayer is important to you then show it.
Creating a culture of prayer is a lot like telling your children you love them. You can tell your kids you love them but the message only comes through when you show that you love them. Every parent knows that youth and children do not spell love l-o-v-e; they spell love t-i-m-e. Similarly, you have to set a time for corporate prayer. The early church in the book of Acts had a set time to pray together. “Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour” Acts 3:1.
Once you establish a time, stick to it. Do not move it around or make it be at the mercy of every other event on the calendar. When you do this, it devalues prayer by letting everything else have priority. Developing consistency also allows others the opportunity to incorporate the time into their schedules.
Another huge mistake is letting other events be scheduled simultaneously with prayer. If this is done, your emphasis on prayer and having people buy into your vision will be watered down. Don’t make your people have to choose over prayer. Teach people to sanctify that time.
Sanctify is one of those religious words that sounds complicated, but really isn’t. It means to be set aside for God’s use. Setting aside one hour for the purpose of creating and developing a prayer ministry is a small sacrifice compared to all the benefits you will reap in return.
It Begins With You
It all begins with you—the parent, the head counselor, the counselor, the workshop leader, the committee member. The only way to have a successful prayer ministry is for you to lead it. If you don’t throw your weight and influence toward this ministry, it will never succeed. E.M. Bounds says in his book, Power through Prayer, “We are constantly on a stretch if not a strain, to produce new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the church and secure enlargement and efficiency. But men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods. God is looking for better men.”
The apostles realized they had to give themselves to pray in order to successfully do the work God had called them to do (Acts 6:1-7). In order for the Word to multiply, a ministry to grow, and people to develop, a leader needs to stay focused on prayer. Do not allow yourself to be distracted. The demands of leadership are great and there is no way you can accomplish them without prayer. Remember to think inside the vine.
We all know that nothing happens until someone provides leadership. Without prayer, what type of leadership are we providing? Leadership through prayer is the only way to lead successfully. A leader obviously does more than pray…but he doesn’t do anything until he prays.
You can find the original version of this article at: http://www.tonycooke.org/free_resources/articles_others/pray_not_lead.html