Chapter six of J. Oswald Sanders' Spiritual Leadership is entitled, "Petrine Sidelights on Leadership." The chapter is an unpacking of 1st Peter 5:1-7. Sanders makes many helpful applications of these verses. In our culture one application that we need to hear is in regard to prayer as essential for caring and leadership. Peter is writing to elders, but the principle applies more broadly--to those in our families, under our leadership at work, under our influence (which includes our supervisors as well as our direct reports), etc. In elucidating what it means to shepherd "as God would have you" (1st Pet 5:2), Sanders observes:
If it is "according to God," this shepherding ministry will surely include intercession. The saintly Bishop Azariah of India once remarked to Bishop Stephen Neil that he found time every day to pray by name for everyone in a position of leadership in his extensive diocese. Small wonder that during his thirty years of office the diocese trebled in its membership, and greatly increased in spiritual effectiveness.
To make this practical: Get some index cards (the smart phone notepad is a poor substitute for this BTW). On each card, write the names of your family members for whom you have responsibility or to whom you are accountable, your closest workplace associates, and those who are entrusted to your spiritual leadership and care. Pray over the names, asking God to give you insight into what you want for them (things that you observe or things that you know that they want to see happen). Include "spiritual" and "physical/material" things. (I put those words in quotation marks to acknowledge that it is, in many ways, a false distinction. That is another blog post though.) Write down what you desire to see God do in their lives and pray for them daily. I have see that praying daily like this has the following impact on me:
- My love and empathy for the folks on these cards increases;
- My eyes are opened to what God is doing in their lives;
- My spirit is lighter because I am carrying my concerns for those in my care to the Lord;
- I am shown much more clearly what role I am to play in their lives, and how to play that role humbly and wisely;
- My conversations are more naturally substantive with them, without trying things go to a deeper level on their own;
- My faith is encouraged as I see God move in answer to prayer;
- I pray spontaneously much more throughout the day when I have prayed according to this pattern;
- When prayers are answered, in whole or in part, I can note the answer succinctly on the cards; and,
- These folks are blessed through my ministry of prayer.
In my prayer life, praying in this manner has born the most fruit. I just read a book by a pastor of 40 years who reports a similar pattern of prayer. Most of us are far more generous than accurate in our estimation of our memories and the ability to pray without some pattern and system to remind us. We can pray anytime and should pray when prompted by the Spirit. Praise God for that. I am all for dynamic, spontaneous prayer. You will pray more dynamically and spontaneously when you pray specifically and regularly. (Jesus and the disciples prayed regularly and spontaneously...but, again, that is another blog post.)
Pray like Jesus means what he says: "Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:13-14). What do you want for those whom God has entrusted to you? What specifically? When you stop to ponder that question you will be amazed at how hard it may be to come up with an answer. Again, we are more generous than accurate in our assessment that we "want the best for those around us." Often we don't know what we want for them and have to pray about that too. God answers those prayers as well.