When considering the most fundamental traits of leaders, we usually talk about vision, relationships, communication, character, and even charisma. We seldom consider prayer as a key characteristic, yet prayer is a primary trait of Christ-centered leaders.
When we look at Jesus, one of the defining qualities of his leadership was prayer. Whether he was withdrawing to a lonely place (Luke 5:16), making critical decisions (Luke 6:12-13), or navigating a crisis (Luke 22:40-42), Jesus looked upward for wisdom and strength in every situation and circumstance he faced.
Prayer is the focus of your work as a Christ-centered leader. Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest wrote, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.” Leading with prayer is who you are as a leader. It is part of your call to leadership ministry.
The disciples did not ask Jesus to teach them how to tell a parable, multiply the loaves, or heal the sick. They asked him to teach them how to pray. And when asked, Jesus taught them a pattern of prayer.
When prayer is as natural as breathing, you will not only strengthen your life but you will strengthen your leadership. As you model prayer in your leadership you assist others in experiencing compassion and hope.
Teach us to Pray
In Luke’s Gospel, when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray (Chapter 11), Jesus has been in prayer from the time of his baptism. It is interesting that Matthew and Mark do not mention prayer at his baptism, but Luke has Jesus praying. Why? What does prayer have to do with leading?
Read Luke 3:21-22
Now when all the people were baptized and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)
From Luke’s perspective, this is the first reference to prayer in the life of Jesus. It comes in relation to his baptism. The image is that Jesus is in line waiting for his turn to be baptized. “When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized.”
Unlike Matthew and Mark, who give a description of Jesus’ baptism, Luke does not give us a description. The baptism itself is an “also” event. The focus for Luke is upon Jesus praying. “While he was praying, heaven was opened.”
The baptism is over. The attention is not on the baptism but on Jesus praying. “While he was praying, heaven was opened… “And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
The words, “…heaven was opened…” come from Isaiah 64. The splitting of the heavens was a prophetic sign of the beginning of a new age. The Holy Spirit descends like a dove upon Jesus. The words, “voice from heaven: You are my Son…” come from Psalm 27. The words are used in relation to the coronation of a king. And the words, “with whom I am pleased” come from Isaiah 42. The words refer to the suffering servant of God.
While Jesus Prays
While Jesus was praying there was a moment of clarification and affirmation of his identity in relationship to God. It was while he was praying that God laid claim to his life. After he was baptized, while he was praying, Jesus received confirmation of his call and direction for his ministry.
In Luke’s gospel, the Holy Spirit brings power. For Luke, there is a connection between prayer and power. There is a connection between Jesus praying and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “Now when all the people were baptized and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.”
Prayer Brings Clarity
This is the moment Jesus receives clarification of who he is and his role. He is crowned king, recognized as a suffering servant, and anointed for God’s work. This is the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus. This also points ahead to Jesus’ ministry, which will be characterized by prayer at significant junctures in his life and in the life of the church.
Prayer brings confirmation and clarification of who you are. Prayer forms your identity as a follower of Jesus. It shapes who you are as a leader. Whether lay or clergy, the confirmation, and power for living out God’s plan and purpose do not come through position or office, the confirmation and power come through prayer.
Prayer is the foundation for Christ-centered leadership. It is a regular practice for those who want to lead well. It is essential for developing healthy relationships and growing communities. It is vital in developing decision-making skills.
Through prayer, you cultivate the leadership needed to navigate moments of crisis. Character is not built in crisis; it is revealed in crisis. Develop a pattern of prayer so that you can and will respond with love, grace, and peace in moments of conflict. You will know what to do even before you think about doing it.
You are a beloved child of God. You have not only been affirmed but you have been called. Stay is a connection with God through prayer. Model humility, vulnerability, and authenticity and become more empathetic and generous in your relationships.
Give God thanks for the people you met today. How was your call to leadership affirmed today? In what ways did you help someone know he or she was a “beloved child of God”? How did prayer shape your thoughts and actions? Give God thanks for the opportunities you had to love others as you have been loved.
O God, I give you thanks for the assurance that I am your child. By your grace, continue to use me as an instrument of your love and peace so others might know of your love and acceptance. Thank you for the opportunity to be one of your leaders at this point and time. I do believe you created me and gifted me to lead at such a time as this. I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus. Amen