Prayer and Leadership
Part 5 in a series on Prayer by Tim Bias
Mother Teresa said, “If we pray, we will believe; If we believe, we will love; If we love, we will serve.”
By what criteria do you choose leaders for your congregation?
- Do you consider gifts, talents, strengths, depth of faith?
- Do you look for the most persuasive, active, and trustworthy persons?
By what criteria do you choose leaders?
- Do you keep in mind the context of your congregation and the community in which your congregation is located?
- When you choose leaders, do you pray for those who will serve?
- Do you consider their call to ministry or their focus upon the purpose and mission of the church?
How Did Jesus Choose?
In the Gospel according to Luke, we see Jesus praying at particular points in his life and ministry. So, when the time came to choose those who would join him in ministry, Jesus retreated to the mountain to pray. He spent the night praying. He prayed to keep focus upon the context of his ministry and to keep the continuity between what he is doing and with what would be needed in the future.
I think this is important to understand. His prayer was not just immediate: this is how I feel or this is what I want.
Jesus was not making a political decision. He was seeking a connection between God’s people of the past and God’s people of the future, by choosing leaders for the present.
His all-night prayer vigil was not just for the moment but for each of us who are the church today. He is praying to keep focus, not only on the history of Israel but, on the future of God’s people.
He prays. Why? What does prayer have to do with it?
Choosing the Twelve Disciples
6 12 During that time, Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night long. 13 At daybreak, he called together his disciples. He chose twelve of them whom he called apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter; his brother Andrew; James; John; Philip; Bartholomew; 15 Matthew; Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus; Simon, who was called a zealot; 16 Judas the son of James; and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
From Luke’s perspective, this is the third reference to prayer in the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus prays all night long to choose twelve of his followers, from all the others, to be apostles. My perception is that this was not a casual thing for Luke or for Jesus.
I do not believe that God said, “Take this one and this one and this one.” If that were the case, why would Jesus pray all night long?
What I have learned is that the Holy Spirit and faith do not make life simpler or easier, only deeper, more meaningful, and more powerful. Jesus prayed all night to choose from all who followed him.
Continuity with Context
Jesus was praying to keep focus upon the context of his ministry. There is a continuity between what he is doing and with Israel. The twelve disciples are related to the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke understands that in Jesus, God is continuing what God started with the people of Israel. So, his all-night prayer vigil was not just for the moment but for us. He is praying to keep focus, not only on the history of Israel but, on the future of God’s people.
I think this is important to understand. His prayer was not just immediate: this is how I feel or this is what I want. He was not making a political decision. He was seeking a connection between God’s people of the past and God’s people of the future, by choosing leaders for the present.
Prayer Connects Us to God’s Great Plan
One of the most difficult prayers to pray is the church’s prayer.
The prayer is not about what I want. The prayer is focused upon who God needs to be obedient. We do not pray from our best thinking or best practices. Our prayer is focused upon who God needs us to be at this place and time in history and for the future of God’s people.
So, Jesus prayed all night. He was conscious of others besides himself. It is a critical moment in the history of Israel, in his own life, and for the future of the church. So, he prayed. We can say we began as an all-night prayer vigil in the heart and mind of Jesus.
So, what does prayer have to do with it? It is through prayer that you and I keep our focus upon God’s plan and purpose which is bigger than ourselves. We have a hard time thinking beyond ourselves. It is difficult to move out and think bigger than our own wants and desires. But it is essential that we keep our communities, neighborhoods, and cities in mind and heart as we relate our present ministries with who people can be now and might be in the future.
Prayer connects us to God’s great plan. It helps us see the world more as God sees the world.
Prayer Connects the Past with the Future
We are at a critical moment in life of the church and the future of the church. If Jesus was keeping us, the future church, in heart and mind as he prayed that night, it seems to me that prayer is essential in our ministries as we connect the past with the future, as we shape spiritual leaders today.
Mother Teresa reminds us, “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’”
We will be judged by how much love we put into what we were called and equipped to do.