Prayer for Group Leaders

This post came from Heather Zempel at the Zone Gathering

The great reformer Martin Luther said, “I generally pray two hours every day, except on very busy days. On those days, I pray three.” Luther was a pretty busy man– defending his theology, translating the Bible into German, writing books, and leading a Reformation– so I imagine he spent several days in 3-hour prayer.

Prayer is one of the most critical disciplines of a godly leader, and it is a key component of solid spiritual foundations. It is ridiculous to think we cdo justice to this topic in one Thursday Leadership Lesson, so I will simply share some of the things that I am personally trying to practice this semester.

Prioritize Prayer
Prayer must become a priority for you as a leader. It isn’t an add-on or something to do when you’ve got the time. It must become the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night. In Mark 1:35, we read that “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.Jesus rose early to pray.”

I am becoming an evangelist for early morning prayer! I am not a morning person- never have been and probably never will be– so I always did my prayer and Bible study at night. But this year I set a new goal to come down to the office early each morning and spend time in prayer and Bible study. It has made an amazing difference in my day. I have learned experientially what the Civil War-era pastor E.M. Bounds described: “The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in your thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.”

Making prayer a priority means doing it first thing in the morning. If you’re not a morning person, it doesn’t have to be long. Just a simple acknowledgement of your complete dependence upon God and a casting of cares upon him.

The second way to make prayer a priority is to set aside special times and places for it. In Luke 5:16 we read, “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness to pray.” And in Matthew 14:23, “Afterward he went up into the hills by himself to pray . Night fell while he was there alone.” Jesus was constantly seeking out solitude for prayer– before he chose his disciples, after the beheading of John the Baptist, etc. In fact, it seems he often slipped away from the crowds at his most popular moments.

Here’s the thought that keeps coming back to me: If Jesus prayed this much, then how much more do I need to pray?

Depend on Prayer
As leaders, we can become lazy and depend upon our strengths, our spiritual gifts, our personality, or our track record. My greatest fear is getting to a place as a leader where I can “fake it” without depending 100% on God in prayer. We must depend on prayer for growing as leaders, leading our groups, and making decisions.

We should depend on prayer when making leadership decisions. The best leadership decisions come after prayer. Jesus prayed all night before choosing his twelve disciples (Luke 6:12). How much time do we spend in prayer before choosing apprentice leaders or choosing curriculum?

We should depend on prayer for our leadership. If we look at the lives of the 1st century leaders, prayer was the preparation for ministry. The Holy Spirit came on those who prayed (Acts 2). Prayer set the stage for the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:9). The leaders of the early church began everything with prayer and they depended on prayer. Their ministry flowed out of their prayer lives. I think I sometimes get it backwards. I tend to pray in order for God to bless my ministry. The early leaders prayed in order to discover their ministry.

Pray For Those You Lead
Pray for your group members daily. On the worst night of his life, Jesus modeled this for us by praying for his disciples (John 17). One of the best ways to pray for your group members is to pray Scriptures over them. Here are some examples of passages that you can memorize and pray for your group:

* Ephesians 1:17-19
* Ephesians 3:16-19
* Philippians 1:9-11
* Colossians 1:9-12
* 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

When you pray for your group members, begin with thanksgiving. When you come to God in thankfulness for people, He fills your heart with his love for them and you see them more through his eyes.

Model Prayer For Those You Lead
Finally, model prayer for those you lead. That’s what Jesus did in Matthew 6 when he taught them to pray using the Lord’s Prayer. Prioritize prayer in your group so that you group is built on prayer. Often, prayer becomes an add-on at the end of a group meeting. It’s an afterthought or a “closer.” Find opportunities to spend quality time in prayer in your group, teach on its importance, and model it for the people you lead.