“COULD YOU NOT TARRY ONE HOUR?”

This is the famous question Jesus asked Peter, James, and John, after they fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Could you not tarry one hour?” Jesus could rightfully ask this of us, His twenty-first century disciples. As busy leaders, we often push aside prayer when we’re pressed for time. But just like the disciples, we stand to lose an intimate connection with Jesus and an enlightened perspective.

From the film: The Passion of the Christ

Recently, I was tempted to cancel our monthly intercessors meeting. I’d done it before when attendance was low, and this time it only suited three of us. Plus it was a jam-packed week. Surely we could all use the extra time!

But God reminded me of the supreme value of being with Him and the superior height of His thoughts, and I held the meeting. And God held our gaze. And fueled our prayers. And gave His perspective. We ended up receiving direction in an area that had been blocked for months. Most of all, our hearts were lifted by spending time with the Lord.

7 Keys for Tarrying With God in Prayer

  1. Value it. You won’t do much that you don’t value, so check your heart. What weight do you give to praying with ministry comrades? Your calendar will tell the story. If your corporate prayer time is scant, ask God to restore your passion for discussing ministry issues with Him.
  1. Schedule it. Impromptu, urgent prayer meetings are great, but they shouldn’t replace regular times of seeking God. Plan monthly meetings to pray with your key staffers about core priorities and initiatives.
  1. Commit to it. Even if your schedule is nuts and your attendance is lean, have the prayer meeting. Jesus says, where two or three are gathered, He is in your midst. God will be glorified, and you won’t be disappointed.
  1. Enter in. The first priority of prayer is to connect with God. Start with worship and maybe a few Scriptures. Express your love for God, your appreciation of His faithfulness, and Your reliance on His sovereign leading.
  1. Be Spirit-Led. You’ll likely have a list of critical issues to bring before the Lord. But let Him lead the time. Instead of praying for each item, you may sense He wants you to pray for just one or two. He knows what’s pertinent and where He’s about to move.
  1. Listen. As you pray with your team, listen for themes, listen for momentum, listen for direction. Jot down any verses and impressions you receive.
  1. Obey. Obedience might mean keeping track of what you’ve sensed, since God may have more to say on the matter. Or obedience might mean taking a step God confirmed in prayer.

The Greek word for tarry is grégoréo, and it means to be vigilant, responsible. A leader who is vigilant and responsible in prayer is vigilant and responsible in life.

 

In the Comment Section below, share about the value of regular prayer meetings within your ministry.

“ALL SYSTEMS PRAY!”

The phrase “all systems go” harkens back to the era when space ships and missiles were in their heyday. It describes the pre-flight phase when all aspects of their complicated mechanisms were in sync and ready for launch. As leaders, we want every aspect of our ministries to function at optimal effectiveness. Since God is our source of wisdom and power, our best shot at this is “all systems pray.”

In 1998, when God taught our ministry to actively honor Him, we made an incredible discovery: as we spent time with God, He revealed His strategies for our ministry through the Word and the Spirit. When we implemented His strategies, they were far more effective than ours. We soon began to pray, “Father, show us where there are man-made structures and programs within our ministry, and show us Your superior ways.” He’s been faithful to do that, and it’s motivated us to establish prayer throughout our ministry.

8 Ways to Incorporate Systemic Prayer

  1. Board Meetings. Think beyond opening and closing in prayer, to praying throughout the meeting whenever more insight is needed. Jesus is right there at the table with you, and talking to Him can become as natural as talking to one another.
  1. Staff Meetings. Again, opening and closing in prayer is good, but stay attuned to opportunities to pray together as a staff – new ventures, upcoming events, special needs, etc. It’s encouraging to hear others’ passion in prayer, and to follow God’s prompting as themes emerge.
  1. Department Meetings. These prayer times can be even more specific, because you’re gathered for a narrowed focus. Spend time talking to God about upcoming projects and events. The team’s faith will be built as God speaks through His Word and His Spirit.
  1. Corporate Intercessors Gathering. Secure a small group of intercessors who pray with you and a few key associates for the ministry’s top priorities and new initiatives. These initiatives are often breaking into new territory, and prayer will provide much-needed direction.
  1. Location-based Prayer Meetings. Gather a small group of intercessors who join with the director to pray for the specific needs of your service locations. If you have multiple locations, you know that each one has unique challenges and opportunities.
  1. Monthly Prayer Sheets. Compile a list of prayer requests covering the full scope of your ministry – from corporate issues to department projects to individual client needs (kept anonymous). These can be snail mailed or emailed, providing a powerful way for prayer partners to engage with God on the ministry’s behalf.
  1. Prayer Flares. Send emails or texts to a designated group of people who want to intercede in the midst of a client crisis. In our ministry, this would typically be prayer for an abortion-determined woman who’s currently at one of our locations.
  1. In the Moment. Seize the chance to pray as needs arise – whether personal or ministry-related. These impromptu prayer times can be one-on-one or with a small group. Create an environment where it’s second nature to turn to the heavenly Father in prayer.

Imagine your ministry as a space ship, and think through all of its various mechanical systems. In ministry lingo, think of the critical success factors – those areas that need to perform well for greatest fruitfulness. Those are the places you’ll want to shore up with ongoing, focused prayer.

God says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jer.33:3). Let’s take Him up on it.

 

What are some of the ways your ministry implements prayer? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

PRAY IT NOW

How many times have you said to an associate, “I’ll be praying for you,” and went on your way without really doing it? If you’re like me, more than you’d like to admit. But our prayers are an invaluable gift to the people we work with. So as leaders, let’s not just say we’ll pray. Let’s do it now.

When I was 26, my mom passed away. She was in her early 50s, and – like every untimely death – it hit people hard. Our mailbox bulged with cards from extended family and friends. Almost everyone said they were praying for us, and I could tell they were. But there was nothing quite like the prayers I experienced in person. I was the only employee in our ministry back then, and my closest associates were volunteer “shift leaders.” A few of them became Rocks of Gibraltar for me through my mother’s illness and death. As we talked together, their prayers soothed and strengthened my grieving spirit.

As much as we all value prayer, there can be a reluctance to pray for someone in the moment.

Why We Don’t Pray In the Moment

  1. We don’t want to intrude or put the other person on the spot.
  1. We’re not sure what to pray, especially if it’s a particularly difficult situation.
  1. We don’t want to appear super spiritual.
  1. We don’t want to stir up the person’s emotions, or ours.
  1. We’re a little shy about putting our prayers out there.

While some of these may be legitimate and we do want to be led by the Spirit when we pray – prayer is simply talking to God. And talking to God on behalf of someone else is powerful and effective (James 5:16).

Ways to Pray It Now

  1. In person. Whenever possible and appropriate, instead of ending conversations with, “I’ll be praying for you,” say, “Do you have a minute right now that I can pray with you?” Most people will say yes, and you can easily shift the conversation and direct it toward God.
  1. In an email. Let’s say an associate sends you an email with an update about a personal concern he’s shared with you. In your response, take a moment to include a simple prayer for him: “Father, give Glenn wisdom and the reassurance that You’re with him.” Write a longer prayer if you’re led.
  1. In a text. Even in the brevity of a text you can write a phrase of prayer for a person who’s just texted you about a challenge they’re facing.
  1. In a card. It’s easy to close our correspondence with words like, “Loving and praying for you.” It’s a bit harder to tune into God’s heart and handwrite a brief prayer. But it’s worth it.

Praying in the moment doesn’t mean you won’t be led to pray later. But it’s an opportunity to lift a brother or sister to the Lord where their spirit can hear from God’s. Because of who God is, praying for someone in person is one of the most powerful things you can do for them. Let’s push our reluctance aside and go for it!

In the Comment Section below, share about a time you’ve given or received prayer in the moment.

THE ROI OF PRAISE

Leaders are bottom line people – rightly concerned about the return on their investment of time and money. So what’s the ROI on praising God as a leader?

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Over the past few weeks God has reignited my heart with praise. The impact on my spirit and soul is measurable. The cloud of concern regarding the busy fall season is gone. At times it felt like an overhead ledge was blocking my view of God. It’s gone too. As I praise God, the “sky of my mind” is open and clear and the view of God is stunning. I’m simultaneously filled with the greatness of God and freed to focus on work.

Praise ROI for Leaders

  1. Presence. Psalm 22:3 tells us God is enthroned on our praises. He draws near. His presence becomes palpable. Just like Moses didn’t want to go into the Promised Land without God’s presence, we don’t want to forge ahead without it either.
  1. Perspective. When we choose to actively praise God, He is magnified in our eyes. He becomes rightfully “larger” and our projects dwarf to their true size. And God provides wisdom to deal with them.
  1. Peace. Just like the grandeur of the ocean or the Redwood Forests brings peace, the grandeur and character of God does as well. It’s better to be at the ocean than to see a picture. It’s better to be with God through praise than to rely on a memory.
  1. Productivity. A mind captivated by God translates into a person able to tackle ministry projects with the presence, wisdom, strength, and joy of the Lord.

The best ROI on praising God is that God is praised. Because of who He is as Lord of lords, God is worthy of our praise regardless of any personal benefits we may receive. But because of who He is as Father, God wants to help us in every way He can. Spending time praising God is one of the best ROIs you’ll ever experience as a leader.

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psalm 34:1

Let’s invest a few minutes engaging with God through this song, Ever Be, by Aaron Shust.

 

How does God bless you through praise? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

HOW TO HEAR FROM GOD

Prudent leaders tune into God and discern His wisdom. But how? And how can we know we’re truly hearing from God? Let’s open the Word and find out.

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One of the first times I sensed God’s voice was on a commuter plane from Philly to Harrisburg. I was a novice flyer, so my fear level spiked when the flight was initially delayed by storms. LONG before the skies were blue, we were directed outside to board. As we stood on the wet tarmac in front of the mosquito-sized airplane, I thought to myself: Oh great, this plane is so small they can’t even connect it to a jetway! And check this out – there are only five steps to climb into the plane, and the railing is rope. Rope – now that’s substantial! Anxiety coursed through my body, so I quoted the verse about God not giving us a spirit of fear… to no avail. The straw that broke my remaining backbone was the miniature propeller perched on the wing.

And then God whispered, “I’ll take you home on My wings, Lisa.”

God’s peace settled over me. I knew those words weren’t my own; they were in direct contrast to my fearful ones. They were filled with hope and strength. Even though there was turbulence straight through that flight, my heart was calm because I’d heard from God.

God designed us to hear from Him. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice… and they follow Me.” In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul explains that the Spirit searches the depths of God, and He reveals to us those things that are “freely given to us by God.” Later on in the chapter Paul writes, “We have the mind of Christ.”

5 Ways to Hear from God

  1. The Word. This is the gold standard for hearing from God. His Spirit teaches us as we interact with the written Word. Scripture should form the foundation for the mission, culture, and direction of our ministries.
  1. A mental impression. God may put a strategic thought for ministry advancement in our minds, or He may prompt us to pray with a struggling coworker. His thoughts will often stand out from our typical flow of thought, making them more noticeable.
  1. An image. God may use something we observe in nature to shed light on a ministry situation, or He may put a picture in our minds as we pray. Ask Him for its relevance, and take time to mull it over as you discern its application.
  1. A conversation. God’s Spirit may highlight certain words another person says because He has a message for us through them. Learn to pay attention to those words and weigh them carefully before the Lord.
  1. A song. God may place a tune in your mind – for me it’s often a hymn. As you reflect on the words, look for phrases that pertain to an aspect of your life or ministry. God may also quicken the words of a current song to you to confirm something He’s doing in your life.

Litmus Test for Hearing from God

  1. Is it biblical? Before responding to what you’ve sensed, look at it through the lens of Scripture to see if it’s in concert with God’s truth.
  1. Does it resonate with others? As you share it with key leaders in your organization, do they concur after prayerfully considering it?
  1. Is it peaceable? Do you have an overarching sense of God’s peace as you envision implementing what you’ve sensed?

God is Spirit, and we worship Him in spirit and in truth. As 1 Corinthians 2 explains, we hear from God in spirit and in truth as well. If you want to hear from God, hide His Word in your heart and tune your ears to His Spirit.

 

How do you hear from God? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

THE BEST LAID PLANS

Planning is a key to successful leadership. But are “the best laid plans of mice and men” destined to fail like Robert Burns’ poem suggests? Perhaps – especially when the plans are solely man-made. The very best plans are laid with God and men. Let’s take a look.

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For years, our ministry did traditional strategic planning complete with SWOTs* and critical success factors. We spent hours at board retreats brainstorming, taping flip chart pages to the wall, and later distilling them into a color-coded chart.

There was nothing wrong with the process, there was just Someone missing at the table.

We’ve learned that God is strategic, He’s a planner, and He has opinions. Good ones. We’ve learned He speaks through His Word and His Spirit, and He wants us to listen. To partner with Him. To obey. We’ve learned to start the planning process in dialogue with God and continue the process in prayer.

How to Plan with God

  1. Honor God. Hands-down, this is the best place to begin. As you elevate God through worship and Scripture, your spirit will soar with His indescribable greatness. He will be glorified and you will be invigorated.
  1. Tune into His heart. God’s ways and thoughts are greater than ours. Take notice of Scriptures, perspectives, and wisdom that come to mind. God knows you’re in a planning mode for your ministry, and He wants to provide input.
  1. Dialogue. Begin talking to God about what you’re sensing, and do it out loud so others can hear. Listen carefully as others pray, taking note of themes that emerge. Continue tuning into Scripture-based thoughts from God. Jot down key concepts and discuss them together to determine which ones God is directing you to pursue.
  1. Write it down. When you’re finished, compile your discernment into an organized plan – much like the one that’s at the top of this page. The difference is, yours will be based on the Chief Planner’s wisdom.
  1. Keep praying. Anytime you review the plan or enact segments of it, continue talking with God and each other. Just because a plan was birthed in the spirit, doesn’t mean we can’t veer off in the flesh. We want to stay close to God, continue hearing His voice, and obey.

During the planning process, it’s tempting to take shortcuts in your time with God. But shortcuts will short-circuit your plan. Better to spend sufficient time with God on the front end than to have a man-made strategy that’s doomed to fall short of God’s intentions.

At our ministry, we discern first and plan second. And all along the way, as we’re executing the plan, we check in with God for tweaks, adjustments, or complete left turns if He says so.

When your annual strategic planning season rolls around, remember: The very best plans are laid with God and men.

*SWOTs is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats which are analyzed in determining critical success factors.

 

In what ways does God form the foundation of your strategic planning? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

WHY EVERY MEETING COULD BE A PRAYER MEETING

A good friend of mine, Bill Velker, heads up prayer at LIFE International. I was talking with his wife recently, and she said, “Bill made little signs for everyone’s desk that say, ‘Every meeting is a prayer meeting.’ He wanted to remind people of the ever-present opportunity for prayer.” The phrase rang true and made me smile.

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It wouldn’t have made me smile 20 years ago. Back then, I heard a ministry leader share that his board often prayed more than an hour during board meetings. I remember thinking, “Well, that’s downright ridiculous. Who does that? Who has time for that? It’s just not practical in the jam-packed world of leaders and board members.”

HOW TO LEAVE “BOOKEND PRAYING” ON THE SHELF (part 2 of 2)

Last week we talked about “Bookend Prayer” – the tendency for leaders to say a quick prayer on the front-end of a project and ask God to bless it at the end. It’s easy to fall into this trap – we’re busy, there’s tons to be done, and we want to see results fast. But when we operate this way, our efforts fall short of God’s purposes and our relationship with Him suffers. Being intentional about relational, discerning prayer will keep us close to God, apprised of His wisdom, and following His lead every step of the way.

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I well remember the days of forging ahead on a wing and a prayer. 

HAVE YOU FALLEN INTO “BOOKEND PRAYER”? (part 1 of 2)

We’re all guilty of it. In the fast-paced world of leadership, there’s plenty to do and not plenty of time. We know we need God’s wisdom, so we fire off a prayer and charge into our project without waiting for His response. When the task is complete, we pray again, asking God to bless our efforts. A friend of mine calls it “bookend prayer.” Let’s examine why it falls short of God’s design for prayer and leaves us short-changed in the process.

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Imagine this scenario. There are three-inch-wide holes and tunnels all throughout the mulch in your flowerbeds. You don’t know whether they’re from voles or moles or chipmunks, but you’re determined to relocate the critters.

HOW TO DISCERN GOD’S STILL SMALL VOICE

Quiet. Stillness. Listening. These aren’t words typically associated with leadership. For most of us words like busyness, charging ahead, and verbal communication characterize our days. While there’s a place for full schedules and important dialogue, there’s also a place for slowing down and listening to God’s perspective. It’s a place where silence becomes golden as we commune with God and glean from His wisdom. Learning to discern God’s voice is a leadership discipline worth developing.

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I’ll never forget the first time I sensed God’s specific direction for our ministry.