Christian leaders need to be people of prayer.
Perhaps no verse more powerfully communicates this to me than John 15:5:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (emphasis added)
This verse first pierced my heart as a twenty-year-old when I reflected on a campus leadership position I had at the Christian college I attended.
I desperately wanted to honor Christ and influence others toward Him, but learned the hard way how to damage relationships by trying to force-feed them what I thought was best—I tried to do the work of the Holy Spirit. Reading Jesus’ words “you can do nothing” at the close of the year seemed to be a fitting description of the recent fruit of my labors for the Lord. I quickly learned that I couldn’t bear fruit apart from abiding in Christ.
We abide in Christ in many ways: meditating on Scripture, obedience, enjoying Christian fellowship, and prayer. In prayer we not only abide in Christ, but cast our utter dependence on Him. This is why Christian leaders need to be people of prayer. If we want our work and ministry to stand the test of time and bear eternal fruit, we can’t do it on our own.
While Christians can lift up thousands of different prayers for their leadership, I have found it helpful to daily focus my prayers on the following things:
1. To be humble.
Humility should be a chief mark of every Christian. For leaders to act in a genuinely Christian way, they need to exemplify humility in their leadership and personal lives.
Humility in leadership means:
- Being teachable.
- Not to think of yourself more highly than you ought (Romans 12:3).
- To be dependent on the Lord, knowing that you can do nothing of lasting worth without Him.
- To lead with those you are serving in mind.
- To listen to the input of others and not strong arm people with your opinion.
2. To be Word-fed.
Abiding in Christ means letting His Word abide in you and guide you. It is a contradiction for a Christian leader but not submit his or her life to what the Word of Christ says. Leaders need to have their hearts, minds, and wills nourished by God’s Word, and seek to create an organizational/ministerial culture shaped by God’s revealed truth.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
3. To be Spirit-led.
Leaders can be knowledgeable in the Word but have a major disconnect with how it influences their daily actions and outlook. Leader: do you seek to discern the Spirit’s leading in your life/ministry? Do you obey promptings to talk to certain people or change your plans when the situation seems to call for something different? We were never meant to lead alone. God has given us His Spirit to always be with us (Matthew 28:20) and wants us to lead beyond our abilities in the Spirit’s wisdom.
4. To be a servant leader.
Leaders serve others. Whether you are a Sunday school leader serving middle schoolers, a leader in an organization serving your target audience, or a pastor serving a congregation; you are a servant. This should be at the core of our identities as leaders and followers of Christ, the Suffering Servant who gave His life in service to God and for our benefit.
5. To be a servant.
No, this is not a repeat. I want to make the distinction between a servant leader (who leads in front of others) and a servant (who will take on the heart of a servant even when others do not see their service). This is where true servant leadership starts: a heart dedicated to the Lord enough to give himself to the King’s service no matter what rewards may come. (This is also a mark of kingdom greatness—see Mark 10:43-45.)
A short prayer for godly leadership
Lord, feed me in your Word and lead me by your Spirit to be a humble servant in front of you and in front of others for your glory.
What else would you add?
- 5 Questions to Help You Grow as a Servant of Christ
- 4 Leadership Lessons from a King Who Finished Poorly
- The One Thing that Can Destroy Evangelicalism from Within
A version of this post originally ran in May 2015.