1 Samuel 12:23 “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.”
As I said in a sermon recently, any leader, much less a church leader, who fails to pray for those they lead doesn’t understand a thing about leadership. We tend to think about leadership in terms of getting in front of people and saying, “This is the way! Let’s go!” To be honest, some “leaders” don’t even do that, but get behind people and say, “Go that way!” That’s the very definition of “leading from behind,” and it certainly never works. If enough power is involved there is indeed motion, but it is more slave-driving than leading. I have seen churches that were like that! As Samuel rightly says, that is sinning against the Lord. Even strictly secular leaders need to be concerned for the good of those they lead. If they are honest, they will concede that they don’t always do it right, and if they have any shred of faith, they will pray for wisdom at least. How much more a church leader! Failure to pray for those led is at the very least hubris, pride that thinks it doesn’t need God. Since the Church is the Body of Christ, trying to lead without being in right connection to the Head is like cancer in a physical body, rebellion against the right order of things. Sadly, there are pastors who seldom pray, and who read the Bible only to create sermons that have no life in them. Such pastors are indeed sinning against the Lord whom they claim to serve.
To be honest, I have been slow to come into this understanding of church leadership. I have prayed for wisdom, but that was self-centered, that I would do the right thing. Praying for the flock has been all too low on my priorities. At the same time, I have bemoaned my own “lack of leadership gifting.” I have recognized my Teacher gifting, since I have never hesitated to get up in front of people and tell them stuff, but without humility before God, that can be “stuff and nonsense!” In my school teaching I have started each class by praying for my students, since I don’t have much individual interaction with them outside of class, but ironically, I have been slow to pray for individuals in the church unless they have asked for prayer. How foolish of me! I have bemoaned the fact that they weren’t the disciples of Christ that they could be, but I haven’t prayed enough to that end. As I have been preaching the current series on prayer, I have been preaching to myself! Ironically, I think I pray for other churches and for world situations more than I pray for individuals under my care, and that’s not right. I’m not to neglect the other prayers, but I am to lift up those in my own flock, especially since they don’t belong to me, but to my Lord.
Father, thank You for this clear Word. Help me follow through! You know each individual need far better than I do, so I have no reason to hesitate to let Your Spirit guide my words. Even as You have had me preach, help me be a fully useful tool in Your hands through prayer, so that Your name may be acknowledged as holy and Your kingdom come as Your will is done, in and through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!