Of all I have read about how to be a super-ninja-hip Christian leader, one of the fewest emphases I’ve seen is this: Leaders are intercessors. Or, at least they should be.
1 Samuel 7:8, “And the people of Israel said to Samuel, ‘Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.’”
The people of Israel urged Samuel not to cease to make intercession for them that the Lord would intervene, saving them from their oppressors / attackers.
I fully understand that we do not live under the same dynamic as Israel, that the nature of the Kingdom is less hierarchical and that every believer is a priest. In Christ, each of us can and should come to the Lord in prayer on our own, for our own concerns, and have gratitude and confidence that our prayers matter to heaven.
However, there remains a leadership principle here.
Samuel was their leader. They trusted him; he served them. And what they asked of him was to pray for them. Specifically – to “not cease to cry out to the Lord for them.” Regardless of the differences between contemporary settings and the religious system of ancient Israel, this remains true: part of our calling and responsibility as Christian leaders is to pray for those we have the responsibility to serve. They need us to; we need us to.
The examples are blazon. Jesus, our Lord, Savior, High Priest and King interceded for His followers, and for those that would follow them. He prayed so much and so often in secret that we don’t know what and how He prayed. But what is recorded for us in John 17 is sufficient to know that He interceded for us before the cross. And Hebrews 7:25 affirms that Jesus is still interceding for us – in whatever mystical manner that implies.
Paul interceded much for his churches. Each letter from him contains includes the contents of just some of his prayers. A casual reading of his letters leaves no question that the Apostle understood it was his apostolic responsibility to “not cease” crying out the Lord for those he led.
Furthermore, with Samuel, Jesus and Paul – those for whom they prayed were aware that their leaders were praying for them, and (at least somewhat) aware of what their leaders were praying for them. The same should be true for those we serve. They should know we are praying for them and even what we are praying.
Consider how important this is and what effect it has.
First, there is the effect that prayer has – period. Prayer matters. It makes a difference. Heaven partners with praying leaders. Samuel’s prayers mattered – they helped secure the Hand of the Lord to save Israel from the Philistines. Jesus’ prayers matter (nuff said). Paul’s prayers mattered – and have for 2000 years. Our prayers matter. No, not necessarily more than the prayers of those we serve. But they DO MATTER. Our prayer – our intercession – over the lives of those entrusted to our leadership is sacred currency to heaven. Our prayers matter over our children, our friends, our staff, our students, our teams, our churches and our organizations. The first and greatest responsibility for any and every Christian leader is pray over and for everything and everyone under their responsibility.
Further, there is the effect that knowing they’re being prayed for has on people. How do you suppose the readers of the epistles felt when they read Paul’s prayers for them? How were they encouraged? How was their faith informed? What did knowing the content and passion of Paul’s prayers for them do to help them feel the love and commitment Paul had toward them? People really appreciate knowing that their leaders are praying for them (obviously this is truer in organizations where there is a shared, corporate faith. In secular contexts, it may not be plausible or even proper for people to know leaders are praying for them. But we should pray none-the-less). Sometimes I have observed that the more specifically people know what we are praying for them, the greater the impact it has on them. They appreciate it more deeply and more encouraged. People want and need to know we’re praying for them.
Finally, there is the effect that praying for those we lead has on us. When leaders intercede for those in their care, they tend to care more. Praying for those we lead keeps the heart of the leader connected to the perspective and passion of heaven. It protects our perspective from the influences of carnality, competition, and conflict. Praying for those I lead keeps Heaven’s purposes for them in my heart and on my mind. And Heaven’s purpose must be my singular goal. I cannot lead well anyone for whom I have not prayed well.
Therefore, leaders of whomever and whatever you lead – do not cease to cry out to the Lord for whatever and whomever is in your care. It matters.
Thanks for reading (and for leading, and for praying)
Thanks for reminding me to specifically pray for my students. I pray daily on my way to work that God’s radical love would fill me and pour out onto my students. Thanks for your encouraging words to help me pray for their heart needs! I needed to hear this!