Summary: 4th in the series "Patterns for Prayer." This sermon explores the link between prayer and leadership--prayer by and for leaders.
In his "Diary and Remembrances" the Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden recorded a conversation he had with a Quaker named Potts. Snowden recalled:
"I was riding with Mr. Potts in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania near to the Valley Forge.. Mr. Potts was a Senator in our State & a Whig. I told him I was agreeably surprised to find him a friend to his country as the Quakers were mostly Tories. He said, that was so and admitted he was a rank Tory once, but something very extraordinary converted me to the Good Faith!" "What was that," Rev. Snowden inquired. ’Do you see that woods, & that plain? It was about a quarter of a mile off from the place we were riding, as it happened.’ ’There,’ said he, ’laid the army of Washington. It was a most distressing time of the war, and all were for giving up the Ship but that great and good man. In that woods I heard a plaintive sound as, of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling & went quietly into the woods & to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching Him to intervene with His Divine aid, for the cause of the country, of humanity & of the world.
’Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying.
’I went home & told my wife. I saw a sight and heard today what I never saw or heard before, and just related to her what I had seen & heard & observed. We thought it was the sign of God, that America could prevail.’ "He then to me put out his right hand & said ’I turned right about and became a Whig.’"
Why do you and I find that story appealing? Because it’s a stary about a leader who took seriously his responsibility to pray.
I think that Christians understand instinctively that there is a connection between prayer and leadership and I’d like to explore that connection with you this morning as we look at how the first believers understood it.
The first thing that I think is unmistakable in their approach is that they recognized the...
Priority of Prayer & Preaching for Leaders
vv. 2-4 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey shares an appropriate story: Suppose you were to come upon someone working feverishly to saw down a tree in the woods. "What are you doing?" you ask. "Can’t you see?" comes the impatient reply. "I’m sawing down this tree." "You look exhausted!" you exclaim. "How long have you been at it?" "Over 5 hours," he replies, "and I’m beat! This is hard work." "Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen the saw?" you inquire. "I’m sure it would go a lot faster!" "I don’t have time to sharpen the saw," the man says emphatically. "I’m too busy sawing."
We have too often fallen prey to this dull blade. We are busy, in constant motion. Our calendars are full. But the blade is dull. ("Prayer Changes Everything By Don R. Spradling")
Prayer sharpens the blade of ministry. Our Lord knew this; yet with all the demands on Him, He went aside to pray. Time and again throughout His ministry even as the needy throngs crowded around begging for His touch, Jesus broke away to pray. He modeled this priority to His closest followers and we see that they heeded His example in our text today.
Nevertheless in many churches today (particularly in small churches) people expect and pastors comply with a completely opposite paradigm. People want their leaders to do all the visiting, all the comforting, all the caring. The problem is, when we buy into that model, the ministry of the church can reach only as far as the pastor’s arms. The Biblical model is a different one. Ephesians 4:11 says that pastors have been given to the Church to equip or prepare God’s people to do the work of the ministry. It’s just like the Apostles said here--Our priority is to the teaching of the Word and Prayer, Help us find other leaders to lead in works of service, to care for the immediate needs of the people so that we can do the ministry God has called us to.