Most days my morning seems very familiar to Dolly Parton’s famous opening lines from her song “9 to 5.” My cup of ambition and trying to come to life are making my way to my home office where I settle into my chair with my Bible, favorite pen, highlighters, and current reading plan. I pull out my prayer journal and scribble down the names of people who have physical needs, spiritual needs, and needs I can’t fix—taking them to the One I know who can.
My routine is to spend my first thirty minutes of my day in this rhythm, but I still find myself needing to pray throughout the day. It’s not a one-and-done item I check off my to-do list, but rather a conversation that begins in the morning and ends when I lay my head on my pillow at night. There are moments during the day when I close my eyes and pray, but most of the time, my prayer life is one of being aware when I know that my help comes from the Lord. It’s not perfect, and I often feel that my personal prayer life needs improvement.
I don’t think I’m alone. More than seven in ten pastors (72%) say consistency in personal prayer is important, which also makes it one of the top needs of pastors overall.1 If this is a problem for pastors, it can easily be assumed that someone sitting in the pew struggles with this spiritual discipline too.
So, as a leader, how can you develop your personal prayer life to be more vibrant? Why is it important?
First, why you pray as a leader is crucial to the development of your character. It is the means by which you make decisions, connect with the needs of those you lead, and remind you of your own reliance on God. Whether they will admit it or not, spiritual leaders who don’t tend to their prayer life generally focus on what they can do in their own strength and not the strength of the Lord.
Second, when you pray reveals the heart of your leadership. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us to pray constantly. You might begin the day with a dedicated time of prayer, but the multitude of decisions you make each day should be only a prayer away. At times, I find myself whispering a prayer before making a difficult phone call, answering an email, or walking into a meeting where I know I’m completely dependent on the Lord’s direction. As you do this, prayer becomes as natural as anything else you must tackle because you are recognizing God’s presence and providence for what you face.
Third, what you pray as a leader helps you determine God’s will and accept that His answer may be different from your own desires. It’s easy to read John 15:7 which says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you” and believe God is waiting to grant your every wish and yearning like a genie in a bottle. But the right perspective is that as we get to know God through prayer and His Word, our will becomes aligned with His will. We are apt to submit to His answer, knowing it is best and is part of a lifelong process of molding us into His image.
Finally, the posture of a leader’s personal prayer life can develop peace and humility. Last year, I started a new habit of spending the first few moments of my time with the Lord in silence and solitude. My personality is one that likes to jump into the agenda for the day and begin tackling projects as quickly as possible. Yet I have learned how to start the day in a posture of listening to God and not giving Him my laundry list of requests. The practice of solitude and silence reminds me I am not God and that I shouldn’t make my work or leadership position a god. Listening to the birds outside or watching the deer at the bottom of our property gives me a perspective of God’s sovereignty and care. I know the morning silence isn’t going to last long, but when the craziness of a day of leadership begins to wear me down, I often escape outside for a long walk or a quiet place where I can regroup. At times I may listen to worship music or recite scripture, especially the psalms, back to the Lord. Instead of focusing on intercession, I focus on recalling God’s character, His faithfulness, and His goodness.
Are you looking for more ways you can strengthen your personal prayer life or learn more about prayer? Consider going through the new Lifeway Women’s study, When You Pray. Written by a variety of Lifeway’s gifted women authors, this study will give you insight and encouragement as you are strengthened in your faith. For more information about the study and several companion products, visit lifeway.com/whenyoupray.
Kelly is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for Lifeway Christian Resources. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide to Leading Women in the Local Church and contributor to the Lifeway Women’s Bible, as well as the Lifeway Women Advent and Easter studies. In addition, she is the co-host of the MARKED podcast for Lifeway Women. She has a Master of Theology degree from Gateway Seminary and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Ministry degree.
1. Aaron Earls, “Pastors Identify 7 Spiritual Needs for Their Life, Ministry,” Lifeway Research, March 22, 2022, https://research.lifeway.com/2022/03/22/pastors-identify-7-spiritual-needs-for-their-life-ministry/.