In all honesty, my greatest struggle as a young leader had always been prayer. I knew that I was supposed to pray, but I didn’t quite understand why or how it worked. Never was my faulty prayer life more apparent than one night during college after a late football practice.
During my last training camp at Idaho, I had really come into my own as an elite level player. During the spring game a few months earlier, I had rushed for and received over 100 yards each. The draft talk started rolling in and there was a buzz around campus. One practice in August I caught a deep ball over the middle and broke for the end zone. I was ripped down hard and landed on my shoulder. I couldn’t move my arm at all. I hobbled off the field and got checked out by the trainer. After practice I saw a doc who suspected that I had torn a ligament, which meant major missed time, possibly a good chunk of the season. I was horribly discouraged. I couldn’t even lift my arm and was in a great amount of pain. That night, I sat outside of the camp dorm with my then girlfriend, and now wife Sarah. Sarah Played volleyball at Idaho and got out of practice the same time I did. We met and I expressed my discouragement. Sarah grew up in the church, as her father is a Pastor, so she asked me if I had prayed about my shoulder.
Nearly to tears, I scoffed and said, “I can’t pray, God is probably busy doing something else. He doesn’t have time for this.” Sarah got upset and said that God always has time to answer a prayer. That night she prayed for my shoulder. I climbed into bed not being able to move my arm. I took a few anti-inflammatories the doctor had prescribed for me and dozed off. I awoke the next morning to a surprise. I felt absolutely no pain! I was able to lift my arm over my head again and was back at practice the next day! The trainers couldn’t believe it. I learned something about prayer that night. God is a good father who loves his kids. And just like a child asking dad to go to the park or for a scoop of ice cream, our Father in heaven loves us and desires to give us those things we ask for. At the same time, God knows what is best for us, and if our prayers conflict with His will or what is ultimately best for us, then He will act accordingly.
Now, my prayer results are not always typical. God does not always act in the miraculous, but He can and does answer prayers. A developing young leader should work on their prayer life frequently. This means they are praying everyday for a multitude of reasons. Scripture often talks about prayer and Jesus himself prayed more often than anyone; and if Jesus prays, how much more do we need to be in touch via prayer? Here are some other key ideas regarding prayer:
1. Pray Before Decisions
Before beginning His ministry Jesus prayed and fasted for 40 days. He knew what ministry had in store for Him and a solid connection to the father was crucial to his spiritual life. Jesus prayed before nearly all big decisions, including before selecting the twelve men that would become His disciples. Do we pray before all decisions? The typical young leader response is yes. But do we pray hard? Or do we pray briefly and then make a decision and hope that God blesses it?
2. Pray For Yourself
Many think prayer is something you do for other people when they are struggling. As a young leader, praying for yourself will be crucial to your longevity in ministry. Asking God to keep you healthy, keep your family happy and help you work hard are all prayers God desires to answer. Being in touch with the Father about your own well-being is one of the biggest and best investments you can make.
3. Pray For Repentance
Perhaps the most important prayer to pray is one of repentance. We are imperfect and will sin against God and one another. The good news is God gives us all a shot at redemption. All we need to do is repent and believe in Jesus as our Savior. Too many leaders minimize their day-to-day sins. They write off their attitude by saying “that’s just the way I am” or “you made me mad so I had to sin.” The young leader should take responsibility for their sin and repent to God faithfully instead of blaming their sin on their socialization or other people.
4. Pray For Your Critics
We will touch on this more later in the book. The fact is if someone is criticizing you or simply does not like you, then it is worth bringing it to God. The chances are you will not be able to handle enemies on your own and we need God’s help. Perhaps God can begin to work in their lives and perhaps you can find some peace of mind knowing your father who is in heaven will handle the situation.
5. Get Some Peace And Quiet To Pray
Silence and solitude is one of the best ways to be in touch with God. Jesus himself sought to be alone and silent while He prayed. Jesus prayed early in the morning before everyone was awake to pray. He would also seek out time in nature to pray as well. More often than not, He sought to be alone because He knew how crucial silence is to connecting with the father completely.
6. Work On Your Devotionals
While prayers and devotionals are not exactly the same thing, meditating within your devotionals can help a prayer life exponentially. A devotional can be a few verses that one works through followed by a meditative prayer, or it can be a written work by some Godly people that can inspire thought, repentance or praise. A few of my personal favorites are Dr. John Piper’s Taste and See, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening.