Reflections on Prayer and Leadership from Oxford Club

Saturday morning of last week our men gave their early morning to a vigorous discussion centered in chapter 11 of Oswald Sanders’ book Spiritual Leadership. The title of the chapter is Prayer and Leadership.

Every one of us resonated with the opening quote in the chapter:

If I wished to humble anyone, I should question him about his prayers. I know nothing to compare with this topic for its sorrowful self-confessions.

One of the questions in the study guide for the day asked us to consider what obstacles conspire to keep us from praying. We came up with an imposing list of things that war against the call of Scripture to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).

Among them were:

  • a misunderstanding of the Reformed faith (if God ordains everything why pray?)
  • laziness
  • busyness
  • sleepiness
  • lack of a plan to pray
  • lack of trial or difficulty in one’s life that compels one to pray
  • idolatry – worshiping the gift over the Giver
  • unbelief
  • pride
  • self-sufficiency
  • lack of biblical training and education
  • distractions
  • spiritual warfare
  • unconfessed sin
  • isolation (limiting our praying to only a private discipline)

We discovered no lack of impediments to the challenge to live as men of prayer as we seek to lead in whatever spheres of responsibility God has called us to steward.

While we worked to identify obstacles we also sought to list various helps for overcoming those things. Among the more helpful hints we shared these (I’ve added some others):

  • put prayer into the schedule
  • join a prayer group
  • go to bed earlier
  • utilize lists (like the directory/prayer list as one of our elders reminded/exhorted us on Sunday)
  • pray on the spot with people who share a request
  • pray Scripture back to God
  • use the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) as a template or pattern
  • repent of unbelief and pride
  • get an accountable partner for prayer
  • read some good books on prayer (like D. A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation – available on our resource table on Sundays)
  • memorize Eph. 6:10-20
  • keep short accounts with God
  • change postures (go for prayer walks if you can’t stay awake on your knees by the bed)

Sanders says that a spiritual leader should outpace the rest of the church, above all in prayer. None of us disagreed with that proposition. But if John 15:5 is true, that apart from Him we can do nothing, should we not, leader and follower alike, seek to excel in prayer as a means of grace?

The answer, of course, is yes.

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