As summer comes upon us meeting requests dwindle, camp dates skyrocket, and we find ourselves running on empty. Meeting after meeting has been filled with people sharing their current state of prayerlessness or confessing that their minds wander when they are trying to enter into the presence of the Lord. Ministry leaders have been charging full-speed ahead all-year long, and while some folks may have less on their plate, summer is the season of “go, go, go” for the worship leader. J. Oswald Sanders says in his book, “Spiritual Leadership,” that “the spiritual leader should outpace the rest of the church, above all, in prayer.” Prayer accomplishes more than we know and certainly more than we could accomplish on our own. The time we dedicate to it shows it’s importance in our lives.
Lately, the Lord has been gracious to remind me that what I do is a gift. He doesn’t have to invite us into the week-in and week-out ministry of the local church, but He does. He didn’t have to call us by name and entrust a people to us, but He did. He doesn’t have to give us the grace for hard conversations or the energy for Sunday service after a chaotic week, but He does. Despite imperfections and tired bodies, He has chosen us to lead people and He has fixed the season of time for us to do it. In a busy season it can be easy to forget who we lead and why we love them. Thankfully, we don’t do it alone.
The writings of Paul always provide a convicting and encouraging challenge to lead well and the practicals to move toward faithful stewardship of our people no matter the season. One of my favorite letters from Paul is to the church in Philippi. This letter captivated and challenged me in a new way this year, specifically chapter one. Paul is writing to a bought-in church and its leaders, encouraging them to persevere and press on. He is writing to the saints but specifically calls out the people who did what we do — the shepherds, the overseers. In 30 verses he gives us an encouraging passage that also serves as a template for authentic leadership.
Prayers of Thanksgiving
How often do we thank God for the opportunity to lead His people each week or thank God for the kids at that camp in the middle of nowhere? Paul is faithful not only to write letters and send co-laborers to his beloved churches, he prays for them! While they are far away he thinks of them and he says that as often as they cross his mind he is praying for them, thanking God for their partnership in the gospel. As worship leaders the demands of leadership can run us ragged, and being drained can lead to thoughts of frustration. Praying prayers of thanksgiving fuels us to love our flock well and combats the bitterness and resentment that sneak into our hearts when we feel overwhelmed. Surrender any ounce of bitterness and frustration to God, it has no place in servant leadership, and ask Him to stir in you continued prayers of thanksgiving for the men, women and campers he has called you to lead and love this summer.
Prayers for Endurance
Paul says it is fitting for him to feel this joy and thanks for the Philippians because they are partakers with him in grace. God’s people are to be valued and fought for — they are the people, along with us, for whom Christ endured the cross and it is fitting that we hold them in our hearts. Paul cares so much for the perseverance of these people that he pleas with the King for it, asking “that your love would abound more and more with all knowledge and discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10 ESV). This is a prayer that cares for the believer deeply as they seek to obey the greatest commandment, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 ESV). Ask the Father that the people you lead this summer would see their love abound more and more, growing in the knowledge and wisdom of heavenly things so as to prepare them to stand face-to-face with Jesus.
Prayers for Salvation
Unlike Paul writing to the Philippians, we aren’t always leading believers. Many of our campers and weekly church goers aren’t sure what they think of Jesus yet. We certainly have reason to thank God that He has brought them into the presence of his Spirit in those gatherings, but before we ask for endurance of their faith we must first ask that they would receive faith.
It’s easy to haphazardly pray that many of those you lead this summer would come to know Jesus but it is another thing all-together to beg for it on their behalf believing that Christ can and desires to accomplish it. We see this so clearly in the life of our Savior who “offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears.” If God in the flesh pleaded with the Father to move how much more should we?
Take a moment to set the tone for your summer. Along with your bands, ask God to make you a thankful leader who wars through prayer for the endurance of believers and the salvation of those who don’t know Christ. This is a unique opportunity that should not be wasted. We won’t be traveling worship leaders forever but God has called us, in this brief bit of time, to love and lead this portion of his bride. Nineteenth century British preacher J. H. Jowett said “True intercession is a sacrifice, a bleeding sacrifice.” If we’re doing it right, prayer will take a lot out of us. We should feel the weight of our intercession and as leaders we should gladly bear the weight — offering up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the only One who has the power to change hearts and redeem lives.