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Fervent, focused prayer is a leader’s greatest asset and primary protection against spiritual attack. Leaders and their families and ministries need to be surrounded by a shield of prayer.
For more than forty years my husband and I have had a prayer shield of personal intercessors who pray for us, stand beside us, and uphold our hands in prayer. In some ways they are more like family than friends. We genuinely love them and enjoy their fellowship.
I remember well an invitation some years ago I had received to go minister in Haiti. I’m a fearless person (probably to a fault), and I have traveled all over the world alone, but for some reason I didn’t have a peace in my spirit to go. Without giving any information, I emailed our intercessors and asked them for their spiritual insight. I was overwhelmed with “NO” responses. Not that the assignment was too much for me, they replied, but the timing wasn’t correct. Good thing I didn’t. The massive earthquake that hit Haiti occurred during the time I would have been there.
God has promised that those who receive a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward. (Matthew 10:41) For that reason, I fully expect that any heavenly reward we earn will be accounted to them as well. Only God knows how much of our spiritual success will have resulted from their labor of love in the prayer closet!
Christian leader, if you don’t have a prayer shield we strongly urge you to ask the Father for one. However, the mistake many leaders make is to solicit people to serve as their people of prayer. Here are three reasons we feel that’s unwise.
1. Mature intercessors will rarely accept a long-term assignment without a sure word from God. They understand that their extended assignments are commissioned by the Lord, knowing that the weight of that level of responsibility will require His grace to complete it.
2. Immature intercessors will often be so flattered by your invitation that they will jump at a chance to have “inside access” to you. In most cases they will become weary after a season, drop out from a sense of guilt and to keep from having to admit failure; this can result in lost church members as well.
3. Some intercessors shouldn’t hold positions related to leadership because they are either wounded warriors, or recklessly independent Rambos who God has “returned to boot camp” for additional basic training. If called into duty, they will present problems for you and your ministry. Why? Because healing and restoration should be their current priority.
Don’t be surprised if those God raises up include some you’d never have selected. But if they are to be effective and remain, I’m sure you agree, they need to be God-called, not man-chosen.
Rather than recruit, ask the heavenly Father for intercessors. He will hear and answer you. Jesus said, “…the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38 NIV). Once you ask, begin to listen closely to what people say to you in casual conversation. You’ll begin to hear comments like, “The Lord has really had me praying for you lately.” Or, “I’ve had you on my heart all week.” You prayed for intercessors, so the Lord called and commissioned them, and revealed them to you.
When you hear those sorts of comments you should reply, “I’ve asked God to give me a prayer team. Do you feel that God is calling you to intercede for me?” If they say “yes,” then add them to your list and begin to share your prayer needs with them. Be careful in what requests you share, for some things are private enough that only one or two special confidantes should know the details.
If you are called to pray for leaders, I suggest the following:
- A leader needs privacy. Some intercessors find it hard to accept that they may not be invited to experience a close personal friendship with the leader for whom they are called to intercede. Partnership and communication don’t necessarily mean “social closeness.” They refer to a function for a purpose. When God told Peter Wagner that I was to be his number one intercessor, God also told him that we wouldn’t have a close personal relationship. It’s true. The assignment was for intercession, but I didn’t see Peter often and still don’t. Bear in mind that human relationships are ever-changing, fluid, and usually temporary. Don’t attempt to impose eternal dynamics on earthly relationships. Don’t look to man for things only God can provide.
- A leader may know little about your calling. Because one is a leader doesn’t mean that he or she is acquainted with the role and calling of an intercessor. There are many assignments in the body of Christ. Intercession is one of them.
- Because of time restraints or the sheer size of their ministry, a leader may assign a staff member to interface with you on a day-to-day basis. That’s biblical. It follows the pattern that Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, gave him for leading the Children of Israel. One person can focus on only so much. (Leader, if you assign this task to a staff member, try to choose someone who is reasonably acquainted with intercessors and intercession, and who will be sensitive to your intercessors’ unique needs.)
- The leader for whom you pray needs your understanding as well as your prayer. Most Christians have no idea the level of pressure that rests on the shoulders of their leaders, who are on-call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Ministry emergencies can interrupt a leader’s day off, even his family vacation. Don’t make unnecessary demands on your leaders. Exercise sensitivity.
- The visibility of leadership means that leaders “live in glass houses.” Leaders and their families are constantly “on trial.” What they do, what they say, what they wear and where they go is continually scrutinized. The prayer warrior is to have their back in all things.
- Spiritual leaders are like commissioned officers in God’s army. They may as well have targets painted on their backs on which Satan’s guns are aimed. We constantly hear of leaders losing their emotional, mental or physical health due to stress and overwork. (Titus 1:7-9) In worse cases, there are those who fall out of the ministry due to sin. True Christian ministry is supernatural. No one can do it, regardless of how gifted or talented he is. Satan will do all he can to drum a leader out of the ministry. Many leaders today are dangerously close to drop out or burn out. And they know they’ll be judged more strictly than others! (James 3:1) So the stakes are high! A leader’s faithfulness influences others. When one falls, the cause of Christ is besmirched and many are wounded. Leaders carry enormous demands and extraordinary pressures that often require solutions that only intercession can provide.
- A leader’s family is also in the devil’s cross-hairs. Satan loves to inflict pain on a leader by causing his or her spouse to suffer accident or illness, mental or emotional distress. Leaders’ children are favorite “bull’s-eyes” for the devil. They are unfairly held to a higher standard than their peers because of who their parents are. Eyes are on them, and Satan knows that ministry anointing tends to increase generationally. Therefore, because the next generation can cause him even greater problems, he’ll work overtime to see that that doesn’t happen.
- Leaders need our love. Christian leaders can suffer rejection and the pain of shattered friendships. Though not necessarily obvious in public settings, some are sheep-bitten, lonely, wounded or depressed from a constant barrage of criticism. And yes, some even lose their lives due to the crushing weight of ministry. We’ve never seen such discouragement on pastors and leaders as we see today. Thank you for your commitment to pray for leaders. I’ve learned over the years that few people can love a leader like an intercessory prayer warrior.