John Adams, the first president to have the privilege of living in the White House was a great leader and a great man of prayer. One of the first things he did upon moving in was to write a prayer that was later engraved on the mantel of the state dining room. America’s God and Country shares this prayer, “I pray heaven to bestow THE BEST OF BLESSINGS ON THIS HOUSE and All that shall hereafter Inhabit it, May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof.”
One of the greatest leaders this country has had was President Abraham Lincoln. His ability to lead a nation through a civil war with the potential to destroy the unity of America was demonstrated just after the Battle of Bull Run where the Union Army was defeated. He could have been defeated himself, but instead, Lincoln declares a National Day of Prayer and Fasting. America’s God and Country records his intention, “It is fit and becoming in all people, at all times, to acknowledge and revere the Supreme Government of God; to bow in humble submission…in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and to pray, with all fervency and contrition, for the pardon of their past offenses, and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower was not only our countries 34th President; he was also the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II. Also from America’s God and Country, we learn that after watching 3000 naval ships sailing to Sicily, knowing these men were going to fight under his personal order, “He (Eisenhower) saluted his men, then bowed his head in prayer. To the officer next to him he commented, ‘There comes a time when you’ve used your brains, your training, your technical skill, and the die is cast and the events are in the hands of God, and there you have to leave them.’”
So many of our greatest national leaders were men of prayer. James 1:5 reminds us, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” It is my opinion a leader always prays. It is through prayer that one receives wisdom from above. There will be leaders who do not make it a practice to pray. They will not receive wisdom from God, but instead will receive worldly wisdom. While this might bring them success for a time, true success and true leaders seek wisdom, protection and guidance from God through prayer.
In Numbers 6:22-26 we read about the Lord giving instruction to Moses about what to say to Aaron. He gives the instruction to make a plea to God to bless the children of Israel; “…Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’” God sets a standard for a leader to pray over and for his people.
We see another example of one of God’s leaders praying. In this case it is before a battle. It is a cry for help. 2 Chronicles 14:11-12 says, “Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, ‘LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.’ The LORD routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.”
We read many examples of the Prophets of God who prayed. These great leaders offer many examples of effective leading and praying. We have the amazing story of Daniel. Daniel was a man who trusted in God with all his heart. A beautiful prayer begins in Daniel 9:4, “I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments…’”
When faced with the trial of choosing to pray to God or to save himself from certain death by denying his responsibility to acknowledge and praise God through prayer, he chose to pray. Daniel 6:10 says, “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.”
Daniel understood all blessings come from God and to deny Him would be to lose everything. It did not matter to him earthly wisdom of the day prevailed. He realized his reward would be from God. After God saves Daniel from the mouths of the lions, the king gives God the glory. Furthermore, Daniel is exalted as a leader among the people. Daniel 6:28 reveals, “So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” God uses great men of prayer and often exalts them as leaders.
Ezekiel prays to God for mercy in Ezekiel 9:8, “As they were striking the people and I alone was left, I fell on my face and cried out saying, ‘Alas, Lord GOD! Are You destroying the whole remnant of Israel by pouring out Your wrath on Jerusalem?’” Ezra remembers to pray to God for forgiveness. Ezra 9:6, “and I said, ‘O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.’” Elisha has so much faith he asks God to blind an opposing army in
2 Kings 6:18, “When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, ‘Strike this people with blindness, I pray.’ So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.” God answered this leader’s prayer.
Another example of a man of prayer being exalted to be a leader among God’s people is Kind David. We have more of David’s prayers recorded than any other person in the Bible. The book of Psalms is filled with various prayers to God. There are so many things a leader can pray about and David can teach so very much about devotion to God through prayer.
Sometimes David cried out to the Lord for deliverance or safety. Psalm 3:7-8,” Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God! For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; Your blessing be upon Your people!”
Sometimes David was begging for forgiveness. Psalm 6:1-5 is a wonderful example of David praying for forgiveness, “O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away; Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O LORD—how long? Save me because of Your lovingkindness. For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks?”
David sets a good example of a leader praying for all who are following him. In Psalm 4:6, “Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD!”
Often David was simply in awe of God and was praising Him. Psalm 8:3-9 reads,
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!”
Then other times he humbly prays because he is so very thankful. 2 Samuel 7:18 says, “Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, ‘Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?’” We can see out of the humility exhibited by David, God exalts him to be the King of His people and the direct ancestor of Jesus!
Finally, God requires certain things from the leaders of His church. Elders of the Lord’s church are required to be praying men. James 5:14a, “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him…,” Also, James 5:16b says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
In conclusion, as I stated before, in my opinion a leader always prays. A leader can and should pray for many reasons. A leader can pray for godly wisdom. A leader can pray for deliverance or safety for him and for those he is leading. When a leader stumbles, he can pray for forgiveness and mercy. A leader can pray to let God know he is in awe of Him and give his praises to Him. A leader can pray because he is thankful. A leader of a local congregation, an elder, can pray for those God has entrusted him to oversee. A leader who prays will gain the wisdom which comes from above and he will, in turn, successfully lead his followers where God would have them go.