When Leaders Pray

In one way or another, we’re all leaders. People will choose to follow (or not) based on our actions, decisions we make, policies we support, or the goals we pursue. Leaders, in this case, suggest those who are leading well, i.e., they are respected and admired. The number of people following is not the point, but if we’re to spread the Gospel to the entire world, at some point, we need to bear the burden of leadership. One other important distinction before we dive in: our overarching strategy is to lead others to Christ, not ourselves. That’s where Christian leadership experiences the most tension. I don’t want you to follow my blog or read my book as a way of honoring me. I want you to read some words that point you to Christ, not me.

We have the incredible fortune to have the Bible at our disposal. I hope my description of The Reading Room made some sense and encouraged you to invest time hearing from God consistently. Throughout the Bible, we read stories of leaders that succeeded and those that failed. There are lessons to gain from both perspectives. Today, I’d like to consider the prayer life of a leader.

Have you ever wondered what effective leaders pray for? In this journey to become more Christ-like, we’re focused on how Jesus led, taught, prayed, slept, rested, etc. In this particular study, I’m biased toward understanding how God cares for those our society has discarded.  It’s my greatest desire to learn lessons from his life that I can put to use in spreading his kingdom on earth. This lofty goal leads me back to Scripture for advice.

In this instance, my mind is drawn to King Solomon. Take a moment and read Psalm 72. I’ll highlight a few verses here, but it’s important to remember that this began as a prayer by Solomon, perhaps the wisest and richest man the world will ever know, one who had everything any man could want. Let’s take a look at Solomon’s prayer.

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
Psalm 72:1

Solomon begins by praying for justice and righteousness, then explains why in the following verse:

May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.
Psalm 72:2

Those under the king’s authority are not his own; they belong to God. These are “your” afflicted ones. Solomon continues this theme throughout the psalm. He recognizes that through justice and righteousness, people are drawn to God. All people.

May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy and may he crush the oppressor. Psalm 72:4

The beginning stanza of this prayer focuses on victory by caring for those who are troubled. Have no doubt, the king expects to honor for his efforts, but why would he mention the needy, the afflicted, the weak, and the oppressed? The reason is simple: God cares for the least, the lost, and the lonely. If he refuses to care for the least of these, can he expect prosperity? Will tribes bow before him and enemies lick the dust?

When a leader leads well, other leaders will follow. And more importantly, the needy are delivered.

For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.
Psalm 72:12-14

When Solomon executes the list above, all will shout, “Long may he live!” He will have earned respect from all people by focusing on the least.

It’s a bit of a conundrum and a slippery slope for those with self-preservation in mind. We should all beware of our internal motivation.

Description of the Messiah

The prayer of Psalm 72 becomes a prophetic message about the coming Messiah and ends with this exclamation1:

Then all nations will be blessed through him,
and they will call him blessed.
Psalm 72:17

The NIV Study Bible notes include this insight:

Later Jewish tradition saw in this psalm a description of the Messiah, as did the early church.2

Many others agree that this psalm provides a beautiful example of Christ. When we look at his earthly ministry, we read about how Jesus was concerned for the needy.

Reread the psalm with Jesus in mind. Go ahead and substitute “Jesus” where you see references to “the king” or other places that refer to Solomon. Here’s an example:

For [Jesus] will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
[Jesus] will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
[Jesus] will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.

For those who are waving the heresy flag, calm down. I’m not rewriting the Bible. Here’s the thought: if we are sincerely trying to be like Christ, our prayers should reflect his nature. If I pray for success in some effort today, I should be praying that Jesus succeeds. My goals, my desires, my motivation should match that of the Holy Spirit that lives inside me.

When our prayer life becomes like Jesus’ prayers, we will lead others to Christ. It might be from a platform, or it might be scooping some food on a plate. We might have a bestselling book or write a note that encourages someone. Large and small, the weight of the impact is disproportionate to heavenly rewards.

Pray Psalm 72 for yourself. Seek to be one that cares for the afflicted more than anyone else. I’m pretty sure the outcome will make Jesus smile.


1Psalm 72 ends at verse 17. Verses 18-20 conclude Book II of the Psalter.
2NIV Study Bible, p.936, note on Psalm 72, Zondervan, 2011.


Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

My prayer is for you to join me on this journey. Subscribe to this blog below to get an email when a new post is available.

Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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