Praying Our Way Through Ministry

I’m so pleased by the North Alabama Conference United Methodist Prayer Summit. It’s to be held once again this year at Sumatanga on January 24-27, beginning on Monday morning. If you are a pastor, I hope that you will join in this intense experience of pastoral prayer.

This gathering pleases me because (1.) I had nothing to do with its institution – Paul Lawler and Robin Scott are among those who created the Prayer Summit a couple of years ago, and (2.) my own ministry in North Alabama has reawakened in me a conviction that Christian leadership is so demanding that it can only be undertaken in prayer. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Christian leadership is a form of prayer.

You may have heard me recall that the morning I was elected bishop, an older, experienced bishop whispered to me – as I sat in shock on the stage at Junaluska – “Friend, you have just improved your prayer life.”

It was true. The work that Jesus calls us to do is more than that which can be done through good technique, savvy leadership skills, or even wise corporate management. As Jesus said to his disciples (when they had failed at Christian leadership), “this sort of thing can’t be done without prayer.” (Mark 29)

Therefore our prayer, as Christian leaders, ought to be for the wisdom, strength, insight, inspiration, and empowerment to do the work that Jesus calls us to do. No Christian ministry can be done alone. We ought to pray for ministries that are so demanding, so difficult, that without the constant blessing of, intervention of, and will of God to make them work, they will fail miserably.

Without the empowerment of prayer, ministry too easily degenerates into that which can be achieved by merely human effort. What Jesus calls us to do cannot be done except by miraculous divine intervention. Therefore, we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done right now, on earth, in Alabama as it will, through your saving work, one day, forever in heaven……Amen.”

Will Willimon

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