How to Leave "Bookend Praying" on the Shelf (part 2 of 2)

Last week we talked about “Bookend Prayer” – the tendency for leaders to say a quick prayer on the front-end of a project and ask God to bless it at the end. It’s easy to fall into this trap – we’re busy, there’s tons to be done, and we want to see results fast. But when we operate this way, our efforts fall short of God’s purposes and our relationship with Him suffers. Being intentional about relational, discerning prayer will keep us close to God and apprised of His wisdom.

I well remember the days of forging ahead on a wing and a prayer. In one situation, we were brainstorming about how to reach career-savvy, abortion-minded women through radio ads. We talked about their worldview and put ourselves in their mindset. We decided to write upbeat, snappy ads that appealed to their professionalism. When we wrote them, we were impressed with their polish and pizzazz. The problem was, when we aired them no one responded.  

This was when God was first teaching us to bathe projects in prayer, and we realized we hadn’t done that at all. So we reconvened and talked to God about these women. As we prayed, God brought the verse to mind about overcoming by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). We envisioned ads that included brief staff stories of unplanned pregnancy or abortion, recorded in their own words. Through prayer, God laid out a much wiser approach. He wanted us to appeal to the maternal heart He placed within these women, instead of trying to connect with them on a professional level. There was a marked increase in phone calls following those God-inspired ads.

3 Ways to Grow in Relational, Discerning Prayer

1) Cultivate a 24/7 heart for God. Many of us have a well-established time with God at the beginning and/or end of our day. But God desires round-the-clock communion with us – whether a simple acknowledgement of His presence, a cry for help, or an in-depth time of relational connection. Ask God to give you fresh, life-giving rhythms for staying close to Him. (Todd, please underline “life-giving rhythms” so it clicks thru to How to Have True Leadership Confidence, part 6 of 7, Cultivate Life-Giving Rhythms.) Intimacy with God is the paramount pursuit of your life and the foundation of your leadership.

2) Be intentional about seeking God’s heart and mind. If we’re quick to ask for wisdom but don’t spend time with the Wisdom-Giver, we’re likely to miss out. But God wants us to know His will, and He readily shares His perspective with us when we set aside time to be with Him. As a general rule, the greater the problem or project, the greater the season of prayer should be. Far from being a time-waster, prayer is a time-saver that enables you to do the right things in God’s way.

"Far from being a time-waster, prayer is a time-saver that enables you to do the right things in God’s way."

- Lisa Hosler

3) Give God time to speak and lead. In the rush of our days, we can blitz right through important prayer times. But when we linger in prayer, God begins to fill our thoughts with His own and direct our ways according to His. He can do this through Scripture that becomes prominent in our thinking, a theme that emerges when we’re praying with others, a word-picture that brings clarity to the issue, a brand new idea that comes to mind, etc. As with any type of discernment, test your leading against Scripture, wait for confirmation from others, and move forward in prayerful obedience. 

I think we can all agree that “bookend praying” is best left on the shelf. Instead of reaching for that quick non-fix, let’s gather some ministry comrades, pull some chairs into a circle, and spend some quality time with our heavenly Father. 

God is both relational and missional. He desires relationship with us first and foremost, and He delights when we seek Him in order to accomplish His will.

How have you grown in relational, discerning prayer? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

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