Read any good management book and you will find a list of the responsibilities of leadership.
Among them will be setting strategic direction, ensuring effective teamwork, establishing efficient processes and communication, and moulding culture. Add into the mix the components of emotional intelligence: self-awareness; self-regulation; motivation; empathy; and social skills and we surely have a cocktail for success?
Whilst we have much we can learn from research into effective leadership there is one vital ingredient for the Christian that is missing from these ‘success’ recipes – strategic prayer. Many believers seem unaware of the spiritual battle that is present in their workplaces. Whilst we increasingly recognise that our Christian faith is expressed through the work we do, the products and services we deliver, the way we relate to our colleagues and customers, and our impact on the culture of our organisation, we can fail to recognise that the enemy will be actively working to prevent this. His job description is to rob, kill, and destroy and that includes sabotaging our work.
Strategy is needed wherever there is a goal to be achieved or a battle to be won. That strategy includes an understanding of how the enemy operates. The enemy we face is father of lies (John 8:44) who delights in sowing deception and confusion. He attacks our thought-life with doubts and self-condemnation, undermining our trust in God. He is a legalist (Eph. 4:27) and so will take advantage of every opportunity that sinful behaviour and actions afford him. He is a devourer (1 Peter 5:8), prowling round looking for any areas that are undefended or weak. And he is a destroyer (John 10:10) – a destroyer of teams, a destroyer of fruitful work, a destroyer of good customer relationships, a destroyer of creativity, a destroyer of all that is life-giving and enhancing in our organisations.
The Apostle Paul warns us: ‘Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12). In pointing out that our struggles are not against ‘flesh and blood’ Paul implies that it will always look, on the surface, that the issue is caused by people. To see below the surface, we need to pray. ‘Not to pray is not to discern – not to discern the things that really matter, and the powers that really rule’ (P. T. Forsyth, The Soul of Prayer). Warning signs that the enemy is at work include fear, discouragement, confusion, factions and jealousy, illness, scarcity, and isolation.
Whilst there is no blueprint for how a leader should pray strategically for their areas of responsibility, we need to recognise and use the weapons in our armoury. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. Spiritual battles cannot be won with the earthly weapons of power, control, and manipulation. Our God-given weapons may seem weak, but they have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)! These weapons include:
- Prayer and fasting. Every leader has the responsibility to intercede for those under their authority, asking for God’s protection over them and provision for them. Paul’s letters evidence his continual prayer for the churches he founded. Jesus continues to intercede for us (Romans 8:34).
- Declaration. Declare what God says over your team or organisation. This can include biblical promises of blessing, fruitfulness, and protection that God has given to his people, or specific prophetic words you have received. God’s word is powerful and cannot fail.
- ‘Prayer walk’ your organisation praying blessing and asking God for eyes to see what he sees. Ask also that you might recognise the hand of the enemy and his strategies to undermine your leadership and your work.
- Wisdom and discernment. Every leader needs both the wisdom to set direction and the discernment to align with God’s timing. Why not sign up for our next prayer journey: ‘Wisdom for Life’, being launched this October?
- Humility. Humility and wisdom go hand in hand. Humility comes from the realisation that all of life, including our work, is about trust in God. This will be evident not only in our praying, but in the patience to wait for his leading.
So let’s re-write our lists of leadership skills and attributes by recognising the importance of spiritual intelligence – the wisdom to recognise that our workplaces are a spiritual battle ground, but it is a battle God equips us to both fight and win!
Want to grow in wisdom for your work? Sign up for our ‘Wisdom for Life’ prayer journey, also written by Bev Shepherd.