Motivation (4)


Do you take a Sabbath from your writing. I recommend that you take one if you can. I say, if you can, because many of you write while maintaining a real job. And you won't write much if don't write in every free moment you can muster.

After retiring from active pastoring, I began trying to write full-time. At that point God was convicting me of not having taken days off or taking enough time for spiritual and physical renewal in my 40 plus years as a pastor. So I begin my full-time writing with a Sabbath. I don't write or work on my writing from Friday evening to Saturday evening. I have found it rewarding in a number of ways.

First, I have not had to deal with burnout. Most of the time I chafe because I feel like I have not got enough done by 6:00 when I quit on Fridays. Frankly, this keeps me motivated. The break always refreshes my passion. I am usually anxious to get started again on Saturday night. Of course, we are often doing family things on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Those things add to my motivation rather than distracting me.

I also gain inspiration in a Sabbath. I do not necessarily recommend that you stop thinking about your writing while taking a Sabbath, whenever you try to take it. But some of my best ideas come when I am not thinking about writing at all. If I didn't discipline myself a little, I would hardly ever have a time I was not thinking about my writing.

Finally, and most closely related to Biblical observance of the Sabbath, by taking a break I acknowledge that God is the source of all writing. I show that I am trusting Him to help me think. I am asking God's help in finishing what I working on. A Sabbath declares that everything I am, and have, and do comes from God. I give it to Him much like I worship with a tithe of our income.

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The Motivation of Prayer

There are many legitimate motives for praying. But it is important for us to remember that the ultimate purpose of prayer is the purpose of life for a believer. I have written before on Psalm 27:4. It has been a powerful encouragement in my life. This is one of the Scriptures that shines light on the purpose of prayer. It reads,

"One thing have I asked of the Lord. That will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple."

The first purpose of prayer is life-long intimacy with God. David asked to live in the house of the Lord. Even when we come to God with needs, we must first seek God's nearness in our suffering, in distress, in need. His promised nearness, intimate fellowship with Him in Jesus, is better than the relief of our suffering. Recognizing God's presence erupts into worship. We are not to come to God simply because we desire good things He may give us. We come to gaze in wonder at His beauty. He is the heart and focus of joy."

And we come to inquire of God. Inquiring in His temple does not mean we listen to God so we can decide if we want to follow Him. We seek God's wisdom so our thinking, and indeed our lives, will be transformed in His presence. This may be something you struggle with. What is the point of prayer if I am to pray for His will rather than mine? But self-centered prayer misses all that is ultimately good and right and satisfying in life.


Let me ask you who read, to pray for my blog. I believe what I have written today and on other days is crucial for your prayer life. Next week I will write on being prayerfully alert for opportunities to speak about Christ. And I have begun writing a blog for the week after that, on praying about things we cannot understand or accept about God. This is actually part of the book Spiritual Intelligence that I hope to publish this year. Pray that God will use these truths in our lives.


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Three Strategic Prayers for Our Spiritual Leaders (Part One)

I am not much of a bowler but I know that it is virtually impossible to get a strike if the ball does not hit the head pin.  Satan is a calculating and destructive enemy of God’s people.  He knows how essential it is to eliminate pastoral leaders in order to decimate the church and thwart the work of the Gospel.

Yet, we can all make a powerful difference in opposing the attacks of the enemy.  Samuel Chadwick wrote, “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion.  He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” Oswald Chambers agreed: “The prayer of the feeblest saint who lives in the Spirit and keeps right with God is a terror to Satan.” When we pray for our leaders, we counteract Satan’s attacks and play a vital role in the advancement of Christ’s cause.

Paul’s Word on Why, How, and What

Paul understood this, which is why he often called on the churches to pray for him.  In Romans 15:30-33, we find one of the less familiar but most powerful appeals for prayer.  This passage offers vital guidance for us all as we intercede for our spiritual leaders.

As Paul wrote to the Romans (probably from Corinth), he reflected on his planned visit with them on his way to Spain.  First, he was going to deliver a love gift to the persecuted believers in Jerusalem, which he had been collecting among the gentile churches.  He knew his serious need for prayer support in these ministry endeavors so he appealed to the believers to pray for him.

Why We Pray for Spiritual Leaders

In Romans 15:30 Paul writes, “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me.”  Most obvious, we see Paul’s basic encouragement to pray when he says, “I beg you.”  The Greek, “parakaleo”, simply communicates Paul’s effort to come alongside these believers, urging them to pray.  But there is something even deeper here.

Paul writes, “through the Lord Jesus Christ.” Certainly we pray, only because of the finished work and present intercession of Christ (Hebrews 7:25, 10:20-22).  Most literally, Paul is urging us here to pray because of our regard for Christ.  As the Amplified reads, “for the sake of our Lord Jesus.” Our prayer for pastors and missionaries must ultimately be motivated by our love and worship of Jesus Christ because it is His name, His cause, and His glory that are at stake.  When we are Jesus-worshipers we will also be reliable, passionate intercessors for our leaders.

Third, Paul says that we should pray “through the love of the Spirit.”  The most literal interpretation of this phrase speaks of our love FOR the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  Prayer is a vital part of supernatural power and Gospel advancement.  Because we love it when the Holy Spirit is working in extraordinary ways, we should commit our hearts to pray for our leaders.  If we are dissatisfied with the level of spiritual power in the pulpit or ministries of the church, our love for the Holy Spirit compels us to pray for a greater manifestation of His presence and work. 

How We Pray for Spiritual Leaders

Paul’s appeal for prayer intensifies as he continues with this urgent appeal: “Strive together with me in prayers to God for me” (v. 30).  This is not a casual word about shallow, short, simple prayers.  The Greek work here is sunagonidzomai, which communicates the idea of agonizing with another person in the midst of an intense struggle.  Paul is asking them to join him in feeling the weight and warfare of all he is facing.  This is a heart of real intercession.  Yet, we are so often casual and complacent in our prayers for leaders.

The late David Wilkerson, a pastor and founder of Teen Challenge, spoke about our need for a greater sense of spiritual anguish in a powerful message (see “Anguish” by David Wilkerson on YouTube): 

“Whatever happened to anguish in the house of God? Whatever happened to anguish in the ministry? It’s a word you don’t hear in this pampered age.  Anguish means extreme pain and distress – the emotions so stirred that it becomes painful; acute, deeply-felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you.  Anguish...the sorrow and agony of God’s heart.”

He continues, “We’ve held on to our religious rhetoric and our revival talk, but we’ve become so passive.  All true passion is birthed out of anguish.  All true passion for Christ comes out of a baptism of anguish.  You search the Scripture and you find that when God determined to recover a ruined situation He would share His own anguish for what God saw happening to His people.  He would find a praying man and he would take that man and literally baptize him in anguish.”

This month, as we recommit to pray for and support our church leaders, let’s ask Christ for a fresh sense of intensity.  He is worthy of our passionate intercession.  Our love for His Spirit’s supernatural work compels us to pray.  As we do so, we can feel the serious nature of the work of the Gospel and agonize in His presence as He shares His heart with us, for His glory.

(Part two will outline three specific prayer targets to pray for on behalf of every spiritual leader.)


A full sermon on this subject is available at Strategic Renewal.  Along with the DVD, you will receive a group study guide and a special interview with Pastor Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals.  Go to

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Kick-Starting Pastoral Leadership in Prayer

By Daniel Henderson

One of the greatest challenges in creating a strong prayer culture in a church is getting the senior pastor and the leadership staff to make prayer a priority in the life of the congregation. One church that has succeeded in doing this is WoodsEdge Community Church in The Woodlands, Texas.

Six years ago, Senior Pastor Jeff Wells would have described his ministry as a typical church that made plans, then asked God to bless them. Today prayer is fuels every aspect of the church. This change in direction came about because Wells and his team took some very specific steps to make prayer a priority.

• Honest evaluation.

Pastor Wells and his leadership team spent time at a retreat in candid discussion and prayer as they considered what their prayer commitment should be versus what it was in reality. They compared their behavior as leaders and a congregation with the biblical standard set by the early church in the book of Acts, which saw prayer as the main work of ministry. After this time of assessment, the WoodsEdge leadership team called the entire church to three days of prayer and fasting as a first step toward charting a new direction with prayer at the center.

• Accountable redirection.

As a result of their time in retreat, the leadership team committed to emphasizing prayer. They began by setting clear expectations for what their own examples in prayer should be among the flock. They also redefined the role of elders to comply with the principle of Acts 6:4 to give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Practically, this worked out in several ways. First, the pastors committed to spending an hour a day in personal prayer with the Lord. Then the weekly staff meeting changed from a business and communication meeting to a worship and intercession meeting. Now the pastors and staff take a full day of prayer offsite several times a year. The pastors also recruited personal intercessory teams to pray for them and their families.

• Shared experiences.

Wells and his team read and discussed key books on prayer; a couple of their favorites were Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire and Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. In each case they talked about how the points these books raised, both inspirational and instructional, could apply to their context. They even took a trip to the Brooklyn Tabernacle, which Cymbala leads, for that church’s well known Tuesday night prayer meeting. Other prayer experiences they shared as a church included prayerwalks and concerts of prayer. The leadership declared a prayer emphasis for 2009, encouraging the congregation to raise the bar of their personal prayer lives.

• Communication.

Wells let the congregation know about this new commitment to prayer via the pulpit and emails. He also began multiple communications monthly teaching on prayer and clarifying the leadership’s vision.

• Consistent, visible practice.

The pastoral staff and elders began leading the Wednesday night prayer service, which had consisted of prayer after the worship team rehearsal. Over time the service grew. Today the prayer gathering begins with an optional hour of solitude during which people can come to the altar, pray at their seats, join a prayer group, or receive prayer from a prayer partner. The heart of the service begins with over 30 minutes of worship. Wells then leads 45-minutes of prayer that focuses on personal needs, ministry concerns, and other issues that the Holy Spirit puts on his heart. Other leaders are available to pray with people and often will lead in prayer as they focus on specific issues.

• Sustaining systems.

Approximately three years into the prayer emphasis, the church hired a full-time pastor to coordinate the prayer ministry. Doing so ensured proper training, communication, and organization for the prayer service, various prayer emphases throughout the year, and other weekly prayer events. Some of the changes Wells believes the church has experienced directly because of prayer include people sensing God’s presence more strongly, the church having more impact on the community and internationally, and some members experiencing physical healing.

Today the church’s website declares that the most important service of the week is the midweek, church-wide prayer experience, and a foundational statement in the church’s vision statement says, “We long to become a church that is a great house of prayer.”

DANIEL HENDERSON is an author, president of Strategic Renewal (, a professor at Liberty University, Pastor of Prayer and Renewal at Thomas Road Baptist Church (Lynchburg, Virginia), and a facilitator who travels to more than 35 venues a year, equipping pastors and churches in prayer. His most recent book, Defying Gravity - How to Survive the Storms of Pastoral Ministry (Moody) was written to encourage pastors in their spiritual leadership journey, which includes a vital focus on prayer.

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