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When leaders pray

There is a commercial running now with actor Mark Wahlberg suggesting that we pray. More than a suggestion, however, for he also leads a prayer. It’s a powerful ad made more significant because Wahlberg is a leader in Hollywood. I don’t know the depth of his faith, but I do know that the act of praying like he did is a strong leadership moment.

He is using his celebrity status for something bigger than himself.


I hope you believe in the power of prayer. I do. I’ve seen miraculous things occur in my life that I can only attribute to God's response to prayer.


Prayer is a privilege. An invitation to converse with the Almighty. It is not some esoteric mumbo jumbo or big words spoken in King James English. Prayer is a dialogue with God about life, hopes and dreams, joys and fears, and a call for His presence.


Anyone can pray. We do not gain entrée through our status in life. Yet there is something decidedly unique when a leader prays. Someone vested with authority over things, events, people or some high office can approach prayer with a different authority.


A leader’s prayer can be powerful, serving as both an example and a service. The leader who prays recognizes that despite his/her position of authority, there is still some greater power with even more authority. A leader’s prayer can be service, example, leadership, and humility all at once.


I am mindful of this as I read about the latest statue ensconced in National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Every state is allowed to send two statues to the Capitol to represent their place in U.S. history, and North Carolina sent a statue of Billy Graham.

The base of the statue contains John 3:16 and a summary of the Gospel. It will also include John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”


Graham passed away in 2018 just short of his 100th birthday. During his ministry, he led more than 400 “Crusades,” on-air events, and rallies in more than 50 countries. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association notes that he preached the Gospel to an estimated 215 million people.


Perhaps less well-known was the fact that he prayed with world leaders on a regular basis. Billy Graham prayed with every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. He didn’t just pray for them, he prayed with them, which is far more significant. Graham knew the enduring value of a leader who prays.


There is an old saying that “as goes the king so goes the country.” People respond to leaders that actually lead. In Joshua 24 we’re told that as leader of Israel Joshua stood in front of the people and said that they could “choose this day whom they will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” His call made a difference leading to the rededication of the nation.


U.S. history is replete with praying leaders. George Patton once commissioned his chaplain to draw up a prayer for divine intervention and fair weather for battle. The chaplain thought this highly irregular but drafted a short prayer on a notecard and presented it to Patton, who was pleased and ordered 250,000 reprints, adding his signature to the prayer so the troops would know that he had prayed it himself as their commander. He made sure that every man in the Third Army got a copy.


He didn’t stop there. Patton asked the chaplain to exhort the troops to pray. The result was the Patton prayer directive issued out to Third Army’s 486 chaplains telling them to encourage the men in their care to:


Pray when driving. Pray when fighting. Pray alone. Pray with others. Pray by night and pray by day. Pray for the cessation of immoderate rains, for good weather for Battle…Pray for victory. Pray for our Army, and Pray for Peace.

President Dwight Eisenhower also encouraged prayer, issuing the following proclamation:


Saturday, July 4, 1953—the one hundred and seventy-seventh anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in firm reliance on God's transcendent power—as a National Day of Penance and Prayer; and I request all of our people to turn to Him in humble supplication on that day, in their homes or in their respective places of worship. With contrite hearts, let us pray for God's help in solving the grave problems which confront us, and render thanks to Him for watching over our Nation throughout its history.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt once issued Bibles to all of the troops as their Commander in Chief. It contained a letter with his signature that said:


To the Armed Forces:As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries men of many diverse faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspiration of the human soul.Very sincerely yours,Franklin D. Roosevelt

Here's the thing: your lot in life is not the issue. There is going to be something, some time, that you are in charge of—your business, your troops, your household, your marriage, your classroom, your whatever—and when you are in charge of anything, you are vested with a different authority. Praying over that which you have been put in charge of, no matter how big or small, carries a unique and different significance.

Leaders who pray make a difference.


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