The Praying Leader
As I recently read through the life of King David in the Holy Bible, a phrase kept coming up that caught my attention: “and David inquired of the Lord.” I saw the phrase several times. [1 Samuel 23:1-3; I Samuel 30:8-9; II Samuel 5:17-21; II Samuel 5:22-25] In each of these passages, David asks for divine help regarding leading military campaigns. Each time God answered David.
As Christian leaders, do we inquire of the Lord like David did in the areas in which we lead?
Inquire when it’s a big decision.
Christian teaching instructs us to ask God in the big and small things. If you are like me, you may be late to work and cannot find your keys, so you stop and pray, “God, help me find my keys.” I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. One way I see God is as I see earthly mentors. I can ask my mentor to help me remember the name of a person we both met—an easy ask—that’s okay. But if I fail to ask my mentor when I have a pivotal decision to make, like a big business purchase or a partnership consideration, I would not be very wise. I would not be honoring my mentor and our relationship. I never want to miss asking God in the big decisions of life and leadership.
For years, I have entertained the idea of adding a pharmacy to our clinics. We have looked into it before, but it has never happened. Last week, while on a mission trip in Egypt, I met a Christian pharmacist entrepreneur who seemed very interested in discussing the option. For us, this decision would be big! It would really improve patient care, but it would also add more liability and complexity to our organization. It is in these big moments, I need to inquire of the Lord.
You might ask me, “Wes, is the Lord your business advisor, here to make you more successful?” My answer is this: I have dedicated everything I have to Him. Everything I own, everything I do—He can have it all. It is there for His glory. It is there to be used for His service. Yes, my Father loves me enough to help me in business, just as He is there to help me find my lost keys.
In the Bible, Solomon teaches us to acknowledge God in all our ways, and He shall direct our path. What are some big life or leadership questions you have before you right now? Do we have the spiritual discipline to stop and inquire of the Lord in our big decisions, and then listen for the answers?
Inquire, even if you have had success or have expertise in an area.
As a Christian physician, leader, and entrepreneur, I have experienced a lot of successes, as well as many failures, which have become life lessons. I work with a world class team. I feel confident. I am rarely afraid of big decisions. When they come my way, if they are in my strength zone, my predisposition is to quickly decide and make a move. In these cases, my instinct is not to stop and ask the Lord for advice. On the other hand, I am naturally inclined to bring to the Lord my problem issues, things that are not going well, especially when they fall into my areas of weakness. As we study the life of King David, we see that he inquired of the Lord in both instances, even when the decision was in his areas of strength and previous success.
By the time David became King, he had proven himself as a warrior and strategist many times over, demonstrated himself as a successful leader of people, and moreover as a person whom God was with. The enemy was clear (the Philistines). God’s people, whom he was defending, was also clear (the Jewish people). Even with all of that, he still inquired of the Lord. But David, you should have enough confidence, previous success, and expertise to make this decision without God’s help. No. David inquired. And God answered him.
I want you to read this text from the Holy Bible. (I highlighted where David inquired of the Lord.)
17 Now when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. 18 The Philistines also went and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim.
19 So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.”
20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there; and he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water.” Therefore he called the name of that place Baal Perazim.
21 And they left their images there, and David and his men carried them away. 22 Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. 23 Therefore David inquired of the Lord, and He said, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees.
24 And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” 25 And David did so, as the Lord commanded him; and he drove back the Philistines from Geba[c] as far as Gezer.
In this text, we see that even though David had just won a victory against the same foes, David came up again and asked the Lord for wisdom. This is astounding to me. When I experience a victory as a leader, my tendency is to march forward with confidence without asking anyone, especially not God, for advice. Not only did God give him a yes/no answer, He gave him tactical help.
May we seek God in our big decisions as leaders. May we inquire of Him repeatedly. May we realize that even in our areas of strength and previous success, it is God Who will ordain the win as He guides our lives forward.
But I cannot hear His voice.
On my recent trip to Egypt, I attended a session taught by a missionary friend, for whom I have great respect. She taught about seeking God in the difficult decisions of life. She taught from the life of Abraham and Moses, revealing how they trusted the Lord and waited to hear from Him. After the session, she opened the floor for questions. The first two questions were from ladies who asked, “I want to trust in God, but Abraham and Moses heard God audibly. What if I don’t hear Him audibly?” As we talk about inquiring of God as leaders, if you have this question, which is natural to have, allow me to offer the same answer my missionary friend gave.
- We have the Holy Spirit.
- We have the Holy Scriptures.
- We have Godly people around us.
By the way, I was waiting to see if my missionary friend would answer that she heard the audible voice of the Lord. I thought, maybe He speaks to missionaries who dedicate their lives to Him. She said that she also does not hear an audible voice. (Not that He can’t, or that He doesn’t, but He does not have to.)
I ask myself, Why did God love David so much? The Bible says, “And the LORD preserved David wherever he went.” This is a question for us to ponder. But here is a possible answer. I believe David loved the Lord—just read his poems and songs in Psalms! I believe that inquiring of God for help came from his intimate relationship with God. It also arose from a spiritual discipline by which he refused to move before inquiring of the Lord when things mattered.
I pray that in your spiritual formation as a leader that you will carve out a significant place for God and that you would inquire of Him in all of your decisions, even in your areas of strength and previous success.