September 8, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 6:12 (NRSV)
Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When Jesus faced substantial challenges or needed to make key decisions, he spent time in prayer. If the Son of God found it helpful to talk with his Heavenly Father in such times, shouldn’t we do the same?
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
When I was in high school, my Young Life chapter sponsored a fund-raising 12-hour volleyball marathon. I was excited to be part of this adventure. So I got a bunch of people to sponsor me for a certain amount of money for each hour I played. Then, on the appointed Friday evening, my Young Life pals and I gathered at our school gym for the marathon. Beginning at 7:00 p.m., about 30 energetic high schoolers were playing volleyball. Being young and foolish, I played hard, trying to win each point.
By midnight, however, my zeal for victory had subsided. I had to focus on staying awake and in the game. Hours later, around 5:00 in the morning, there were about six of us left. Nobody had the strength to do anything but serve the ball back and forth. No returns. No brilliant saves. No awesome spikes. In fact, our serves generally went under the net, not over it. We were desperately trying to make it to 7:00 a.m., the magic time when our marathon would be over.
That volleyball marathon was my first experience of pulling an all-nighter. I confess that, in college, I did this sort of thing regularly, not to play volleyball, but to get my schoolwork done on time. I can still remember the feeling of finishing a term paper as the sun rose in the morning, a combination of relief, exhaustion, and self-incrimination. I would swear that this was the last time I’d pull an all-nighter, a vow that was good until, well, the next time I had to stay up all night to finish a paper.
In Luke 6:12, Jesus pulled an all-nighter. As far as we know, he wasn’t finishing a carpentry project or preparing an assignment, though, curiously, shortly after his all-nighter Jesus delivered his so-called Sermon on the Plain. (Maybe he did work on his speech during his nighttime vigil). Luke tells us, however, that Jesus “went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.” Jesus filled his all-nighter with what we might call a “prayer marathon.”
Don’t you wish you knew what Jesus prayed? Wouldn’t it be amazing to have heard what he said and what he heard from his Father in heaven? Unfortunately, Luke doesn’t give us the specifics of Jesus’s prayer, just the location (alone on the mountain) and the time (all night).
The context of Luke 6:12 does suggest a couple of things Jesus probably mentioned as he prayed. In verse 11, we’re told that the Jewish leaders were furious with Jesus for healing on the sabbath and discussed what they might do to him. Perhaps Jesus needed to talk with his Father about the growing opposition he was experiencing.
Immediately following his prayer vigil, Jesus called together his disciples and chose twelve of them to have a special role in his work. Luke says he named them “apostles” (6:13). It seems likely that Jesus had prayed about this act of identifying particular leaders, including whom to include in this intimate band of followers.
Though Luke doesn’t reveal exactly what Jesus prayed, we would surely be wise to pray when in similar circumstances. If, for example, you are facing opposition to your leadership, rather than reacting impulsively, why not take time away to pray in depth about the problem? Moreover, if you have the responsibility for forming a new team, or hiring someone to join your existing team, wouldn’t it make sense to talk at length with the Lord? Team-formation and hiring are, after all, two of the most important actions of a leader.
I don’t think we all need to start pulling all-nighters in order to be wise, godly leaders, though there might well be a time for this practice. But, if we follow the example of Jesus, we will devote substantial time to prayer, talking with our Heavenly Father about the challenges and major decisions we face. If prayer was so central to Jesus’s practice of leadership, surely it should be an essential element of our leadership as well.
Can you think of a time (or times) in your life when you pulled an all-nighter? What was the occasion? What was it like for you?
In what ways do you pray as a part of your leadership? Do you have regular prayer practices?
Do you ever take an extended time away for prayer? If so, what have you experienced? If not, why not? Might this be something you’d like to do?
Talk with God about how you might pray more actively and intentionally for your leadership. Decide to do something specific in response to this conversation with the Lord. Then do it.
Gracious God, thank you for Luke, who gives us a glimpse of Jesus in prayer. Thank you for the encouragement this is to us as we seek to lead in a way that honors you.
Teach us to pray as leaders. May prayer permeate our thinking, feeling, and acting. May we discover how best to set aside special times for extended prayer. In those times, we ask that you help us to be attentive to your Spirit, so that you might guide us to walk in your ways. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Lead Through Prayer (Devotional)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.