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PRAYER - THE FIRST TASK OF THE LEADER


Nikol Baldacchino

Nikol Baldacchino is the Chairman of the National Service Committee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Malta. He is also a member of the ICCRS (Iinternational Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services).

"Look at the torch!" screamed the multitude of spectators when Muhammad Ali carried high the Olympic Torch in the Atlanta Stadium at the beginning of the 1996 Olympic Games. There is something hypnotic about fire, especially one that has endured the hardships of time and distance to burn brightly. These series of articles, which I have been invited to write, are about yet another torch, one which has been handed off in a solemn relay for nearly 2,000 years.

"You are the light of the world," Christ told his first band of disciples in Matthew 5:14. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (v. 16).

I have met many "torches" in my life. Christian leaders, both men and women, from many different countries, whose burning passion was to glorify the Father and lead his people to the true light of the world, Jesus his Son. Through their example, I have been ignited with the zeal to serve the Lord. I pray that the same thing will happen to you as you read these articles.

J. Oswald Sanders, an English Preacher, defined leadership as, "an influence, the ability of one person to influence others. One man can lead others only to the extent that he can influence them." But this definition concerns leadership in general. Whether you are coaching a football team, working as a manager in a factory, or leading a prayer group or a Christian community, you have to influence others. Thus Sanders continues, "The spiritual leader, however, influences others not by the power of his personality alone but by that personality irradiated and interpenetrated and empowered by the Holy Spirit." Therefore, we cannot generate or produce spiritual leaders. You cannot make yourself a spiritual leader. You will be able to influence others spiritually and lead them to Christ only if you have been called to do that job, only if you are filled with the Spirit of Christ, only if He is working in you and through you.

There is a very basic principle in leadership: you can influence and lead others only as far as you yourself have gone. The most likely person to be successful is not the one who leads by pointing the way. The leader who succeeds is the one who will say to his followers, "I have walked this way, come and join me!"

You will be a leader in as far as you inspire others to follow you. And I believe there is nothing that a leader should be ahead of his followers more than in the realm of prayer. Let me state it quite clearly, you can never be a leader if you are not a person of prayer. Ultimately, there is no greater power to move people for God than the example of a holy, godly life.

I was impressed by reading an article about Pastor Paul Yonggi Cho's Church in Korea. He says that his church has 12,000 new converts per month. He was once asked by a local pastor why was it is that Cho's church membership was 750,000 and his was only 3,000 when he was better educated and preached better sermons? Cho asked, "How much do you pray?" The pastor said "Thirty minutes a day." To which Cho replied, "There is your answer. I pray three to five hours per day!"

Some years ago I was overwhelmed when I read a survey carried out in America. This asked a simple question to the pastors of Protestant Churches and other free-churches. How much time do you spend every day in prayer? On average, the answer was 22 minutes per day. Meanwhile, the same survey was carried out in other countries. In Japan Christian pastors pray 44 minutes a day, and in China 120 minutes a day!

One can come to an easy conclusion. The growth rate of any Christian denomination, group or community is directly proportional to the amount of time the leaders are spending in prayer. Prevailing prayer is a vital, albeit the most vital, job of a leader. I believe that all the other qualities needed for leadership - vision, courage, preaching, good judgement, etc., - depend totally on it. I consider that the leader's work needs to be born out of prayer in every area of life and at every point of activity.

Answering the question, 'how do you have a revival?' Gipsy Smith, a man used by God during the Welsh Revival at the beginning of this century, replied, "Kneel down and with a piece of chalk draw a complete circle all around you - and pray to God to send revival on everything inside the circle. Stay there until he answers, and you will have revival!"

So maybe your group or community is passing from a difficult time, or maybe it is not growing or you have relational problems, ask yourself this simple question, "am I praying enough for my group?"

I was recently challenged by a provoking statement which said, "Jesus prayed for his enemies, and you don't even pray for your friends!" I had to again revise my schedule to increase my prayer time. I had to start praying more for my wife and children, my colleagues in ministry, persons who told me to pray for them, the people that I will meet during that particular day. The list is long. And the more busy I am, the more I realized I had to pray.

One of my most beautiful experiences in my life is when with some other leaders from the Charismatic Renewal were invited to attend a mass with Pope John Paul II in his private chapel at the Vatican. What impressed me about this man of God is the way that he takes prayer seriously. When we arrived in the chapel, he was already there kneeling down in prayer. He stayed there for nearly half an hour. And then the mass started. One could notice that the Pope was continuously in communion with God.

And I remember saying to myself, "If this man who is so busy, with the responsibility of the whole church on his shoulders, takes prayer so seriously, how much I should also be a man of prayer!"

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