Finally, Worshipful, not Manipulative
As the final installment, just a few closing comments on worship. It’s a great final element to consider because as a school leader, you likely play a role in setting the tone for worship, leading your teams in worship, and modeling right thinking to the rest of the school community.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
God desires this of you and me. Rejoicing shows we are trusting in him. Praying without ceasing reveals where your trust is.
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2)
What a blessing to be able to pray. We don’t have to pray. We get to pray. We don’t have to repeat it over and over again in order to be heard. We don’t have to cut ourselves or hurt others as evidence of our worship. We get to talk to him. We are able to pray to the only true God. Why would we ever neglect it? Do we show that deep longing to pray?
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:6-7)
Our prayer is not made more effective by anything we do. There are a lot of things we can do to be attentive in prayer – remembering to pray and to be biblical in our prayer. But it’s only God who makes our prayer effective.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
We have confidence not because of how we approach but because the one we are approaching really is seated on a throne. Our business is challenging. When will it get easier? We don’t have a lot of reasons to think that it ever will. So, knowing that, it’s critically important to remember who holds all of the power and how good he is.
Spurgeon said this about prayer, “You are before the Lord; let your words be few, but let your heart be fervent.” That’s a good admonition and a good practice, isn’t it? Remember who you are before.
The Westminster Confession says this about prayer—Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.
It’s pretty straightforward. Three parts or prayer include – requests, confessions and thankful acknowledging his mercies.
Notice what isn’t here—communication in the other direction. And that’s what we see from scripture too. It’s a one-way street. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t communicate. He does—primarily through his word.
So why pray? Why should we pray? We should pray because we have great needs.
“Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me; for I am afflicted and needy.” It sounds obvious to say that we have great needs that should drive us to prayer. But pride blinds us to how needy we really are, so that we rely on ourselves or on other people or on some godless method to get us out of our troubles.
Isn’t it amazing that no matter how incapable we know ourselves to be, human nature is such that we would instinctively rely on our own solutions rather than throw ourselves on the mercy of God—the one who is capable?
These are powerful truths to lead well – especially in our strong and pervasive culture. Our school families and students need good teaching from the top of our schools. Leading well includes spiritual leadership and now, more than ever, our teachers arrive in need of sound doctrinal teaching—what a great opportunity that is.
As God’s children who have great need, we can take great joy knowing that we can pray. With a posture that is not manipulative, unfeeling, assuming or resigned, we can be expectant in submission worshipfully seeking things after God’s own heart.
Paul T. Neal (paul.neal@cace.) is Sr. Vice President for Marketing and Enrollment at Cairn University and co-founder of Charter Oak Research where he serves as Principal and Chief Research Officer. Charter Oak Research is a marketing research and consulting firm focused on resourcing and supporting Christian schools and colleges, other Christian ministries and for profit organizations. Charter Oak brings marketing research to bear on the strategy and tactics of enrollment and advancement needs of clients to improve brand awareness, perception and sustainability. Paul has presented and been published on: the use of normative data in analysis, respondent motives, trends in education and online communities and respondent quality. Prior to founding Charter Oak Research, Paul was a Principal at Olson Research Group for 15 years as well as serving as the Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Federalism at Temple University responsible for qualitative research on political culture and U.S. Public Policy. Paul has served as an adjunct faculty member at several Philadelphia area universities. Paul is a graduate of Eastern (B.A.) and Villanova (M.A.) Universities and attended Temple University for further graduate study.