“Never mistake activity for achievement.” Keeping busy doesn’t mean that progress is being made. In mentoring youth or men, the same is true. We can fill schedules with meetings, take them out for dinner, suggest books, do Bible studies, or take trips, but at its core, a Mentor must pray for his protege’s. Two things strike me about the prayer life of Paul:
- Paul prayed for future leaders. During their first missionary journey through the province of Galatia, Paul and Barnabas circled back through the towns they had just visited and appointed (cheirotoneo) elders for the churches that they had planted. These men were committed (paratithemi – literally the word means to “lay down for” or “place”) to the work of the Lord and men whom Paul and Barnabas trusted to lead the church. Paul understood the importance of the leadership in the fledgling churches of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, and he bathed those commissions in fasting and prayer (Acts 14.23). During the third missionary journey as Paul and his team are traveling around the archipelago of Greece, he longs to speak with the men whom he spent two years with in Ephesus. Ephesus is kind of like Grandma’s house, you don’t just stop for 2 minutes, so Paul has them meet him in Miletus (Acts 20.17). When the Elders arrived, Paul gave them a final commission and training. They knelt and prayed together because they knew they would never see his face again (Acts 20.36-38). In his last bit of training for the eldership of Ephesus, Paul prays. Finally, as Paul is headed toward Jerusalem, his ship docks at Tyre (Acts 21.5). In the city Paul finds some disciples who urge him not to continue onto Jerusalem. Paul will not be dissuaded, but before he leaves he prays with the disciples and with their families. The people Paul leaves places are always covered in his prayers. Perhaps he was just doing what was modeled for him by the disciples and Elders in Antioch (Acts 13.3). Mentoring is about training people and then releasing people to use that training. Training people to do what you do and them letting them do it. It is our responsibility as mentors to pray for the people we are training.
- Paul’s prayer life was consistent. Paul’s prayer life was of all things consistent and continual. When he writes to his Trainee Timothy: “night and day, I [Paul] constantly remember you in my prayers.” (2 Timothy 1.3), he writes not as an isolated instance but as a spiritual habit of praying. Spending time in prayer is not something that ebbed and flowed with Paul. After Jesus appears to him on the road to Damascus, Paul spends three days praying waiting for Ananias to show up (Acts 9.11). He and Silas prayed through the night in the prison at Philippi (Acts 16.25). Throughout his letters, Paul’s prayer life and teaching is on display: to the Ephesians, “I haven’t stopped remember in you in prayer” (Eph 1.16) and “pray on all occasions” (Eph. 6.18); to the Colossians “I haven’t stopped praying for you” (Col 1.9); to the Thessalonians, “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5.17) because we “constantly pray for you” (2 Thes. 1.11); to the Roman Christians, “at all times I remember you” (Romans 1.9-10) and “be faithful in prayer” (Romans 12.12); and to Philemon, “I always thank God as I remember you in my prayers” (Philemon 4). Paul displayed a passionate prayer life to the churches and the disciples. Consistently he was in prayer for the people and for the churches. Randy Gariss, pastor of College Heights Christian Church had this to say about the importance of prayer in the leadership, “You don’t want to be part of any church where the leadership doesn’t regularly fast and pray together!” Paul was reliable in his prayer life, knowing that prayer would have the greatest influence on the people he was leading. Prayer for the people we are leading takes the least amount of effort on our part, but returns the greatest gain in their life. Letting God take control of the situation, bending His ear constantly, and offering up our followers to Him, will accomplish more than any of the lessons we give. If we want to lead the next generation of leaders, and answer the question “Who’s Next?” we must make sure that we are mentors and leaders who pray. Constantly they must be covered in prayer, daily they must be lifted up, and continually we must display for them a life devoted to prayer.
With a mentoring relationship comes the commitment to pray for your disciple daily, asking God to direct and guide them, to work in their lives and transform them, to teach them and to encourage them. Prayer needs to be a top priority within the mentoring relationship.
To often, especially in mentoring relationships, life can run renegade. It gets away from us as we plan meetings, teach lessons, and invest in our relationships with those we are pouring into. Let’s not forget that we have our own lives to lead, families to manage, and work to do. Often the first thing to go is our prayer time. There is a great statement in the middle of the Book of Daniel, which demonstrates the kind of prayer life that we as leaders need to cultivate. Daniel 6.10-11: “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room were the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men came as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.” If someone wanted to catch you praying, could they? Would they be able to find me, as a leader, in consistent prayer for the next generation of leaders?