Three Levels of Prayer

During times of war, we hear the military terms: logistical, tactical and strategic initiatives.  While these terms describe three levels of military operations, they also describe three levels of prayer.


The focus is on my own personal needs.  It is prayed from a temporal perspective.  If we were to pray before we lead the Sunday morning worship service, and we prayed a logistical prayer, we might say, “Lord, help us to do well this morning.  Help us to finish our service on time, help the microphones to work, and help us to be calm. Amen.”


The focus is on helping others, but is still prayed from a temporal perspective.  If we were to pray this kind of prayer before our Sunday morning worship service, we might say: “Lord, please bless all who participate in the service today, and bless the people who attend.  May it be inspiring to everyone.  Amen.”  This prayer is better than the first one – but still doesn’t fully capture God’s heart and purposes for the world.


The focus is on God’s ultimate objectives for the world.  It is prayed from an eternal perspective.  It captures His heart and purpose rather than mere human purposes.  If we pray strategically before our worship service, we might say: “Lord, raise up disciples from this service today.  Regardless of what happens to the microphones, the musicians or anyone else on the platform, use this service to glorify Yourself and bring Your Kingdom more fully to this earth.  Amen.”

An Example from the Bible…

II Kings 3:5-18 tells the story of the army of Israel just before they faced the Moabites in battle.  It was one more illustration of God’s people missing a pivotal moment because they were caught up in themselves.  Ancient Israel and two allies took their armies through the wilderness to face the Moabite army.  After a week, however, they faced a crisis: they ran out of water.

They decided to go to the prophet Elisha to seek God’s help.  They begged for water.  As the prophet sought the Lord, He responded through Elisha and said in essence, I will give you water, but this is a small thing for Me.  I will also give the Moabites into your hands.

Sound familiar?  In this pivotal moment, Israel asked for the wrong thing.  They saw only the small picture.  They sought only the solution to their immediate needs.  They prayed a logistical prayer.  They prayed for the water, not the war!  Pivotal praying means we perceive crucial moments and how the future hinges on them.

  1. Effective leaders learn to pray UNSELFISHLY.

The fact is most people pray, but most of us pray selfishly.  In 1993 a survey was conducted among 2,000 church attendees asking questions about their prayer habits.  If their answers are any reflection of the general population, we have a lot of room to grow.  The top three prayer subjects of those surveyed were meals, personal and family safety, and personal blessings.  The average person spent less than seven minutes a day in prayer. I am not saying this is evil, only that it is limited in potential.  God yearns to accomplish so much more through our prayers, if we can only get on the same page He’s on!  Based upon your prayer life today, how would you do if you faced a pivotal moment?

  • Effective leaders don’t pursue eloquence, but simply CONNECT with God’s heart.

Pivotal prayer has more to do with the posture of your heart when you pray than the words you choose.  It is the expression of your heart aligned with God’s heart to fulfill His purposes in your circumstance.  It may also be the difference between connecting and not connecting with God.  Not all prayers connect with Him.  Do you remember the Publican and the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14?  One connected with God; the other didn’t, even though is words were beautiful.

  • Effective leaders learn to pray from MISSION, not maintenance.

This is the top reason why leaders need to understand pivotal praying.  It means staying focused on the mission, even in crisis; staying in relationship with God in our prayer time.  Think with me for a moment about Jesus in Gethsemane.  If there was ever a moment He was tempted to shift into idle and pray a logistical prayer, it was in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Hours away from torture and death, Jesus considers the temptation: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me.”   This is a normal reaction to His situation.  However, He then added a strategic phrase: “Yet, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) It was a pivotal moment.  Jesus stayed on mission in His prayer.

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