How Much Time Does the Above-Average Leader Spend in Prayer?

Rick-Warren-Book-smallI’ve never considered being called average a compliment. I think it means you’re just as close to the bottom as on top.

I don’t believe God meant for you to be average. I don’t think God meant for you to live a so-so or bland, mediocre life. As a leader, I don’t think God intends for you to be an average leader.

I believe every human being was designed for excellence—that you’re not one in a million; you’re one in 5 billion. And as the book In Search of Excellence states, “The average person desires to be excellent in many different ways.”  There is no one else like you in the universe.

As pastors and Christian leaders, one of the key elements in our pursuit of being an above-average leader is having an above-average prayer life. I want to share some big lessons from the life of Jabez about the prayer life of an above-average leader.

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Jabez is a man who literally stood out in a crowd. There isn’t much written about him in the Bible. In 1 Chronicles 4, you find a couple of sentences about him in the middle of a bunch of genealogies. In the middle of 600 names, God singles out one man for special recognition. He stands above average. He’s like a redwood tree in a forest of bonsai trees.

First Chronicles 4:9-10 it says, “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, 'I gave birth to him in pain.’ Jabez cries out to the God of Israel, 'Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.' And God granted his request” (NIV). 

Out of those two obscure verses, we learn there are three secrets to Jabez's life as an above-average leader. What can we learn from Jabez?

1. You Need a Great Ambition

Jabez didn’t want to be ordinary. He wanted to excel and grow. In other words, he was a person of vision and dreams. He wanted something special and something great from his life. Most of all, he wanted God’s blessing in his life.

A lot of people never achieve the leadership level that they could achieve in life because they just drift through life with no ambition, no master plan, no real purpose, no dream that pulls them along. It’s what I call haphazard living.

You’ve got to have a dream if you’re going to be a great leader. And in looking at Jabez’s prayer life, we’ll find that his prayers actually came out of his dreams. When you stop dreaming, you start dying. If you have no goals, you have no growth. You were designed by God for great dreams.

2. You Need a Growing Faith

Jabez had a deep trust and belief in God. It is obvious from his prayer that he recognized the source of his blessing was the Lord. It reminds me of William Carey, who said, “Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” 

In these two verses, we notice a couple of things about Jabez: If you’re going to live above average, you first need a great ambition, and second, you need a growing faith.

3. You Need a Genuine Prayer Life

Jabez knew that to live above average, it was going to take more than his own strength. It was going to take God’s power in his life to accomplish his dream. Notice he’s very specific about what he prays about. God wants us to pray about our goals. He wants us to be specific. Nothing becomes dynamic unless it becomes specific. The more specific I am in my prayers, the more quickly God’s going to answer.

God dares us to ask for big requests. James 4:3 says, “You have not because you ask not.” Jeremiah says, “Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you know not.” Over 20 times in the New Testament, we’re commanded to ask. Jesus said, “Ask, seek, knock.” That spells ASK. In Ephesians 3:20, it says God is able to do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

That’s one of my favorite verses because it says you can’t out-ask or out-dream God. Stretch your imagination, and let God take you further than you’ve ever gone before in your prayer life, in praying for God’s blessing on your ministry and on your life.

Have you let God give you a great ambition for your life or for your ministry? Have you had a glimpse of what God wants to do in your life? Maybe the most important thing you could do is take a full day off, get off by yourself with your Bible, and say, “God, help me to see the situation as You see it. Help me to see Your church as You want it to be. Not as it is, but as You want it to be.”

The most fulfilling ambition is to do God’s will. The Bible says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God ... and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33, KJV).

So, never be afraid of having ambition if what you’re attempting is ultimately for the glory of God. There’s no doubt about it that ambition outside of God’s control is destructive. But ambition under God’s control is dynamic.

I believe there is nothing God won’t do for the person whose sole ambition is for God’s greater glory. Let God give you a great ambition for your church.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

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