Leadership is a challenging position to have. One mentor described leadership to me in this way—it means “voluntarily and willingly carrying more weight than the people that you’re leading for their benefit.” If you’re in a position of leadership then you probably know exactly what I mean.
Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” That is a call to all believers, but no doubt those who are in leadership are going to be bearing many people’s burdens for the purpose of pleasing Christ and loving those people. That can be a significant burden to bear. How can a leader, or anyone who is seeking to love others, handle the significant weight of those burdens and not be crushed by them?
One answer comes from the pattern of Christ’s life. He bore the burden of everyone’s sin on the cross (cf. Is. 53:4, 12). The weight of the world was literally upon His shoulders. He knew that was His purpose in coming to earth. How did Christ handle those burdens?
Luke 5:16 shows us how— “But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”
Bearing One Another’s Burdens While Sedentary and Sheltering
As I’m writing this post, it’s only a couple days after Governor Holcomb issued the extension for the shelter in place order until May 1st. That means for a large group of the population, we will have spent an inordinate amount of time at home over the past few weeks and that will continue for at least a couple more weeks. Therefore, I’m sure that many of us have been more sedentary than normal. After all, if your longest commute is from the bedroom to the kitchen, how many steps can you really get in?
That also means for many of us that we have been far more isolated and alone than normal. Now, I realize there are exceptions to these situations, but if you find yourself in a place where you’re more isolated and sedentary let me encourage you not to waste this time!
Jesus sought out times to be alone and still in prayer with His Father. The words “withdraw” and “pray” in Luke 5:16 are both verbs that indicate continuous action. The point being, this is not something that Jesus did once in His time on earth. The NIV and NASB make this clearer by translating the verse using the word “often”—“But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness to pray.”
The Lord, in His sovereign plan, has granted to many of us a time to bear the burdens of others in the way that Christ Himself exemplified: by often going to the Lord to pray. Other passages of Scripture help us gain a better understanding of how long He would spend in prayer. For example, the night before He chose His 12 disciples Luke 6:12 says, “…all night He continued in prayer.”
A question that I’ve often asked myself is, to my embarrassment and shame I might add, “Is that the kind of fellowship and communion that I enjoy with my Lord?” The answer is definitely, “no.” But that doesn’t mean that it cannot grow to that kind of sweetness. It doesn’t mean that I cannot cultivate a deep communion with Christ that would be demonstrated by the joy of spending longer and longer times in prayer with the Lord. Who knows, the Lord might have actually brought COVID-19 because He wants us to grow in our communion in the Lord through prayer—actually, I’m certain that’s one of the lessons that God wants us to learn. Romans 8:28–29 makes it clear that God is working to make His children more and more into the likeness of Christ. That includes shaping our prayer lives into the likeness of Christ.
What Burdens Should I Carry to the Lord?
If you’ve ever tried to grow in spending more time in prayer with the Lord, then you’ve probably experienced the challenge of filling the time up with enough requests without it just being repetitive. Let me help you with specific burdens during to go to the Lord with.
- Pray for those who are in the hospital who aren’t there because of COVID-19. Due to the restrictions of visitors, many people are suffering and even dying alone with only doctors and nurses.
- Pray for the medical personnel who are caring for COVID-19 patients, and the ones who are caring for people who are suffering alone. That can be a real burden to carry. (Visit our COVID-19 Response page for a list of medical workers in our church to pray for by name.)
- Pray for our government leaders. They must make decisions with hardly any precedent regarding how to navigate a world pandemic like this. They need us, as believers, to fulfill the law of Christ by praying for them to have strength and wisdom during this season.
- Pray for those who are out of work as a result of the shelter in place.
- Pray for those who are in essential businesses who might be working longer and more stressful hours than normal.
- Pray for God’s people to know how to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom. 12:15), especially as many people are struggling and suffering due to the shutdown, while others are busier than normal.
- Pray that people would see the futility of storing up treasure on this earth and instead turn in faith to Christ and store up treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19–21).
- Pray for your pastors and church leaders, as they seek to be creative in how to minister effectively and wisely while not being able to physically be around each other.
- Pray for growth in yourself and God’s people. God does use everything to help us become more like Christ (Rom. 8:28–29).
Prayer is More than Bearing Burdens
In addition to us carrying our burdens to the Lord in prayer, I also want to encourage you to pursue the sweetness of just spending time thanking the Lord and praising Him for His goodness. An exercise that I would commend for you to try during the shelter in place, is to read Psalm 119 in 8 verse chunks and to pray through those verses for at least 10 minutes. Praying Scripture is one of the sweetest ways to go to the Lord. And praying Scripture doesn’t just mean repeating the words of Scripture.
For example, Psalm 119:2 says, “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart.” To pray this one verse, you might rejoice in the times when you have obeyed the Lord and praise Him for how He does indeed keep His promise to bless those who keep His testimonies. You can also ask Him to help you to grow in seeking Him and this might lead you to confession and repentance as you think of ways that you haven’t sought Him with your whole heart.
Although much of our life has slowed down and we might find ourselves more alone and with more time on our hands, it doesn’t mean that this time is a waste. In fact, you can be sedentary and still be serving and loving others through bearing their burdens and interceding on their behalf for them. This might be one of the times when God wants us to learn how powerful He is and how weak we are. Let’s solicit the help of the One whose arm is never too short on behalf of our brothers and sisters and our neighbors.
- How much time per day do you spend in prayer?
- Do you follow Christ’s pattern to withdraw in order to pray?
- Have you used this quarantine season to cultivate a deeper love for the Lord or have you chosen to invest your extra time in lesser things?