118: The Devotional Life of a Leader (with Tom O’Toole)

When we are planting and leading churches, the first thing we need to focus on is our own devotional life. In this episode of the podcast we look at what kind of devotional life a church planter or leader should seek to develop.


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Relationship With God

  • You can’t lead people into something that you are not yourself experiencing.
  • Dynamic relationship with the father.
  • Forensically – All through the gospel. (1 Pet 3:18)
  • Experientially – Hebrews 10:19-22, James 4:8
  • Positioning ourselves for presence.

Questions to Discuss

  • How would you describe your own devotional life? What do you do? Also how would you characterise the fervency and intimacy of what you bring and what you experience?
  • What do you think it would take to up the temperature a bit in your own devotional experience?

Jesus' Devotional Life

  • Some key verses – Mark 1:35, John 7:53-8:1, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 22:39-48
  • When did Jesus pray?
  • For how long did Jesus pray?
  • Where did Jesus pray?
  • What did Jesus pray about?
  • Who did Jesus pray with?
  • What did Jesus’ prayer life look like?
  • Do you see these same prayer characteristics picked up elsewhere in Scripture? (e.g. Acts 12:12)

Big Asking

  • EXERCISE – Think of the ministry you are involved in leading (or building towards).
  • Write a list of everything you need/want/hope to see happen for it.
  • Write a list of all the things that you have directly asked God for related to it in the past two weeks?
  • James 4:2 - "You do not have because you do not ask"
  • Exodus 17:8-13 – Moses with his hands over the battle.
  • John Newton spoke of 'Large Asking.'
  • How big are our prayer?
  • "Pray the largest prayers. You cannot think a prayer so large that God, in answering it, will not wish you had made it larger. Pray not for crutches but for wings." - Phillips Brooks
  • Pray the impossible, then lean on God's sovereignty.
  • Also pray the specific and small things you need.
  • Pray imperfect prayers.
  • Pray the prayer of faith.

Expect to Hear From God In Prayer

  • Jesus was shaped by the father's will– Eg. John 8:27-29
  • We recognise the voice of our good shepherd - John 10:29
  • There’s a hearing from God in Scripture – that has primacy. But also hearing from God prophetically.
  • Weighing it is important – And what this process looks like depends on what the word is.
  • What are you likely to hear? – Often encouragement, sometimes prayer points, occasionally challenge, once a while specific guidance – Never new revelation and always in line with scripture (or tangential to it).
  • “What is being taught in Christendom today is this, that since we have now got the New Testament canon, since we have got the Word now, we do not need these direct interventions, we do not need God to speak to us directly, as He spoke to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob and to these patriarchs. We have got the word now! Is this superior to the direct speech of God? I think we are mad! There is no other word for this. We are mad… We are meant to be in a superior position to every Old Testament saint because of what has happened in our blessed Lord and Saviour! But this teaching would have us believe that we do not need direct contact with God now, and that all that has come to an end since the formation of the New Testament canon… remember that the great point of the whole teaching of the Bible, of all you can deduce from it, is to tell you that God is a God who acts. And our only hope this afternoon is that this is still true. He has not finished acting. He is going on… There is only one hope. That is that He is still the living and acting God. Christ is at His right hand, and He is seated and waiting until His enemies should be made His footstool.” - Martyn Lloyd Jones

Some Personal Application Questions

  • Do you feel like you are feeding your soul and quenching a spiritual thirst in your personal time with the Lord?
  • Do you have a spiritual life that doesn’t simply revolve around the ministry that you are leading?
  • How good a model does your devotional life form for those who you are leading?
  • Are there times when everybody else is asleep and you are in prayer?
  • When was the last time you fasted?
  • Can you give examples of things that you have done differently because you grasped the Father’s will in prayer?
  • Do you pray in tongues? If you don’t have the spiritual gift, have you pleaded with God for it?
  • Have you prayer walked the streets you are trying to reach?
  • Do you use your body in your personal devotion? When was the last time you knelt before him? Fell on your face, laughed with joy at his goodness, jumped and shouted in celebration of grace, wept for the lost?
  • Can you see a growth in the passion and intimacy of your devotional life over the last year?
  • What recent testimonies do you have of answered prayers?