Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The "Must-Know" Prayer for Women Leaders

The “Must-Know” Prayer for Women Leaders  
MaryKate Morse, Guest Blogger 

A little while ago during a meeting, I had pressed a point that I thought was important. I came back to it a couple of times because I could see that my colleagues did not get it. Others were angry that I had brought it up, so I thought they didn’t understand. After the meeting I received an email from my boss taking me to task for causing problems. He put me in my “place.”  As I sat at my desk reading the email a deep sigh escaped me. I was and am weary of my contributions as a leader being perceived as “inappropriate.” I am a wife, mother, grandmother, and a woman who has leadership gifts. How do I lead as a woman called and released by God even when resistance is common?

Social research has shown that women’s identity gets constructed through relationships while men’s identity comes through accomplishments. So, people want women to be nice and play nice. If they are accomplished or show strength, their femininity is questioned.  If men speak up about an issue, they are “passionate.” When a woman speaks up she is often labeled a “control freak.” People are uncomfortable when a woman is strong. What bothered me most about my situation wasn’t the email censure, but rather knowing that men in these meetings who act passionately about a point and press it did not get emails from the boss putting them in their place.

So, what do I do? Women leaders face unique challenges throughout their lives as wives, mothers, aunts and sisters. Not just here in the United States but around the world. Women are 70 percent of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth. One in three women suffers some form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse by men during her lifetime. And yet we lead. We want to make a difference for Christ. We want to be obedient to God’s mission to go and make disciples. So how do persevere emotionally and spiritually?  What do we do as women who love Jesus and lead?

We begin with prayer, and I have found one that helps me a lot. When Jesus was facing his greatest challenge – his betrayal, torture, and crucifixion – he went to his Father in prayer. Jesus suffered injustice and pain, yet he prayed. He was misunderstood, ridiculed, de-valued, yet he prayed. In the Garden with even his closest friends unable to be present with him, he poured out his heart to his Father who loved him completely. Jesus prayed for himself with intensity and deep emotion. His prayer was raw and honest. He prayed three times for God to take this cup from him. Three times is a Biblical literary device to mean completeness. In other words, Jesus prayed his way through from his despair to fully entrusting himself to God. He said each time, “Your will be done,” until it was deeply settled in his heart. Jesus modeled for us the first steps on a difficult journey.

So, I do what my Lord did. When I feel misunderstood, frustrated, and weary on this leadership journey as a woman, I tell my Father all about it. I bring a vulnerable honest self to God. I tell God what I want and what I’m feeling, but then I give it all back to God. I pray, “Your will be done.” I do this over and over again until I am back settled in my Father’s arms and released from my weariness and sadness. I entrust myself to God who loves me completely and who watches over me.

The mystery of this prayer is the peace and resilience I have to go back and lead again. Instead of dreading the next time we had a meeting, I arrived feeling clear emotionally. Instead of avoiding my boss, I asked him about his family and day. I knew the struggle was not ultimately mine, but God’s. I felt God’s favor to be myself and trust the Spirit for the outcomes. Nothing really changed for this situation, but I was okay. Though a word of caution as one woman leader to another, sometimes after the prayer of relinquishment, the Holy Spirit will guide you to leave a toxic environment, or help you discern how to confront the person or issue, or help you mature into a better leader. The relinquishment prayer is a first step, not the next step. On our own we cannot change this world, but when we are fully submitted to God, God does watch over us and use us.   

MaryKate Morse
Author Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space, & Influence and A Guidebook to Prayer: 24 Ways to Walk with God