Dr. Richard (Rick) J. Goossen, Chairman, ELO interviewed Dr. Richard Blackaby, President, Blackaby Ministries International, on December 21, 2018. Dr. Blackaby will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming ELO Forum in Winnipeg on April 30th (see his bio HERE) Dr. Blackaby is the co-author (with his father, Henry) of three books that are particularly relevant to Christian marketplace leaders: Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2008); God in the Marketplace (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2008); and Spiritual Leadership (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2011). This is the fourth of a series of blog post related to Christian entrepreneurs applying their faith in the marketplace based on the interview with Dr. Blackaby.
RG: What are some spiritual disciplines for Christian business leaders?
RB: I’d say first is to focus on scripture, spending time in God’s word. Isaiah 55:8-9 says our ways are not God’s ways, our thoughts are not His thoughts. We assume that because we’re Christians or that we go to church that we think the way God does—but we don’t. We’ve been immersed in the world. We think the way the world does. The only way to begin thinking the way God does is to immerse ourselves in His word and to hold up every decision we make against the word of God to see if it lines up. Then we can re-orient our business and thinking to God’s word.
Second, is prayer. Prayer is not an activity; it is a relationship. Prayer is not merely something you do. It’s a Person you converse with. It’s a conversation, not a monologue. Most of our praying is a monologue where we do all the talking, but it’s meant to be a conversation. Yet we rarely remain silent during our prayers so God can get a word in. Of course, what you say is not nearly as important as what God has to say. You’re not going to tell Him anything He doesn’t already know. He can tell you all kinds of things you don’t know yet. As you develop the spiritual discipline of listening in prayer, it’s amazing what God will put on your heart as well as the conviction and insight He’ll bring. I’ve worked a lot with very high-level business people and it’s kind of embarrassing for them to admit they don’t know how to pray. They may have been Christians for years and be highly respected in their church, yet they find prayer to be boring after spending only a few minutes doing it. But when you show them what prayer is really meant to be, all of a sudden they’ll come back and say it’s revolutionized their entire business. For example, you may need to pray for an employee who is causing difficulty. Suddenly God will reveal to you what the problem is and how you need to handle the situation. Prayer will bring you peace about taking certain steps. Prayer will bring you dis-ease when God alerts you to danger. Spiritual leaders cannot be fully effective if they are not people of prayer.
RG: When you talk to some of these business leaders and say here’s how to pray, what would be the key points between here’s what they’re doing now versus how to pray?
RB: To begin with, carve out enough time to do it properly. A lot of businesspeople would confess, ‘I just don’t have much time to pray in the first place.’ Prayer then degenerates into a hurried, distracted activity and then they don’t get anything out of it. Of course, you can’t rush in and out of the presence of almighty God and expect to hear anything significant. Prayer is done on God’s terms, not ours. My dad was talking to a Fortune 500 CEO about what my dad calls “unhurried time with God.” This is where you rise early enough that you have all the time you need to spend with God in Bible study and prayer. In doing so, you have sufficient time to fully grasp what God wants to teach you and alert you to. A CEO of a large company said, ‘Well Henry, the problem is that you don’t know how busy I am.’ My dad responded by saying, ‘No, the problem is that you don’t know who you’re going to meet.’
My dad was saying if you truly knew the awesomeness of the God who had deigned to spend time with you, you’d make all the time you needed. This man felt very convicted about that conversation, so he began to add 30 minutes to his morning each day until he finally felt he was not rushed in his daily time with God. He eventually settled on rising at 4:00 a.m. each day. He said it revolutionized his business. He was amazed at how many times God put on his heart exactly what his priorities needed to be that day. God would give him an answer that morning and he would find out what the question was later that day. He learned to connect what God told him in the morning with what he experienced throughout the day. Starting each day with God streamlined the rest of his day and gave him focus and alertness.
I encourage people to read their Bible first, before they pray so they are thinking biblically before they begin to pray. So often when you’ve read something in the Bible first, and then you go to pray, what you’ve just read begins to show up in your prayers. Scripture alerts you to what you should pray for. First you read the words of God, then you talk to God. You’ve just been reminded of how God speaks and what things are important to Him, so sure enough those begin to show up in your prayer life.
We also encourage people to journal. If you’re going to talk to God and listen to God, you better write down what you hear and take it seriously. Then you do what I call ‘connecting the spiritual dots.’ You prayed something on Monday and you pull your journal out on Tuesday and notice that things are starting to happen. You prayed this, and now this is happening. You start to realize that God is at work. These are not just random happen-stances. God put something on your heart on Monday, so you prayed about it. Now on Wednesday, you receive an unexpected phone call or a client mentions something that really gets your attention. Lots of times God is at work around us but we’ve never been helped to recognize how to connect the spiritual dots between our devotional life and our work life.