Pray Discover Leader's Guide
Seeking God in personal, family and ministry decisions
Dedicated to the memory of Dr. George B. Kuykendal Jr., Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army, a fellow-soldier in God's army who served with his wife, Peggy, as the OCF Field Staff Representative at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from 1977 to 1998. He loved to worship God.
We must be a people of prayer. Prayer has always been a foundational element of this movement. In the 1960s, Major General Sir Robbie and Lady Joyce Ewbank, of the British Officers' Christian Union, introduced the 'pray and plan' concept to help individuals, families and groups discover God's purposes and directions.
The concept was anchored in Scripture, and it resonated with C. S. Lewis' thought that, In the process of being worshiped, God communicates His presence to men.
For many years, the 'pray and plan' process has helped guide the OCF movement and its people. Some of its original impact and purpose has been lost over time, however, and we need to take a fresh look at this concept.
We must ask God to re-emphasize for us its fundamental truths and allow Him to breathe His Spirit anew into our hearts as we 'pray, discover, and obey.' The name of the booklet expresses our need to pray earnestly, discover God's direction, and obey Him without hesitation.
What God's people need most of all is not more time, nor more resources, nor more knowledge about God. No, what we need most of all is God Himself.
It is our deepest desire that those who undertake this study will be moved to see, in a fresh and stirring way, their need to give first priority each day of their lives to seeking God. Not merely knowledge about God--many have had that and have fallen short of His will--but the vital experience of His person and presence.
Too often, we are eager to plan solutions to problems and rush off to execute our plans, barely pausing in prayer long enough to ask God's blessing on what we have decided needs to be done! That is simply bringing the world's ways into the work of Christ's kingdom.
Such plans will never fully accomplish God's will. He is jealous for His glory, and will not share it with presumptuous men and women, even when they believe they are acting in the name of Jesus Christ. Let's acknowledge that God has provided us a better way--His way--for us to know specifically what tasks He wants us to undertake and how to get the job done.
His way is for us to set aside our agendas, plans and desires, and to come into His presence with clean hands and pure hearts, asking Him to give us wisdom and discernment. Once we have truly met with the living God, He'll reveal to us the next step He wants us to take (read Acts 13:1-3).
Read this with this theme in mind, asking the Spirit of God to guide and enlighten your spirit. Apply its teachings not as a mechanical process, but as a gracious invitation to enter into joyous fellowship with your Savior and Lord. As you do so, you may be assured that God has a marvelous adventure of faith planned for you!
-For Christ's glory, The OCF Staff
1. Pray, Discover, and Obey: An Overview of the Process
The purpose of Pray, Discover, and Obey is to help you make important decisions with the confidence that God has revealed His direction and that He will give you the discernment, strength and courage to carry out His plans.
The process has three phases: 1) Pray, 2) Discover, and 3) Obey. A specific time set aside for an event will be most effective when it is embedded in the ongoing prayer lives of the individuals and groups who are conducting it.
Here is a diagram of the process. It may help you visualize the essential elements of Pray, Discover, and Obey, but it can't communicate the spirit of the process. You'll need to read and reflect on the descriptive passages that follow to gain more insight into the heart of Pray, Discover, and Obey, and to be prepared to teach it to others.
Although the process is defined by three active verbs--pray, discover, obey--these are not entirely separate, distinct steps. Prayer, for instance, should not stop after an initial time of worship, thanksgiving, confession and petition. Requests and worship should continue throughout the process.
Similarly, once you have identified--in the discovery phase--what God wants done, and you are beginning to implement the decision, you should continue to be open to His leading as you execute your plans. Keep praying, and stay flexible to incorporate changes as the Holy Spirit reveals the need for them.
2. Why Pray, Discover, and Obey?
Military people are action-oriented. Consider two hallmark activities of the military profession--planning and executing our plans. We try to plan everything we want to do in the future. We focus on action. We want to initiate, to achieve, to finish the task--to win.
It's natural and easy, therefore, as we consider Christian service, for us to devise our plan of action first, and only afterward approach God to ask Him to bless what we've decided to do. Jesus taught us to pray 'Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven' (Matthew 6:9). In this model prayer, He emphasizes our need to desire God's glory above all else, and to demonstrate this by obedience to His will.
Prayer and study of the Bible are the fundamental means God uses to unite our hearts with His--and with His purposes. As we make decisions for our individual lives, for our families, and for Christian ministry activities, the Pray, Discover, and Obey process helps us draw close to God, discover His direction for us, and obey Him.
The Experience of the Israelites under Joshua
The Jericho Campaign:
Before Moses died, he publicly commissioned Joshua as the supreme spiritual, political and military commander of the Israelites (see Deuteronomy 31:23). After the Israelites crossed the Jordan River to invade the Promised Land, God appeared to Joshua as 'the captain of the host of the Lord.' Joshua fell on his face and bowed down in worship, asking, 'What has my Lord to say to His servant?' (Joshua 5:14).
God revealed to Joshua an unusual operational plan by which the Israelites would capture Jericho and thus open the path for the conquest of Canaan. When Joshua and the people followed God's directions, they were spectacularly successful (Joshua 5:13-6:27).
The First Campaign against Ai:
This great initial victory may have blinded Joshua to his utter dependence on God, for the next effort, against the city of Ai, was a failure. Joshua began this campaign by making two mistakes. First, he failed to evaluate the campaign against Jericho. Consequently, he was unaware of the disobedience that had occurred in his own camp. Second, he did not turn to God for direction, but followed the advice of the men sent to spy out the city. The small force Joshua sent against Ai was routed, and fear filled their hearts (Joshua 7:1-5).
The Second Campaign against Ai:
After learning of his army's flight, Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads (Joshua 7:6). Joshua approached God as a defeated leader, asking what he could now say to his people.
God rebuked Joshua for his despair. He revealed the sin in Israel and gave instructions for identifying the disobedient people and for punishing them. After that was accomplished, God gave new instructions to Joshua for capturing Ai.
When Joshua and Israel followed God's plan, God delivered the city and its inhabitants into their hands. They completely destroyed the people and the city. After this victory, they built an altar to offer sacrifices and worship to Almighty God and to read the Law of Moses to all the nation (Joshua 7:6-8:35). What can we learn and apply from this historical account? It is clear from the biblical descriptions of these campaigns that those who fight in God's spiritual army must seek His face and His will before making and executing their plans. Like Joshua and the Israelites, we are utterly dependent upon God for victory.
John White, after studying the book of Nehemiah, concluded the following: Prayer is where planning starts. Our first goal in prayer is not to get a steam head of power but to find out what God wants. Planning that arises from and is the product of prayer is far superior to planning that is merely 'backed by' prayer. The plan that is God's plan, revealed by him to those who wait on him, is a plan that cannot fail.
If the plan is not of God in the first place, no amount of prayer will make it count for eternity. It may 'work.' That is, it may achieve the goals the organizers are aiming at. But if the goals are not God's goals, of what value is it that they were achieved efficiently?
-John White, Excellence in Leadership, pp. 40-41.
This discussion describes a process called Pray, Discover, and Obey. It is based upon lessons drawn from the study of men and women in the Scriptures who sought God and His wisdom and then won great victories for Him-both in physical combat and in spiritual warfare. It helps us to draw close to God, to discover His direction concerning our situation, and to obey Him. We should apply it in making personal decisions, in our families, in our professional responsibilities, and in our ministry teams.
This approach to making personal, family or corporate decisions holds great significance for you and for the ministry on your installation or vessel. There are two key reasons for this: first, the pray, discover, and obey process is biblical; and second, because it is biblical--it works!
3. A Closer Look
As you examine Pray, Discover, and Obey further, remember what John White concluded: 'The plan that is God's plan, revealed by Him to those who wait on Him, is a plan that cannot fail. Real efficiency comes from waiting on God.' Remember also that your authority to make decisions and to carry out spiritual activities derives from the Lord Jesus Christ, who told His followers: 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the ageö (Matthew 28:18-20, NASB).
Phase I--Pray: Desiring God's Will
The purpose of this phase is to help each participant, and the group as a whole, draw close to God. It is only when you have the assurance that you have entered His presence and have spent sufficient time with Him in wholehearted prayer that you should move on to the discovery phase of the process. (James 4:7-10).
You may wish to incorporate fasting into either the preparation for a Pray, Discover, and Obey event, during the event, or both. A fast that is dedicated to the Lord will help all participants focus more clearly on the Lord Jesus Christ and perceive His glory more readily.
It is significant that God's vision for the first missionary endeavor to the Gentiles was revealed to men in the church at Antioch who were 'worshiping the Lord and fasting' (Acts 13:1-3).
Each phase of the process should include prayer, not just the 'pray' phase. Indeed, the entire event should be embedded in the foundation of a vital, ongoing life of prayer which is the experience of the individuals who participate.
This does not mean that a person must have a 'perfect' life of prayer in order to participate in a Pray, Discover, and Obey. Anyone who genuinely longs to draw closer to God in order to discover and obey His will should be welcome. The point is that those who are already walking in close communion with and obedience to Jesus Christ will find it easier to attain the openness of heart that God desires as they meet to seek His presence.
Participants should pray individually before they come together for group prayer. They need to come spiritually prepared, with hearts already warm towards God. They need to be like soft clay, yielded to God so that He can mold their attitudes according to His desires as they discuss the opportunities before them and reach decisions.
Pray, Discover, and Obey participants need the patience to pray until they hear God clearly. When the team members already have been praying individually and together as part of their ongoing ministry, the prayer phase of the event may require less time. If the team has not had the experience of meeting regularly for prayer, then you should be prepared to spend more time in the prayer phase as you begin the pray, discover, and obey event.
Plan ahead to provide sufficient time for prayer as well as the discovery phase of your team meeting. The prayer phase may include the following elements: worship, thanksgiving, confession and petition. (The group leaders may choose to schedule confession before worship or thanksgiving if they judge this will better enable the participants to draw close to God and one another.)
Worship may include singing and reading Scripture passages of praise as well as silent and vocal praise and adoration. For example, you can read Psalm 105 and use it to proclaim God's mighty deeds of old. Read a few verses at a time aloud, and ask participants to focus on the amazing events they record, worshiping God for His majesty, power, love, grace, mercy, patience, etc. Psalm 66:1-4 provides an excellent theme verse for a period of adoring God:
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth;
Sing the glory of His name;
Make His praise glorious. Say to God,
'How awesome are Thy works!
Because of the greatness of Thy power
Thine enemies will give feigned obedience to Thee.
All the earth will worship Thee,
And will sing praises to Thee;
They will sing praises to Thy name.'
Focus on the attributes and deeds of Almighty God. It is easy and natural for men and women to drift away from adoration into thanksgiving--and indeed there is no clear boundary between the two. There will be time to give thanks later, however, and the center of this effort should be to glorify God rather than communicate what He has done personally for the members of the team.
Thanksgiving can also be an appropriate time for hymns and songs that express this theme. It should be a time when participants feel and express their gratefulness and joy for the presence of the Lord Jesus in their hearts. It is an opportunity to express the joy Paul exhorts us to communicate in Ephesians 5:18-21: 'And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be [being] filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father, and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
Confession and Repentance should include a time for individuals to examine their hearts silently as well as a time for collective repentance. Psalm 51 is one of many biblical passages that can be used for personal meditation during this time. Again, Psalm 66:18-19 offers an exhortation for this step of prayer: 'If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear, But certainly God has heard, He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.
It may be helpful for the team leader to suggest specific sins for participants to consider, e.g., pride, doubt, bitterness, envy, sloth, ingratitude, self-pity, a complaining spirit, etc. Also, review the attitudes and habits that may hinder the team as it seeks to enter God's presence--an unrepentant spirit, unconfessed sin, lack of genuine worship, unbelief, lack of forgiveness, etc.
Petition may involve praying for others (intercession) as well as requests for God to direct the future activities of the ministry team. The group also should pray for the men and women who will be the focus of future ministry efforts. Provide ample time to ask the Lord to meet with you and to reveal the opportunities for ministry that He is calling you to grasp. You will find many helpful ideas as you review the intercessory prayers of Paul for the early churches--Ephesians 1:15-23, Philippians 1:3-11, Colossians 1:9-12, and 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13.
- Ask others who will not participate to pray for your team.
- Emphasize desiring God, becoming tenderhearted before Him.
- Find the approach that best aids your team to enter God's presence. There are many ways for believers to organize their efforts to approach God. Some may find that more music and Bible readings are helpful; others may need more time for silent meditation and reflection.
- Remember that the suggestions in this section are not intended to be simply a checklist for you to imitate mechanically. They are, instead, guidelines to stimulate your thinking and creativity.
Scriptures for Reflection: Romans 12:1-2; James 4:7-10; Psalm 51; Psalm 66:1-4, 18; Isaiah 1:15, 59:2
Note: The appendix provides a list of scriptural references for more passages of praise.
Phase II--Discover: Discerning God's Will
The purpose of this phase is to discern what God wants you to do in a specific situation and to prepare the plans necessary to accomplish the mission. In discovery, you seek to identify opportunities to serve God where you are and to understand how to carry out His assigned mission for you within this set of opportunities. God will not ask you to grasp all the available opportunities for outreach and service at your installation or on your vessel. Instead, He will focus your attention on specific actions that will help to accomplish the work of His kingdom for your time and place.
Remember the promise of Jesus Christ to the church at Philadelphia: 'He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: "I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name'' (Revelation 3:8, NASB).
The discovery phase addresses four key elements: 1) Identifying opportunities for outreach and service in your military community--the 'open doors' for ministry, 2) Asking God to show you which of these 'doors' He has opened for your ministry team--the mission He has prepared for you, 3) Searching the Scriptures for mission confirmation and direction, and 4) Making plans to pursue this opportunity.
- Identify the opportunities for outreach and service in your military community. If your leadership team has been meeting regularly, you may already have a clear understanding of these opportunities. If not, you may need to spend more time identifying them. (A godly chaplain and spouse can be a great help to you in this step.) You should be alert to new things the Lord may want you to do, rather than simply joining others in an ongoing work.
Recognize the difference between opportunities and needs. You will be overwhelmed with the needs of people in your military community if that becomes your focus. Even Jesus Christ did not try to meet all the needs of the people He encountered. He located His ministry among the Israelites and ministered to only a few outside of Israel (see Matthew 15:21-28). By looking instead at the ongoing ministries in your community and asking God to show you any new activities that would be productive for the expansion of His kingdom, you will find a greater freedom to proceed.
Ask God to show you which of the 'open doors' for ministry He has placed before you. Use Scripture, and the purpose of OCF, to help you choose among the various opportunities for service at your location. This will lead you back to prayer again. Individually and collectively, this is a time to come before God, asking Him to reveal which of these opportunities He has planned for you to undertake. You should be willing to take all the time necessary for the team to reach consensus about this decision.
In this step, you must seek to cultivate the attitude toward ministry that the Lord Jesus demonstrated. He said to those who were persecuting Him,
My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working. I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He doesÖ.By Myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is just, for I seek not to please Myself but Him who sent Me (John 5:17, 19-20a, 30). This claim reveals that the Lord Jesus had a single purpose in life, a purpose that pervasively shaped His attitudes. His sole intent was to know His Father's will and to do it. As you seek to understand God's mission for you and your ministry team at your military community, pray that your attitude will become like that of Jesus Christ. (See also John 6:38, 8:28b-29, and 12:49-50).
Stay open to the unexpected. God may lead you to initiate an action that doesn't follow the dictates of logical analysis. He may ask you to act like the Israelites before Jericho, marching around a fortified city and shouting. Or He may want you to be like Gideon, leading a tiny spiritual army against a much larger foe. Follow the imperatives of Proverbs 3:5-6, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.'
- Search the Scriptures for mission confirmation and direction. Use God's Word to test the validity of the goals you are setting and the means you will use to reach those goals.
- Make plans to pursue the opportunity God gives you. This is familiar territory for those who are used to systematic planning in a church, business or military activity. You should make decisions on the specific tasks that must be accomplished, who will be responsible for them, what coordination needs to be effected within the OCF community--with chaplains, commanders, and other military ministries--what publicity should be provided, etc. Here are two essential steps:
Identify Appropriate Actions and Assign Responsibilities. Determine the major tasks that must be accomplished, and the person or persons who will be responsible for each one. Plan future actions in sufficient detail so that everyone who has a responsibility knows what he or she must do. If you don't have time to do this in one Pray, Discover, and Obey session, arrange for the group to meet again.
Answering the following questions may prove helpful: What specific things have to be done to accomplish the mission? When must they be initiated, and when must they be completed? What actions will have to be coordinated among ourselves or with others? What resources do we need to seek from others? How often will we communicate with one another to report on our progress, problems and needs?
Plan to Develop a Prayer Support Base. The intercessory prayers of others for your efforts are as essential to victory in spiritual warfare as the air interdiction, naval gunfire, and artillery fires are to success on the physical battlefield. Remember the example of Moses, Aaron and Hur on a hilltop, interceding for the army of Israel, while Joshua led it to victory against the Amalekites at Rephidim (Exodus 17). Make plans to develop a prayer support base for your activity--and provide it the resources it needs to be effective.
The nature of the mission God gives you, the environment in which you will carry it out, and the people you have available to help, will determine the complexity and the level of detail that is required as you make your plans. Avoid developing a more complex and detailed plan than is really needed. Simplicity will be a key element of successful planning in your endeavor, just as it is in preparations for military training or combat.
At this point in Pray, Discover, and Obey, you are ready to move into the final phase of the process--obedience--during which you will execute the plan. You should insure, before ending the planning session, that each person has counted the cost of obeying God and enthusiastically accepted it (Luke 14:25-37). Then take the time, individually and corporately, to dedicate yourselves and your plan to God, asking Him for the faith and the persevering spirit you will need to complete it.
- Find out where, when and how God wants your ministry team to labor for His kingdom in achieving the OCF purpose and vision on your military base, post or vessel.
- Recognize that adversity (lengthy field exercises or shakedown cruises, deployments, combat, etc.) provides unique opportunities for you to reach out to people who might otherwise be uninterested in spiritual activities.
- Prayer isn't completed when you reach a decision or make a plan; prayer should be integrated in all your follow-up actions.
Scriptures for reflection: Luke 22:42; Acts 13:1-3; 2 Kings 19:8-37
Phase III -- Obey: Doing God's Will
The purpose of this phase is to accomplish the mission God has given you and to be open to His leading as you carry out your plans. In Pray, Discover, and Obey, the discovery phase is the time when you and your group receive and acknowledge God's mission and decide how to achieve it. The obedience phase is when you dedicate yourselves to accomplishing His mission and persist in completing it. You must, however, remain open to further leading from the Holy Spirit as you carry out your plans.
Envision the obedience phase as a pathway God has prepared for you to follow so that you can persevere, overcome obstacles, and arrive at His destination for you. Let's call it 'The Pathway to Obedience' and describe it in seven parts, as follows.
Scriptures for reflection: Luke 6:46; 1 Samuel 15:22, James 4:13-16 It's important that you continue to use the Pray, Discover, and Obey process. Use it regularly to keep your ministry subordinate to God's desires for it. Use it for specific events you plan--such as new Bible studies, prayer breakfasts, picnic, luncheons, local conferences, days or half-days of prayer, etc. You will also want to use the process in making family decisions. And don't overlook its value as a means of making personal and professional goals and plans. (While you can't use it with unit members who don't know Christ, you can use this approach personally, or with another believer in your unit, to help you decide on recommendations and plans for leadership, training, operations, administrative and logistical activities.) Pray, Discover, and Obey can be used anywhere God assigns you in the Armed Forces. It will keep you in touch with your eternal Commander-in-Chief. By His grace, it will help to bring revival and renewal in your life and in the lives of those who serve Christ with you. God will use your faithful obedience to His will to draw others into the kingdom of Jesus Christ and to glorify the name of His Son. He is able! Appendix: Scripture References for Using and Teaching the Pray, Discover, and Obey Process. 2. Scripture References for Worship, Thanksgiving, Confession and Petition. Worship Adore God; proclaim His attributes, and remember His awesome deeds. Thanksgiving. Use these and other biblical passages to express your gratefulness to God for His mighty works in human history and in your life. Confession and Repentance. Petition/Intercession.
The Pathway to Obedience
1. Biblical Examples of the Pray, Discover, and Obey Process.
Parting of the Sea--Exodus 14 and 15
The Cross/Resurrection--Mt. 27:45-54; 28:1-8 ·
Luke 11:9-13 James 1:5
Matthew 21:21, 22
1 John 5:14-15
James 4:3 1
Scriptures for reflection: Luke 6:46; 1 Samuel 15:22, James 4:13-16
It's important that you continue to use the Pray, Discover, and Obey process. Use it regularly to keep your ministry subordinate to God's desires for it. Use it for specific events you plan--such as new Bible studies, prayer breakfasts, picnic, luncheons, local conferences, days or half-days of prayer, etc.
You will also want to use the process in making family decisions. And don't overlook its value as a means of making personal and professional goals and plans. (While you can't use it with unit members who don't know Christ, you can use this approach personally, or with another believer in your unit, to help you decide on recommendations and plans for leadership, training, operations, administrative and logistical activities.)
Pray, Discover, and Obey can be used anywhere God assigns you in the Armed Forces. It will keep you in touch with your eternal Commander-in-Chief. By His grace, it will help to bring revival and renewal in your life and in the lives of those who serve Christ with you. God will use your faithful obedience to His will to draw others into the kingdom of Jesus Christ and to glorify the name of His Son. He is able!
Appendix: Scripture References for Using and Teaching the Pray, Discover, and Obey Process.
2. Scripture References for Worship, Thanksgiving, Confession and Petition.
Worship Adore God; proclaim His attributes, and remember His awesome deeds.
Thanksgiving. Use these and other biblical passages to express your gratefulness to God for His mighty works in human history and in your life.
Confession and Repentance.