“What good did I provide?”
That question creeps up at the most inopportune moments. Even the most confident amongst us will wonder from time to time when things don’t meet expectations, or when questions don’t connect or we are distracted. Prayerful preparation is a key element to being more mindful, aware, and proactive with your coaching clients.
It’s important to look at how you define “good”. The term means different things to different people. As a Christian coach I am asking, “Did I help the person listen to and discern what the Holy Spirit said?”
This is the most critical skill in Christian coaching based on the research I conducted with Bob Logan & Chuck Ridley. We call it, “Abiding in Christ” (see Christian Coaching Excellence). In fact, you can do the other eight competencies of coaching and be a very good coach; but you will never be a world-class Christian coach without developing this skill.
One of the behavioral expressions under Abiding in Christ that is easily skipped, overlooked or ignored altogether is
Prayerful Preparation: Prepare carefully and prayerfully prior to engaging in a coaching relationship or appointment.
Prayerful Preparation is not just doing the mechanics of preparing for your client. It is not simply letting the Spirit spontaneously lead you to pray for your client. Instead, it is the posture that you take in preparing for the important interactions that you will have throughout the day and the course of the week.
After all, you are preparing for conversations that are critical to the advancement of your clients’ growth and development to fulfill the work of God through them.
What Works for Me
I’ve been asked how to nurture this skill as a coach. At first, I reflected, and confessed that I’m not sure I do a good job at this. I’m like most people . I stay busy. Slowing down is a discipline that I’ve yet to master. But then I thought a bit more and this is what I discovered about myself.
Most mornings over the last 25+ years I’ve gotten my body out the door to exercise.. As I run through trails, mountain-bike, or enjoy a morning walk the Lord settles my soul for the day ahead. I listen to the Holy Spirit, discern his leading on various topics He brings to my attention, and prepare my soul for the day ahead. Enjoying nature is a God-given conduit to connect with Him that is important to me. Periodically I journal, read, meditate on scripture and take a more structured approach but the physical outlet of exercise has been my mainstay.
Prayerful Preparation Looks Different for Everyone
What activities do you enjoy that provide the space for you to reflect and prepare your soul for the day ahead?
The challenge is discovering the answer to this question. For you, it may be a quiet corner at the local Starbucks. For others, it might be in the midst of serving the poor and disenfranchised.
Finding the right combination is the key. I know most Christian leaders agree that finding a quiet place, on a regular routine with minimal distractions is necessary for uninterrupted times with the Lord. I would agree, unless you do not find quiet solitude as life-giving as other ways of connecting with God. For me, movement helps. For you, it might be painting a landscape or playing music. Whatever it is, embrace it and repurpose it to connect with God.
9 tips to help you exercise your Prayerful Preparation muscle
1. Brainstorm a list of activities that bring you joy.
You want things that don’t just make you happy, but also refresh your soul and quiet your heart.
2. Discover what activities bring you joy while connecting with God.
Work (or play) through your list. As you do each activity, keep your heart open and your mind in an attitude of prayer.
3. Review your calendar and let that guide your attention during the activity.
What upcoming meetings or events are you unsettled about? Who are you meeting with that is going through an especially difficult time? Ask God for inspiration and direction.
4. What is the common thread e.g. creative outlets, movement, quiet ,etc.?
Once you have worked through your list, think through each activity. What circumstances, people, or places are in place when you felt closest to God and confident in his guidance?
5. Test to see if you truly can do these on a consistent basis over a long period of time.
Mountain top experiences are great but infrequent. You need something that works with your schedule and fits in your lifestyle. Just as you are asking God to help you meet your clients where they are at, God wants to meet you where you are. Nothing fancy. Just time together.
6. What do you need to change?
This is an important question. You will have to make a change in order to make your time with God a priority. Do you need to get up early? Take an afternoon off? Turn off your phone? What needs to change so you can confidently unplug on a regular basis?
7. Who, if anyone, can make this activity more life-giving?
There is no rule against inviting someone into your “quiet time”. If you are a verbal processor, it may be important to have someone to talk through what you are hearing from the Lord. Or maybe you just feel more at peace when your spouse is near. Honor confidentiality while inviting them to hear from the Lord with you.
8. Are there specific areas of focused prayer to identify on different days of the week?
It can be helpful to create rhythms of prayer. Pray for healing on Mondays, vision and direction on Tuesday, etc. By creating patterns, you are not only covering all the bases but you are creating accountability for your prayerful preparation.
9. How can you make this a more intentional part of your week?
You have time, space, and a place or activity that you know will draw your heart and mind toward God. But you find yourself lured away time and again. How can you safeguard your prayerful preparation? What do you need to do to hem yourself into the habit of taking your cares and your clients to the Lord and to actively listen as God counsels you?