Slow Down and Wait on God

“He does not bestow His gifts on the casual or hasty.”


by Dan Busby and John Pearson


God’s acquaintance is not made hurriedly.
He does not bestow His gifts
on the casual or hasty comer and goer.
To be much alone with God is the secret
of knowing Him and of influence with Him.[1]

E. M. Bounds


Ruth Haley Barton puts a sharp stick into the heart of board decision-making that masquerades as discernment: “One very common leadership mistake is to think that we can take a group of undiscerning individuals and expect them to show up in a leadership setting and all of a sudden become discerning!”[2]

So how can boards do spiritual discernment together? How can boards invite the right people onto the board—individuals who have already demonstrated a competency in spiritual discernment?

Perhaps one question to ask board prospects is this: “In your own life, how do you spiritually discern God’s voice?”

Jerry White, President Emeritus of The Navigators, observes this about the need to slow down and listen for God’s leading: “Since I am so prone to action and activity, I found that I have to discipline myself to read, reflect, and rebuild. I am learning (I wish I could say ‘I have learned’) to take times during the year to do this.”[3]

We also know boards and organizations that listen to God’s voice during an annual day of prayer.

And while this is not prescriptive for every board or every board member, consider this wisdom from Lorne Sanny. In the following introduction to How to Spend a Day in Prayer, he shares the benefits of being in God’s presence for an extended time of prayer. The introduction, reprinted with permission of NavPress (a ministry of The Navigators), continues through the end of this lesson.[4]

“I never thought a day could make such a difference,” a friend said to me. “My relationship to everyone seems improved.”

“Why don’t I do it more often?”

Comments like these come from those who set aside a personal Day of Prayer.

With so many activities—important ones—clamoring for our time, real prayer is considered more a luxury than a necessity. How much more so spending a day in prayer!

The Bible gives us three time-guides for personal prayer. There is the command to “pray without ceasing”—the spirit of prayer. Keeping so in tune with God that we can lift our hearts in request or praise anytime through the day.

There is also the practice of a quiet time or morning watch—seen in the life of David (Psalm 5:3), of Daniel (6:10), and of the Lord Jesus (Mark 1:35). This daily time specified for meditation in the Word of God and prayer is indispensable to the growing, healthy Christian.

Then there are examples in the Scripture of extended time given to prayer alone. Jesus spent whole nights praying. Nehemiah prayed “certain days” upon hearing of the plight of Jerusalem. Three times Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights alone with God.

Learning from God

I believe it was in these special times of prayer that God made known His ways and His plans to Moses (Psalm 103:7). He allowed Moses to look through a chink in the fence and gain special insights, while the rank-and-file Israelites saw only the acts of God as they unfolded day by day.

Once I remarked to Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, “You impress me as one who feels he is a man of destiny, one destined to be used of God.”

“I don’t think that’s the case,” he replied, “but I know this. God has given me some promises that I know He will fulfill.” During earlier years Dawson spent countless protracted time alone with God, and out of these times the Navigator work grew—not by methods or principles but by promises given to him from the Word.

In my own life one of the most refreshing and stabilizing factors, as well as the means for new direction or confir­mation of the will of God, has been those extended times of prayer—in the neighborhood park in Seattle, on a hill behind the Navigator home in Southern California, or out in the Garden of the Gods here in Colorado Springs.

These special prayer times can become anchor points in your life, times when you “drive a stake” as a landmark and go on from there. Your daily quiet time is more effective as you pray into day-by-day reality some of the things the Lord speaks to your heart in protracted times of prayer. The quiet time, in turn, is the foundation for “praying without ceasing,” going through the day in communion with God.

Perhaps you haven’t spent a protracted time in prayer because you haven’t recognized the need for it. Or maybe you aren’t sure what you would do with a whole day on your hands just to pray.

Author’s Note: After the introduction in Lorne Sanny’s powerful 21-page booklet, he shares practical suggestions in six short sections: Why a Day of Prayer?, Pray on the Basis of God’s Word, How to Go About It, Wait on the Lord, Prayer for Others, Prayer for Yourself, and Two Questions Answered. He adds:

The results of your day of prayer should be the answers to the two questions Paul asked on the Damascus road (Acts 9:5,6). His first question was “Who art Thou, Lord?” You will be seeking to know Him, to find out who He is. The second question, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” should be answered or reconfirmed in that part of the day when you unhurriedly seek His will for you.[5]




The busyness of life and governance to-do lists often
create an environment that is not conducive to spiritually
discerning God’s voice about your ministry’s future.
Consider spending a day in prayer, by yourself,
or as a board. Invite an experienced facilitator
who will help your board slow down to discern direction.

  Board Action Steps:

  1. Read: Here are three options: How to Spend a Day in Prayer by Lorne C. Sanny, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton, and Pursuing God’s Will Together, also by Ruth Haley Barton.
  2. Retreat: Consider a half-day retreat with your board. Use the Spiritual Discernment Retreat Guide by Stephen Macchia, which gives guidance for a half-day experience for individuals or groups (www.leadership
  3. Rejuvenate: Listen to the meditative praise song, “Slow Down” by Chuck Girard (Dunamis Music).



“Like many aspects of the spiritual life,
discernment is hard to do on the run.”[6]
So it seems like a no-brainer to ask You,
“Should we spend a day in prayer?” Guide us. Amen.




[1] Lorne C. Sanny, How to Spend a Day in Prayer, rev. ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1974), 3.

[2] Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 198.

[3] Jerry White, “Slow Down and Wait on God,” Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom (blog), May 28, 2018,

[4] Sanny, How to Spend a Day in Prayer, 4.

[5] Ibid., 20.

[6] Stephen Macchia, Spiritual Discernment Retreat Guide—Half-day, (Lexington, MA: Leadership Transformations, Inc., 2013), 1.

From Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings, 2018,

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.