F. B. Meyer was pastor at Christ Church in London, England late in the 19th Century when Charles Spurgeon came to town. Spurgeon’s crowds at Metropolitan Tabernacle grew larger and larger. The young story-telling preacher was so popular that his weekly sermons were printed in the paper on Mondays. Meyer became envious, which is a common problem amongst the pastors I talk with.
Meyer prayed, “God bless me. God fill my pews. God send a revival to my church,” but still he was jealous and competitive toward Spurgeon and other pastors in London. Then he learned to overcome envy by praying for the success of his “big brother” pastors on his right and left. In time he found that his own church grew from the effects of Spurgeon’s powerful ministry!
Similarly, Jack Hayford, a pastor in Southern California in more recent times, has the same testimony of overcoming envy by praying for the success of other pastors. When his Church on the Way in Van Nuys was small and getting started there was a large church down the street called First Baptist. He prayed for God to bless and prosper that church. It ended up that Church on the Way grew so much that it used First Baptist’s old building for overflow.
Dallas Willard’s Example
Dallas Willard shared these two stories with me in an intensive class I took with him and other pastors in a monastery. They are examples of praying for the success of your “competitors.” A competitor is anyone you’re tempted to compare yourself to. You see their success or blessing and feel jealous or inferior and so to feel better about yourself you want to do better.
Dallas prayed for the books of his colleagues to be more successful than his books. When he wrote an article in a journal he praised the other articles in the journal as being better than his. When he spoke at a conference he prayed for other speakers to receive more attention than him. In an age of copyrighting he urged people, including me, to use his material freely without citing his name.
As with Jack Hayford, it seems that the more Dallas prayed for the ministry of others to be blessed the more God blessed his own ministry!
To pray for the success of your competitors is like praying for your enemies or blessing those that curse you (Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14). All of these are ways of practicing the discipline of service, which Dallas defines as, “Engaging ourselves for the good of others — with no regard to what our reward shall be. Servanthood is not a technique of leadership or a path to greatness. It is leadership. It is greatness.”
Service is love for neighbor and love for “enemies.” We serve others for Jesus’ sake.
In Christ’s Yoke of Humility
In my book Your Best Life In Jesus’ Easy Yoke I share how you can learn to become the kind of person who blesses your competitors. For instance, I tell a story of a time that I was seized with feelings of jealousy and fell to my knees to offer a Breath Prayer, “In Christ’s humility… Consider others better than yourself” (Philippians 2:3, par).