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Pray for our Business Leaders?

April 22, 2003

By Blaine McCormick & David Miller

In keeping with tradition, George W. Bush will soon issue a Presidential proclamation declaring the first Thursday in May 2003 as the National Day of Prayer. This tradition dates back to George Washington and was formalized in modern times by President Reagan. Government leaders and national issues are usually the object of these prayers. This year is unlikely to be any different, particularly in light of the war in Iraq. We wonder, however, aren't we missing something? The business pages remind us that the economy is still sluggish and that America's spate of corporate scandals did not end with collapse of Enron. Shouldn't we give the same prayerful support to our nation's business leaders as they face challenges of moral and economic significance, as perhaps never before?


As a nation, we are quick to pray for our government and military leaders. The Christians tradition of praying for leaders is rooted in the teachings of the apostle Paul who wrote to the first century Christian church, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority that we may live peaceful and quiet lives..." (I Timothy 2:1-2). One is struck by the specificity in how many Christians pray for "kings and all those in authority." Not only do they pray for the President, the Vice-President, and the entire Presidential cabinet by name, their prayers often extend to U.S. and state legislators, governors, judges, county, and even city officials.

As Americans continue to pray for "kings and all those in authority," we invite you to pray not only for our political leaders but our economic leaders as well. In addition to praying for the leaders who oversee the $2 trillion federal budget, we should also seek a Divine blessing upon all leaders involved in the $10 trillion national economy. These business leaders and managers oversee a vast resource base and affect our well being as much - if not more than - the government leaders whom we regularly remember in our prayers. Business can be a positive force for opportunity, justice, and the common good in America alongside other social institutions like government, religion, and education. A significant first step is to stop ignoring and start including business leaders in our prayers.

And for what should we pray? First, consider giving thanks to God that these business leaders are in our country and that we have benefited so very much from the goods, services, and jobs that they help provide. Also, pray that they might receive Divine inspiration as they go about their work creating products, services, experiences, and jobs. Pray that they might have discernment to choose the right path among the many possibilities competing for their attention and resources. Pray that they might administer justice in their companies just as surely as the courts administer justice in the society. Pray that they might be peacemakers as they seek to forge mutually beneficial relationships with foreign peoples and countries and as they seek to honor diversity and create healthy company cultures. And pray that they might be delivered from evil, especially when the temptation comes to hide, distort, or deviate from truth and honorable business actions.

And pray for them by name, just like you would pray by name for your President, his Cabinet, or your senators. As a start, here's a list of the CEO's of the ten largest employers in America according to the 2003 Fortune 500: Lee Scott (Wal-Mart; 1,300,000 employees), Jim Cantalupo (McDonalds; 413,000), Mike Eskew (United Parcel Service; 360,000), Bill Ford (Ford; 350,321), Rick Wagoner (General Motors; 350,000), Sam Palmisano (IBM; 315, 889), Jeff Immelt (General Electric; 315,000), Bob Ulrich (Target; 306,000), Bob Nardelli (Home Depot; 300,000) and Joe Pichler (Kroger; 289,000).

Added together, these top ten employers oversee a population of employees roughly equal to the population of South Carolina or the country of Scotland. Wal-Mart alone has a payroll as large as the combined populations of Delaware and Wyoming. In addition to these large corporations, remember to pray for the thousands of smaller entrepreneurs and family businesses that provide the bulk of the goods and services produced in America. Indeed, our work and our work leaders impact us at least forty hours per week. Like government officials, they have the power to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and help create jobs for the poor.

So, for sure continue to pray for our government officials - they need it. Yet consider adding business leaders to your prayer list this year. They need it, too. If you can't remember the nation's top ten employers by name, maybe start closer to home. Consider praying for business leaders in your city. Pray for your company's top executive. And pray for your own boss, too. Amen.

Dr. McCormick (Blaine_McCormick@baylor.edu) is a management professor at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. Rev. Miller (www.AvodahInstitute.com) is President of The Avodah Institute and a former senior executive in international banking.

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