Nehemiah’ Pattern of Prayer
You can learn a lot about a person by the kind of prayer he / she prays. For instance, a selfish prayer indicates a selfish spirit. Have you ever heard a prayer that sounds like a Christmas list – I want this, and I want that? Some people try to impress you with their prayers, yet they come off as arrogant and prideful.
There’s a model prayer, especially for leaders, in the first chapter of the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah is a leader that came back to Jerusalem and coordinated the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. When he first heard about the downfall of Jerusalem, he prayed for four months.
Nehemiah 1:5-11 (NIV)
5 Then I said: "O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. 8 "Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.' 10 "They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man." I was cupbearer to the king.
This was not just a casual prayer. It gives us a pattern for successful praying. If you want to know how to pray, you should study the book of Nehemiah – particularly this prayer.
Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah:
I. base your request on God's character. Pray like you know God will answer you:
- I know this is hard – I struggle with this kind of confidence. But what we need to be saying; "I'm expecting you to answer this prayer because of who you are. You are a faithful God. You are a great God. You are a loving God. You are a wonderful God. You can handle this problem, God!"
- Nehemiah approaches God and says, "God, I want you to do something back over in Jerusalem. Verse 5 says, "O Lord God of Heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his command." Nehemiah said three things about God:
- You're great – that's God's position.
- You're awesome – that shows his power.
- You keep your promises – God's covenant.
- The first thing Nehemiah did was to acknowledge who God is. That's what praise is. Acknowledge who God is and his greatness.
- He starts off by getting the right perspective.
- In starting to have an answered prayer, say, "God, I want you to answer because of who you are. You've given us all of these things, these promises. You are a faithful God, a loving God, a merciful God" – all these things the Bible tells us he is. We are to base our requests on God's character.
II. secondly Confess the sin in our lives.
- After Nehemiah based his prayer on who God is, he confessed his sins. He says, "We've sinned." Look at how many times he uses the word "I" and "we." He says "I confess ... myself ... my father's house ... we have acted wickedly ... we have not obeyed."
- It wasn't Nehemiah's fault they went into captivity. He wasn't even born when this happened 70 years earlier. He was most likely born in captivity. Yet he is including himself in the national sins. He says, "I've been a part of the problem."
- There ought to be personal confession and there ought to be national confession.
- We may be quick to personally confess, but we don't know much about national confession. We don't have a corporate sense in America today. We are very individualistic. We're taught to confess our individual sins.
- When was the last time you confessed the sins of the nation? Or the sins of your family? Or your church? Or your friends? Our society has taught us we’re only responsible for ourselves. And that's just not true! You are your brother's keeper. We are all in this together.
- Leaders accept the blame but losers pass the buck. If you want to be a leader, you accept the blame, and share the credit.
- Losers are always accusers and excusers. They're always making excuses why things didn't or couldn't happen.
- It's always somebody else's fault. Leaders accept the blame.
III. claim the promises of God.
- Nehemiah is praying to the Lord and saying, "I want you to remember what you told your servant Moses." Can you imagine saying, "remember" to God? He's reminding God what he had said in the past. God, you warned us through Moses that if we were unfaithful we would loose the land of Israel.
- But you also promised that if we repent, you'd give it back to us. All through the Bible you find God's people reminding God about what he said he wants to do. David did it. Abraham did it. Moses did it. All the prophets did it. "God, I want to remind you of one of Your promises ..." Then they'd share it.
- Does God have to be reminded? No.
- Does he forget what he's promised? No.
- Then why do we do this?
- Because it helps us remember what God has promised. Nothing pleases God more that when we remind Him of one of his promises.
- Do kids ever forget a promise? Never.
- So we have to be very careful about making them. The Bible says we're imperfect fathers, and if we imperfect fathers know that we need to fulfill our promises to our kids, how much more does a perfect Father, a heavenly Father, intend to keep the promises He's made in his Word.
- God listens to us when we remind Him of His promises because that means we are paying attention to His Word.
IV. be very specific in what we ask for. If you want specific answers to prayer you need to make specific requests. If you make general prayers, how will you know if they are answered?
- Nehemiah is not hesitant to pray for success. He's very bold in his praying. Have you ever prayed, "Lord, make me successful!" If you haven't, why haven't you?
- What is the alternative? A failure? There is nothing wrong with praying for success if what you're doing is ultimately for the glory of God. Pray boldly.
- Pray that God will make you successful in life for the glory of God. That's what Nehemiah did. This is a valid prayer. Give me success!
- If you can't ask God to make you a success at what you're doing, you should be doing something else. God doesn't want you to waste your life.
Based on a message given by Rick Warren
Please click here for slides to accompany the message.