5 Then I said, “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! 7 We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.8 “Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. 9 But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.” In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer.
It’s here that we see a shift from concern to:
- Conviction about God’s Character – Vs 5
It’s here that we come to the second leadership principle, how to handle the hard and hurtful things of life. How does Nehemiah handle the hurts, where does he turn with his tragedy? He takes his problems to God in prayer. Prayer is not a principle it’s a practice. Nehemiah brought his problems into the presence of God’s power. For Nehemiah prayer was not just a passing fad, prayer was his foundation. Prayer is one of the overriding themes of the book, this prayer in chapter one is the first of 12 different prayers. Prayer is the secret to Nehemiah’s success. Dependence on God was the source of his success while dismissing God was the reason for the ruin that the nation was in. Do you want blessing or brokenness? What part does prayer play in your life, is it your first response or your last resort? Many of us turn to pray only after we have exhausted all of our resources instead of responding to all of Gods. Nehemiah recognizes that he needed God and so God was his first stop not his last. He realized that the problems he faced were bigger than him but not bigger than God. You see prayer provides perspective; it widens our horizons, sharpens our vision and dwarfs all anxieties. Which brings us to leadership principle number 3, Nehemiah’s public life was the outflow of his personal and private life, a life saturated and shaped by, a lifestyle of prayer. His devotion to God, his dependence on God and his desire for the glory of God found equal expression. He knew that only ventures that are begun in prayer and bathed in prayer throughout are likely to be blessed. Nehemiah turned to prayer first not to people, who are you petitioning? Nehemiah fasted, he forsook food so he could seek the Father, how serious are you about seeking God, what’s more important to you, food or the Father? I also want you to notice that this isn’t just some popcorn prayer, while there are times for those kinds of prayers this was a time for persistent and passionate prayer. Nehemiah prayed for days something many of us are unwilling to do in our instant gratification geared society. We are unwilling and unprepared to pursue prayer over the long haul. What we want is quick answers to quick prayers. Are you prepared to settle in for seasons of prayer in stubborn situations? Nehemiah teaches us to focus on God’s character not our circumstances. His focus is on the Father not on his fears. “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands”Nehemiah comes back to who God is, Lord God of heaven, that means he is in charge, great and awesome his power and ability, who keeps His covenants His faithfulness. Are you getting caught up in the challenges or in God’s character? It’s out of this conviction about God’s character that third we come to:
- Confession of Sin – vs 5-7
It’s one thing to be concerned and to have a firm conviction of who God is, but it’s another thing to actually confess. You see many of us never go this far. We are content to be concerned, to feel bad about our sins but not enough to come clean. Notice that Nehemiah didn’t dismiss his sin by pointing the finger at others. He owned his part he didn’t dismiss or try to justify his disobedience. It would have been easy for Nehemiah to look back and blame his ancestors but instead he looked within and blamed himself. Many of us spend our time complaining about the consequences of sin instead of confessing our sin. Today we have bought into the lie that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It’s a change in belief without a change in behavior. Its revival without real repentance. Prayer isn’t just about petitioning God over the problems it’s also about confronting and confessing our sin. When was the last time you came before God and came clean? Because when we confess, we can be cleansed and when we are clean fourth, we can be:
- Confidence in God’s promises – Vs 8-10
In this part of his prayer, Nehemiah recalls the words of Moses about the danger of Israel’s apostasy and the promise of God’s divine mercy. The promise that Nehemiah was proclaiming was twofold. First, if Israel disobeyed, they would be sent to a foreign land. That had already been fulfilled. The second part was that when the captivity was over God would bring them back to Jerusalem. This is the promise that Nehemiah focused on. Nehemiah chose to focus on God’s faithfulness not the people’s failures. The bible is filled with God’s promises and the better we know His Word the better we will be able to pray with confidence in God’s promises. Are you going to focus on the problems or on God’s promises? Confidence in God’s promises should lead to a:
- Commitment to get involved – Vs 11
It has been said that prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven but getting God’s will done on earth. The point of prayer is not petitioning God with your wants but positioning your heart to hear His Will and when you do, responding. You see while Nehemiah was an incredible administrator the real source of his success was not his ability but his availability. The true measure of our concern is whether or not we are willing to make a commitment to get involved. Prayer doesn’t change God it changes us. How available are you to the Almighty?