This post is an excerpt from the book, Lead Like an Exile, 15 Principles of Leadership from the Book of Nehemiah. Download the entire book and gain access to the Application questions for free by subscribing to the Embracing Exile newsletter.
If God is our greatest resource, then we must constantly pray for His blessing and support in our work. As we already saw in Identify Your Calling, Nehemiah’s first response to his broken heart was to pray. But his prayers did not end there.
In Nehemiah 2, Nehemiah approaches King Artaxerxes of Persia (who, at the time, was the most powerful man on the planet). Nehemiahwas afraid because he was about to ask the King for something that could seem disloyal, even treasonous. Imagine going to speak to your boss and asking for both a bonus and extended leave. You would feel pretty nervous, correct? Now imagine that, if your boss doesn’t like your request, he could order your head be chopped off.
This is similar to Nehemiah’s position. Not only did he ask for extended time away from his duties, but he also asked for resources to help with the rebuild. Even worse, he desired to rebuild Jerusalem, a city that, historically, stood against kings like Artaxerxes. If he catches the King on a bad day, his life could be forfeit.
Nehemiah’s Approach to Prayer
Nehemiah does something that always catches me by surprise. He prays, right in the middle of the conversation. I suppose I always thought we were supposed to pray for conversations before they happened, but during the conversation, I just had to try my best. Not Nehemiah.
Verse 4 says, “Then the king said to me, ‘what are you requesting?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.’”
Nehemiah did not depend on his own abilities, but rather the work of God’s Spirit. He prayed consistently, even as he spoke to the King. The result? The King gave his full blessing because “the good hand of my God was upon me (v. 8).”
Implications for Today
This has practical implications for us and can be applied every day. Have a difficult conversation with a co-worker? Pray that God will help them listen and you can reach a common understanding. Sharing the gospel with someone? Pray that God would guide your words and open their heart. Approaching a fellow Christian about their sin or seeking forgiveness? Pray that God would bring peace to the conversation.
And don’t just pray once or twice the day before. Pray throughout the day, pray on your way to the conversation, pray during the conversation, and pray to give thanks after the conversation.
My lightning bolt moment
For years I depended on my own abilities and logic skills. I knew that if I just explained things to people properly, they would understand and agree with me. I had a friend named Justin in my philosophy class during college and we would often discuss religion. I wanted him to come to faith (which was a good desire), but completely depended on my reasoning skills. The conversations never went anywhere.
Class schedules changed and we didn’t see each other much for about a year. Then we decided to catch up for lunch. On the way there I was thinking through my new logical arguments, forgetting to spend much time in prayer. While we were eating, Justin informed me that he had become a Christian. I had a lightning bolt moment where I suddenly realized, God didn’t need me to change people. Once I realized this, I quickly figured out that the opposite was true – I actually need Him!
That may sound like a simple and obvious lesson, but I find it difficult to remember. Prayer teaches me that I need God. Furthermore, I’ve found that when I pray for things, they just tend to go better. The outcome may not be what I originally planned or expected, but God still works.
The more you pray, the more effective you will be as a leader. God can make far greater things happen than you can imagine, and prayer is a vital aspect of this.