A Serious Leader Goes First to God with the Problem. In verse 5 we hear Nehemiah say, “I beseech Thee, O Lord God of heaven.” He prayed.
What is your first response when a need comes to your attention? I can tell you what it is because it’s usually my first response in my own fallen human nature: “How can I work this out?” or “What did so-and-so do wrong to make that happen?”
Your people problem, whatever it may be, will not be completely solved until you take it to God in prayer. I mentioned this in the first chapter, and it is illustrated in Nehemiah’s life. Someday you will look back at those things you did rationally in the flesh, and you will hate the day you did them. Prayer, I repeat, is absolutely essential in the life of a leader.
Look at how Nehemiah behaved before the Lord. First, he praised God
I beseech Thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments. (v. 5)
He knew he was not coming to just another man, but rather to the God of heaven.
For whom did Nehemiah work? The king. Was this king great and mighty on the earth? The mightiest! But compared to God, King Artaxerxes was nothing. And so it stands to reason that when we go to God in prayer, we put things into proper perspective. I f you are having difficulty loving or relating to an individual, take him to God. Bother the Lord with this person. Don’t you be bothered with him—leave him at the throne.
Next, in verses 6 and 7, he confessed his part in the problem.
Let Thine ear now be attentive and Thine eyes open to hear the prayer of Thy servant which I am praying before Thee now, day and night [not just a quick panic prayer, but day and night], on behalf of the sons of Israel Thy servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against Thee; I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against Thee.
Notice the words “we” and “I.” The confession was not on behalf of someone else’s failure. The confession had to do with Nehemiahs part in the problem. What do we do when we are in conflict with another person? We usually blame the other person (our fallen state coming through again). We usually think of six or seven ways the other person has manifested his stubbornness and unwillingness to change, but we seldom consider our part in the problem. But it works both ways. So the very first thing Nehemiah said in regard to the problem was, “Lord, I am culpable. I am not only wanting to be part of the answer, I am confessing myself to be part of the problem.”
There may be husband-wife difficulties at your house or strained pupil-teacher relationships at school. There might be strife between a parent and child. And invariably, you will think of your mate or your child or your mom or your teacher or your pupil as being the problem. That is not necessarily the truth.
I plead with you—as you go before God in prayer concerning any unresolved personality conflicts, have the attitude reflected in these words: “Lord, I bring before you these areas where I have caused an irritation. This is my realm of responsibility. I cant change him. But God, I can tell you that this is my part in it; forgive me.”
Nehemiah didn’t stop with confession. Next, he claimed the promise. When he went to God in prayer, he praised the Father, confessed his part in the wrong, and claimed the promise God had given.
Verse 8 reads, “Remember the word which Thou didst command Thy servant Moses.” What was Nehemiah doing? He was quoting a verse of scripture to God. He quoted not only from Leviticus 26 but also from Deuteronomy 30. He knew the Book. “Lord, I open the Book before You. I bring You the very words You spoke, the promise You made. And I’m claiming it, Lord, right now.”
What was the promise? It was twofold. The promise was that if Israel disobeyed, they would go into a foreign land. That had come to pass. The second part was that when that time of captivity was ended, God would bring the Jews back to Jerusalem and protect them. That part was unfulfilled. So Nehemiah was saying, “Lord, the first part is true. We’ve disobeyed and we’ve been in captivity. But, Lord, You made a promise to bring us back into the city and protect us, and that has not come to pass yet. I am claiming that it will.”
The apostle Paul wrote:
Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he [Abraham] did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. (Rom. 4:20-21)
God does not lightly give out promises. He says, “I promise you that if you will give Me your burden, I will bear it. If you will seek first My kingdom, I will add all these other things to you. If you will make your heart right before Me, I will lead you into a path of stability and prosperity.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean He will fill your wallet. It does mean He will give you peace—like the world is not able to know. “I will promote you to a place of My level of significance, and you will be satisfied.”
Nehemiah said, “Lord, You promised that Your people will be protected in that city, and I’m claiming it right now.”
Finally Nehemiah brought his petition or desire before God. His petition was a bold one.
O Lord, I beseech Thee, may Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant and the prayer of Thy servants who delight to revere Thy name, and make Thy servant successful today, and grant him compassion before this man. (v. 11)
Have you ever prayed this? “Lord, make me successful. Make me find that place in the center of Your will where heavenly prosperity rests, in whatever level it may be. May I reach the maximum so that I am, in Your eyes, prosperous. And, Lord, grant me favor with those in authority over me!” That’s bold petitioning.
Charles R. Swindoll, Hand Me Another Brick (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998).
I have just completed a series of lessons based on the book of Nehemiah. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.