Nehemiah's Prayerful Leadership Pause
As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. — Nehemiah 1:4
Spiritual leaders know how to differentiate useless activity from critical activity. When Nehemiah heard the troubling news, he didn't react by calling a meeting, starting a protest, rallying supporters, posting on social media, or designing a leadership plan. Instead, he chose to "sit down, weep, mourn, fast, and pray." Five preliminary actions that almost seem opposed to action. Five activities that most leaders fail to do. And here is why they don't do these five things — they want to be the hero. They believe they can fix a problem without God.
But god-fearing leaders understand three things that other leaders do not. First, God is sovereignly acting in every circumstance. Second, that man's sin is always at play. Third, no man is innocent; therefore, we must bear responsibility. Thus, Nehemiah knew the tragedy and solution were bigger than him, so he went first to God.
Leadership always begins with submitting ourselves to God, who is the only leader. Prayer is where a spiritual leader relies on God over himself. Prayer is where leaders become emotionally honest. Prayer is where leaders align with God’s will rather than exerting their will. Prayer provides a leader with a divine perspective. Prayer brings a leadership pause for all this to occur.
But here's the clincher. This is not a momentary pause of prayer. Nehemiah did not just do this one time. He did this multiple times daily for about four months — from the month of Chislev (Nehemiah 1:1) to the month of Nisan (Nehemiah 2:1).
I don't know about you, but this is super convicting for me. Because when I pray, I want an immediate answer. I want to pray once and then expect an answer. But that's not what Nehemiah did. He's not naming and claiming something here. He is petitioning God in mourning, sadness, confession, going without food, and making God the focus of every prayer for an extended period of time.
Let me ask you this: When was the last time you prayed like this? When was the last time you prayed for one thing for four months?
So, since it will take us about that period of time to get through this book, I want you to nail down one thing you want to pray about for a prolonged period of time. Write it in your scripture journal, and let's "sit down, weep, mourn, fast, and pray" together. And let's take some time to learn how to follow the great and only leader, who is God.
Over the next few days, we will dive a little deeper into the four C.O.R.E. elements of Nehemiah's prayer that brought him before the great, mighty Leader of leaders.
- Connecting With God.
- Owning Our Sin.
- Recalling God’s Faithfulness.
- Entrusting Our Plans.
Nehemiah’s story emphasizes leadership, beginning with self-leadership towards God. Discuss or contemplate how this principle applies in your life or in the lives of leaders you admire. Can you think of instances where leaders demonstrated reliance on God rather than on their own strength? How did this impact their decision-making, approach to challenges, and influence on others?
Reflect on your own prayer life in comparison to Nehemiah's approach. How does your reaction to challenges differ from Nehemiah's extended prayer and fasting practice? Consider the last significant challenge you faced. How might your response have changed if you had adopted Nehemiah’s approach of "sitting down, weeping, mourning, fasting, and praying" for an extended period?
DO THIS: Write out a single prayer you want to pray for four months (you can do that below in the comment section).
PRAY THIS: Father, teach me to embrace the humility and patience of Nehemiah, seeking Your guidance through prayer and fasting and relying on Your wisdom and timing in every aspect of my life and leadership. Help me remember that true strength and direction come from surrendering to Your will rather than relying solely on my abilities and plans. Amen.
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Read through the Bible daily with Vince Miller.