Is There a Certain Way for Leaders to Pray?
By Rick Warren
God’s looking for people to use. God’s looking for leaders. While we’re looking for better methods, machinery, and motivations, God says, “I’m looking for better people-people that I can use.”
And for God to use the leaders, they must be men and women of God.
You can learn a lot about people by the kinds of prayers that they pray. A canned prayer indicates a dried-up spirit. A self-oriented prayer indicates a selfish spirit. Some prayers are like Christmas lists. Impressive prayers indicate an arrogant, prideful heart.
In contrast, God’s given us a sample of a leader’s prayer in the first chapter of Nehemiah. Remember that Nehemiah, when he first heard about the downfall of Jerusalem, prayed for four months. This isn’t just a casual prayer. The prayer we’re going to look at is just a sample prayer he prayed. It gives us a pattern for successful praying. If you want to know how to pray as a leader, study the book of Nehemiah and particularly this prayer.
Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah.
1. Ground the request on God’s character. Pray as if you know God will answer you: “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 comes to God and says, “God, I want you to do something back over in Jerusalem.” Verse 5 says, “0 Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands.”
The first thing Nehemiah did was acknowledge who God is. That’s what praise is: acknowledging God’s greatness. He starts off by getting the right perspective. You can 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.” The Bible tells us all these things. Base your request on God’s character.
2. Confess sin, both personal and corporate.
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 words “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 the people were in captivity. He wasn’t even born when this happened 70 years earlier. He was most likely born in captivity. Yet he includes himself in the national sins. He says, “I’ve been a part of the problem.”
There’s personal confession and there’s national confession. The national confession is something we don’t know much about. We don’t have a corporate sense in America today. We’re very individualistic. We’re taught to confess “my” sins. When’s the last time you confessed the sins of the nation? or the sins of your family? or your church? or your friends? We don’t think that way. We’re overly individualistic. Our society has taught us we’re only responsible for ourselves. And that’s just not true! You are your brother’s and sister’s keeper. We’re all in this together.
Another law of leadership: 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 responsibility.
3. 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 God had said in the past. God warned the Israelites through Moses that if they were unfaithful, they’d lose the land of Israel. But God also promised that if they were to repent, the land would be given back to them. Throughout the Bible you find God’s people reminding him 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…”
Does God have to be reminded? No. Does God forget promises? No. Then why do we do this? Because it helps us to remember what God has promised. God is happy when we remind him of the promises. Do kids ever forget a promise? Never. So you have to be very careful about making them. The Bible says we’re imperfect parents, and if we imperfect parents know that we need to fulfill our promises to our kids, how much more does a Heavenly Father intend to keep the promises he’s made in the Word?
4. Be very specific in prayer.
If you want specific answers to prayer, you need to make specific requests. If you make general prayers, how will you know if they’re answered?
Nehemiah isn’t 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’s the alternative? A failure? Is it okay to ask God to make you successful? It all depends on your definition of success! I believe a good definition of success is, “Fulfilling God’s purpose for my life in faith, love, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and expecting the results from God.” That’s a worthy life objective that you should be able to pray with confidence. 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 I can’t ask God to bless what I’m doing, then I’d better start doing something else. 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.
The above material was taken from REV! November/December 2005. This material may be copyrighted and should be used for study and research purposes only.