Summary: The second mark of a leader exemplified in Nehemiah is his/her prayer for their people.
Chapter Two of Swindol’s Hand Me Another Brick, (his commentary of Nehemiah’s leadership) is entitled “A Leader---From The Knees Up.” This characteristic of leadership is certainly seen in Nehemiah’s ministry. One out of every ten verses in Nehemiah is a reference to prayer.
J. Oswald Sander in his Spiritual Leadership writes: “Since leadership is the ability to move and influence people, the spiritual leader will be alert to discover the most effective way of doing this. One of the most frequently quoted of Hudson Taylor’s statements is this expression of conviction that ‘it is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone” (page 82). Nehemiah moved Artaxerxes through his model prayer that we will look at now.
Here are Six Marks of Leadership in Nehemiah:
1. He Shows Concern for God’s Work (Nehemiah 1:1-4)
2. He Prays for God’s People (Nehemiah 1:5-11)
3. He Follows his Leader (Nehemiah 1:11-2:8)
4. He Motivates his Followers (Nehemiah 2:9-20)
5. He Organizes his Work (Nehemiah 3:1-32)
6. He Handles his Opposition (Nehemiah 4-6)
The Second Mark of Leadership: The Leader Prays for God’s People
Peter Drucker in Effective Executive wrote, “Effective executives do first things first.” Nehemiah is following this principle when he prays before he jumps into any other problem solving method.
Before Nehemiah addresses his human king (2:3), now he addresses his divine king (1:5-11). When there is a problem in our life or ministry what is our first reaction?
Do we first attack the person with whom we disagree? Nehemiah did not attack Artaxerxes who was standing in his way of returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. About 13 years earlier Artaxerxes had decree that no more work be done on the wall (Ezra 4:21).
Do we attack the problem in our strength or wisdom? Do we whip out our smart phone and start wheeling and dealing?
The proper response is the response of Nehemiah: Attack the problem on your knees.
A. Praise for Who God Is (1:5)
1. Praise for His Greatness
Even though the problem in Nehemiah’s life is “great” (1:3) Nehemiah focuses on his “great” God (1:5). The greater God becomes in our thinking, the smaller become our problems. Prayer is our response to Christ’s words “Without me you can do nothing.”
2. Praise for His Awesomeness. Notice how often "the great and terrible God" appear together in praise to God in the Old Testament (Nehemiah 1:5; 4:14; 9:32; Daniel 9:4). Praise to God puts our problems in perspective.
Henry and Richard Blackaby in Spiritual Leadeship in chapter seven "The Leader’s Influence" stress that leaders influence others through prayer. They give six reasons why leaders should pray. The fourth reason is "God is all-powerful. . . .God can do far more than even the most resourceful leaders. God’s promise is open ended: ’Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock; and it will be opened to you’ (Matt. 7:7 NIV). If someone is angry with a leader, reconciliation might look impossible. But God can melt the hardest leader. Leaders can be stymied when people refuse to cooperate. But God can change people’s attitudes overnight. There are times when even the most powerful CEOs in the world can do nothing but retreat to the privacy of their executive office, pray, and let God work."
The Blackabys next gave this example. "When Nancy Reagan was diagnosed with a malignant tumor and had to undergo a mastectomy, her husband, though he was President Ronald Reagan, realized that even being the most powerful executive in the world had its limits. Commenting on that day, Reagan confessed: ’For all the powers of the president of the United States, there were some situations that made me feel helpless and very humble. All I could do was pray---and I did a lot of praying for Nancy during the next few weeks’" (Spiritual Leadership, pages 149-150).
B. Confession of Sin (1:6-7)
1. Identification of Sin in 1:6 is heard in this petition:“we have sinned against you.” After worshiping God’s greatness and awesomeness it is easy to see our littleness and our sinfulness. The closer we get to God the bigger become our sins. This was the experience of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5. After Isaiah saw the exalted holiness of God all he could was cry, "Woe is me for I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips."
2. Definition of sin is heard in 1:7. Sin is not only breaking God’s rules (1 John 3:4) but sin is also offending a holy God who can be grieved. Someone said, "Grieve is a love word. You can only grieve someone who loves you." When we sin we break the heart of our Heavenly Father. David realized this neglected petition of sin when he confessed, “Against thee and only thee have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4).