You can learn a lot about a person by the kind of prayer he prays. For instance, a selfish prayer indicates a selfish spirit. Have you ever heard a prayer that sounds like a Christmas list—I want this, and I want that. Some people try to impress you with their prayers, yet they come off as arrogant and prideful.
For leaders, there’s a model prayer in the book of Nehemiah. Remember Nehemiah? When he first heard about the downfall of Jerusalem, he prayed for four months.
This was not just a casual prayer. Instead, it gives us a pattern for successful praying. If you want to know how to pray, study the book of Nehemiah—particularly this prayer.
Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah:
1. Base your request on God’s character.
Pray like 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 approaches God and says, “God, I want you to do something back in Jerusalem.”
“O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands.” (Nehemiah 1:5, NIV)
Nehemiah said three things about God:
1. You’re great—that’s God’s position.
2. You’re awesome—that shows God’s power.
3. You keep your promises—that’s God’s covenant.
The first thing Nehemiah does is acknowledge who God is; that’s what praise is. Acknowledge who God is and his greatness. Nehemiah starts off by getting the right perspective. As you pray, say, “God, I want you to answer this prayer 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.” You base your request on God’s character.
2. Confess the sin in your life.
After Nehemiah based his prayer on God’s character, he confessed his sins. He says, “We’ve sinned.” Look at how many times he uses the word “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 that the Israelites went into captivity; that was 70 years earlier, before Nehemiah had even been born. In fact, 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.”
When was 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 very individualistic. Our society has taught us we’re only responsible for ourselves. And that’s just not true! You are your brother’s keeper. We are all in this together.
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 the blame.