A Visionary’s Prayer

We know the end of Nehemiah’s story: ultimately he accomplished an amazing professional feat which serves as a prime example of both excellent business and spiritual leadership. In the midst of improbable circumstances, he rebuilt the walls of God’s holy city after experiencing intense political and economic upheaval. He pulled it off utilizing public funds and volunteer labor, bringing in the project ahead of schedule and under budget. Nehemiah was creative and resourceful but he also possessed an intangible—God’s promises and purposes.

That’s the end of the story, but how did Nehemiah’s story begin? The answer is with prayer. “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the heavens.” (Neh. 1:4) Nehemiah was definitely a visionary and great leader, but let’s consider three compelling components of his prayer deserving our emulation.

1. Nehemiah had a Grand vision of a great God. Nehemiah’s prayer began with, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments . . . “. (1:5) His view of God was lofty. He believed in a powerful God who keeps His promises regardless of the circumstances, or how hopeless things appeared on the surface.

How big is your God? The content of your prayers reveals this. When we fail to pray at all or do not view God as the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, we are really saying that we are trusting in our own abilities and resources.

2. Nehemiah had an honest vision of himself. He was quick to realize how short he (and his people) fell as he prayed, “. . . confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.” (1:6-7)

Prayer is not a time for explanation or rationalization. It is coming before our Heavenly Father in genuine honesty about our weakness, our sin. That’s right “sin”—not a popular term today. We aren’t comparing ourselves to each other, but to our perfect and holy other Creator.

We need to let prayer become our pathway to God, via coming to the end of ourselves. Nehemiah knew his true identity, which was a part of God’s faithful people—and specifically as God’s servant. On this side of the cross, we can remain honest about our sin and at the same time confident of our forgiveness in Christ. We belong to God and we are His servants.

3. Nehemiah had a clear vision of God’s capability. We can’t unpack Nehemiah’s prayer without remembering his struggles and challenges. Likewise we are called to bring our needs and our pain to God in our prayers. Despite the improbable likelihood of accomplishing what Nehemiah desired, he had confident belief that nothing is impossible within God’s will, so he asked: “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” (1:11)

Nehemiah believed in a great God who could do the improbable and the impossible. The marketplace stands ready to celebrate the success of its leaders, but Christ followers should celebrate the obvious work of God in our businesses. Do you have the vision to ask God to do something beyond your human ability today?

Serving Him with you in the marketplace,

David Atchison

Lord, help me to not aim so low that I only seek those things that can be accomplished through human effort (with a few prayers sprinkled in). Give me true vision for Your purposes and Your work in the marketplace and the world. Show me the “wall” You’ve called me to build. Lead me to pray bold prayers so that You will be glorified in my life and business. Amen.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.” – Jeremiah 17:7