Is there a certain way for a leader to pray?

by Rick Warren

God is looking for people to use. He is looking for leaders. 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.

We have a sample of a leader’s prayer in the book of Nehemiah. You can learn a lot about a person by the kind of prayer that they pray. A canned prayer indicates a dried up spirit. A selfish prayer indicates a selfish spirit. Some prayers are like Christmas lists. Impressive prayers indicate an arrogant, prideful heart.

Remember that Nehemiah, when he first heard about the downfall of Jerusalem, prayed for four months. This is not just a casual prayer. The prayer we’re going to look at this week is just a sample prayer he prayed. It gives us a pattern for successful praying. If you want to know how to pray, study the book of Nehemiah and particularly this prayer.

Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah.

1. Base my 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 comes to God and says, “God, I want you to do something back over in Jerusalem. Verse 5 says, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps His Covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His command.” Nehemiah said three things about God:

  1. You’re great — that’s God’s position.
  2. You’re awesome — that shows His power.
  3. You keep your promises — God’s Covenant.

The first thing Nehemiah did was he acknowledges who God is. That’s what praise is. Acknowledge who God is and His greatness. He starts off by getting the right perspective. In starting to have answered prayer, 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” — all these things the Bible tells us He is. You base your request on God’s character.

2. Confess the sin in my life

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 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 they went into captivity. He wasn’t even born when this happened seventy years earlier. He was most likely born in captivity. Yet, he is including himself in the national sins. He says, “I’ve been a part of the problem”.

There is personal confession and there is national confession. This is something we don’t know anything about. We don’t have a corporate sense in America today. We are very individualistic. We’re taught to confess my sins. 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.

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/couldn’t happen; It’s always somebody else’s fault. Leaders accept the blame.

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 He had said in the past. God warned us through Moses that if we were unfaithful we would lose the land of Israel. But You also promised that if we repent, You’d give it back to us. All through the Bible you find God’s people reminding God 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…” then they’d share it.

Question: Does God have to be reminded? No. Does He forget what He’s promised? No. Then why do we do this? Because it helps us remember what God has promised. Nothing pleases God more that when you remind God of one of His promises. Do kids ever forget a promise? Never. So you have to be very careful about making them. The Bible says we’re imperfect fathers and if we imperfect fathers know that we need to fulfill our promises to our kids, how much more does a perfect Father, a Heavenly Father, intend to keep the promises He’s made in His word.

4. Be very specific in what I ask for

If you want specific answers to prayer you need to make specific requests. If you make general prayers, how will you know if they are answered?

Nehemiah is not 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 is the alternative? A failure? Is it OK 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 is a worthy life objective that you should be able to pray for 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!

Point: 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.

Rick Warren is the Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church. He is also the author of the bestselling books, Purpose Driven Life and Purpose Driven Church.

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