Summary: The writer outlines Nehemiah’s approach to prayer and shares how the Lord gave him faith in his life to believe that Nehemiah's approach to prayer would also work for him and all who try it.
I have been involved in church planting since 1972. After starting a church that became very successful, I left the home base to help start a sister church in the Park Cities area of Dallas. A group of us felt confident that God wanted a new witness in this part of the city. We soon discovered, however, that we were faced with what seemed to be an impossible task. Property values were out of sight. The property that was available was scarce and included small plots that were not large enough for a church. The depth of the problem is reflected in the fact that no one had constructed a church building in this part of Dallas for nearly twenty-five years.
We looked and prayed for months-in the meantime meeting on Sunday evenings in a rented facility. To be perfectly honest, many of us were getting very discouraged. We felt we might need to give up and go back to the home-base church. We had already learned from other experiences in starting several other sister churches that it was very difficult to maintain a ministry in our culture without a permanent facility-particularly in this area of the country.
While I was trying to come to grips with reality, the Holy Spirit directed me to Nehemiah's prayer process. I can remember vividly how I identified with Nehemiah's helpless feelings. From a human point of view, I saw no solution. I also began to wonder how long our small group of people would be willing to participate in a ministry that seemed to be faltering because of our rather dead-end search for property. We were all getting restless. Furthermore, even if we "found" some property, how could we pay for it?
The more I studied what Nehemiah did-and how he did it-the more convinced I became that I should share his prayer process with our little church body. As I reflect back, I now know that the Lord gave me faith at that moment in my life to believe that Nehemiah's approach to prayer would also work for us. Consequently, I outlined Nehemiah's experience. I then led the church body through the same steps taken by this Old Testament leader. The difference, of course, is that it wasn't just my personal prayers but our prayers together as a group of believers.
Using the Prayer Process
1. We acknowledged God's greatness with the use of Scripture, hymns, and prayers. As we worshiped the Lord in this way; we let Him know that we knew and believed that He could find us a piece of property and/or a permanent facility—even though it seemed to be a human impossibility. If He could resolve Nehemiah's predicament, we told the Lord that we believed He could solve ours.
2. We reminded God of His promises to us. I asked various members of the body to openly share scriptural statements with the Lord. Vividly; I remember that one person shared Jesus' own words that are recorded by Matthew in his Gospel—''Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8).
3. We confessed our sins to God. Here again, we used scriptural statements. We also shared in our own words our human failures. We confessed our lack of faith. We claimed forgiveness based upon John's wonderful promise in 1 John 1:9.
4. We were very specific in our prayers. At this point in the process, we asked God to lead us to people who could help us-both Christians and non-Christians. We reminded the Lord that if He could use Artaxerxes, we believed that there were people in Dallas who could help us if God moved on their hearts and gave us opportunity to make our needs known.
We also asked for miraculous financial resources, for ours were very limited. We were a small group of people, and no one among us was considered wealthy. We hardly had enough income to pay the rent on our facility from week to week and to take care of some part-time salaries. We were praying for a miracle!
The Miracle Happened
God answered our prayers in ways that were far beyond what we imagined. We were overwhelmed with His grace. Please understand that it didn't happen all at once. We also faced one difficult barrier after another. But over a period of time, God unfolded a plan that was absolutely supernatural.
Nehemiah's Prayer Process:
- Pray out of a heart of deep concern.
- Make prayer a priority over other needs.
- Pray persistently.
- Recognize that God is great and awesome.
- Remind God of His promises to us.
- Acknowledge our unworthiness and sinfulness, our human weaknesses and failings.
- Be specific in our prayers if we want to get specific answers.