“THEN [Nehemiah] said, ‘O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! … I confess that we have sinned against you. … Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’ … Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.” (Nehemiah 1:5-11 NLT)
Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah:
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!”
Confess the sins of which you’re aware
After Nehemiah based his prayer on who God is, he confessed his sins. It wasn’t Nehemiah’s fault that Israel went into captivity. He wasn’t even born when it happened; he was most likely born in captivity. Yet, he’s including himself in the national sins. He says, “I’ve been a part of the problem.”
Claim the promises of God
Nehemiah prays to the Lord, saying, “I want you to remember what you told your servant Moses.” Can you imagine saying “remember” to God? Nehemiah reminds God of a promise he made to the nation of Israel. In effect, he prays, “God, you warned 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.”
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.
Be very specific in what you ask for If you want specific answers to prayer, then make specific requests. If your prayers consist of general requests, how will you know if they’re 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 okay to ask God to make you successful? It all depends on your definition of success! I believe a good definition of success is this: “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 can pray for with confidence.
Consider this: 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.
- What are the promises of God that you need to claim today?
Pastor Rick Warren founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, United States. He also leads the Purpose Driven Network of Churches, a global coalition of congregations in 162 countries.