Everyone is seeking for the secret to success, for that winning edge, a “leg up” in this competitive world. At the same time, every successful salesperson or celebrity is looking to make money by sharing their particular secret to success! In their humble opinion, you must purchase their product; pay to attend their seminar, in order to be successful! It’s amazing how many formulas there are in the world, to achieve success.
Our text has to do with a very successful individual. His name is Nehemiah. Years earlier, the Babylonian empire had conquered Judah, and most of the people were exiled to Babylon (modern Iraq). However, in 538 BC, Cyrus released some of the Israelites to return to their homeland to rebuild Jerusalem. Zerubbabel returned to rebuild the Temple; Ezra returned later to restore the people and Israel's national life, by teaching them the Law of Moses; and Nehemiah returned to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, securing it from the threat of invasion. Anyway you measure it, Nehemiah was a successful person.
God wants you to have a successful life, that is, as long as you define success correctly. What is success? The biblical definition of success is to be the person God desires you to be, and to accomplish the things God desires you to accomplish.
When we think of Nehemiah, we think of him as a successful leader and builder. Nehemiah is remembered as one of the Bible's most resilient and innovative leaders. He was a gifted administrator and motivator, who was able to plan and organize both difficult people and complex projects, in the midst of a dangerous and difficult setting. Without doubt, the Lord accomplished great things through this man.
What was his secret to success? The answer is clear when you read the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a man of prayer, with a deep concern for God's will above all else. This man, from the very beginning of the book, is depicted as a man of prayer. It is his fervent reliance upon God that gives him the strength and the winning edge, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. It is his prayer life that sustains him in the midst of his trials.
Prayer was a way of life with this great man! When he first hears for the sad condition of his people and the city of Jerusalem, Nehemiah begins to fast and pray. Nehemiah 1:4 reads, “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.” This famous prayer is recorded in Nehemiah 1:5-11. Later in Nehemiah 2, as he stands before King Artaxerxes with a heart burdened for his people and his home town of Jerusalem, he fires off a quick prayer to God. In Nehemiah 2:4 it says, “Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Prayer saturates the book of Nehemiah, because it saturates the life of the man.
Our text verses are two separate recordings of what must have been a continual prayer on the heart of this successful man. It flows spontaneously from his lips and life. From this simple prayer, we can find three things that present God’s formula for success in your life. Your life can be a success if you pray the Nehemiah way!
Praying God’s Formula For Success
First: Success comes when you pray with a proper view of yourself.
Here we see the one who prays, or the petitioner. In Nehemiah 5:19, the first three words of Nehemiah’s prayer are, “Think upon me.” In Nehemiah 13:31b, it is reduced to two words, “Remember me.” What a bold yet humble request! Nehemiah is asking God to examine who he is and how he is! How we view ourselves as we approach God is very important! Why? God rejects the proud. Peter affirms this in I Peter 5:5-7. Whether we come into the house of God or before the throne of grace, we should be clothed with humility. Why? Peter says in verse 5b, “...for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” He goes on to say in verses 6-7, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.”
How did Nehemiah view himself as he approached the Lord in prayer? We can discover the answer to this question as we examine his famous prayer recorded in Nehemiah 1:5-11. You learn a lot about someone, when you listen to their prayers.
Nehemiah approached the Lord as a humble servant. Nehemiah desired nothing more than to be a loyal servant of God. In Nehemiah 1:6, Nehemiah prays, “Let Thine ear now be attentive, and Thine eyes open, that Thou mayest hear the prayer of Thy servant, which I pray before Thee now, day and night.” Verse 11 says, “O Lord, I beseech Thee, let now Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant, and to the prayer of Thy servants.”
Someone has said, “You can be too big for God to use, but you can never be too small.” To be successful in God’s eyes, you must first see yourself as a servant. Jesus Christ, the most successful person who ever lived, entered this world as a humble servant.
Nehemiah approached the Lord as an unworthy sinner. Nehemiah was quick to confess his sin before God. In Nehemiah 1:6b he prays, “...and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against Thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.” We serve a moral God who hates sin, but loves to forgive and restore His wayward children!
Have you confessed your sins to God today? Un confessed sin will rob you of success! Proverbs 28:13 tells us, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” We often refer to prayer as coming before the “throne of grace.” Why do we call it the “throne of grace?” Because were it not for God’s grace extended to us through Jesus Christ, who is the “new and living way,” we could not approach God at all! By faith, God has covered and cleansed us in His redemptive blood, and clothed us in His righteousness! Yes, we can come boldly before the throne of God, but we must never forget to take off our shoes!
Nehemiah approached the Lord with a heart that desired to reverence Him more and more. In Nehemiah 1:11, Nehemiah prays, “O Lord, I beseech Thee, let now Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant, and to the prayer of Thy servants, who desire to fear Thy name.” Wow! Nehemiah’s life was focused on God. God was at the center of His life. His desire was that his thoughts, words, attitudes and actions were seasoned with a sense of reverence toward God.
Are you living your life according to what you think is right and best? What does God think about your life? What does He think about your actions and attitude? Are you aware of God’s future judgment of your present life? Do you even care? The “fear of God” has been lost in this world, and sad to say it has been lost in the hearts and lives of most Christians.
Nehemiah approached the Lord with a heart that desired to be blessed, to prosper! In Nehemiah’s short prayer, he asked God to remember him “for good,” not bad. He sought not only the Lord’s approval, but His blessing! In Nehemiah 1:11a he prays, “O Lord, I beseech Thee, let now Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant, and to the prayer of Thy servants, who desire to fear Thy name: and prosper.” Nehemiah faced a great challenge. Would the king allow him to return? Would he guarantee safe passage? What about the needed materials? Nehemiah knew that if he was going to make it to Jerusalem and complete his task, God must make it happen!
How often in our prayers do we use the word, “bless.” We pray, “Lord, bless this. Lord bless that.” There is nothing wrong with asking God to bless and prosper us! God has promised to grant us the desires of our hearts, as long as those desires are holy and in line with His divine purpose for our lives!
Your life story can be a success story, but it all begins when you pray with a proper view of yourself!
Second: Success comes when we pray with a proper view of God.
In Nehemiah 5:19 Nehemiah prays,“Think upon me, my God.” In Nehemiah 13:31, he prays, “Remember me, O my God.” It is evident that Nehemiah had a personal, intimate relationship with his God. He prayed, “my God.” He knew God.
Nehemiah’s knowledge of God came no doubt through personal experience. We all learn about who God is and how He is as we live life. Paul in II Corinthians 1 tells us that God is the “God of all comfort,” and that we learn of God’s ability to comfort us in every situation, as we experience troubles and trials in this life. In II Corinthians 1:4 Paul says, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
But there is another way we can learn about God. We come to know God through His Word! Nehemiah prayed to the God of the Bible! Notice his prayer in Nehemiah 1:8-9. He prays, “Remember, I beseech Thee, the word that Thou commandedst Thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: 9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.” Nehemiah knew God through His Word. He applies God’s words spoken to Moses and Israel, to his present situation! Why? God is consistent with His Word.
You must read your Bible to learn about God. Your knowledge of God and your knowledge of the Bible are connected! If you want your prayers answered, you had better believe in God; know what He is like; and above all, maintain a personal relationship with Him. What kind of God did Nehemiah pray to?
Nehemiah prayed to a God who was over and above all creation! Nehemiah 1:5a, “And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God.” Recently I saw a magazine article whose heading read, “Never underestimate the power of a woman.” A woman can spot a small piece of lent on a suit one hundred yards away. She senses things and knows things that defy logic. Her ability to multitask boggles the mind! The only difference between a hockey mom and pit bull is lipstick! Never underestimate the power of a woman!
How many times do we underestimate the power of God? Nehemiah prayed to, “...the Lord God of Heaven, the great and terrible God!” There is nothing God cannot do! Sarah laughed at the thought of conceiving and bearing a child in her old age. The thought was absurd to her, but the Lord rebuked her saying, “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?”
Nehemiah prayed to a God who keeps His promises. Nehemiah 1:5 continues, “...that keepeth covenant.” Nehemiah knew that his existence and the existence of his people rested on God’s faithfulness to keep the promise He made to Abraham! Israel is alive and well as a nation today, occupying their land, all because God keeps His Word!
God is faithful! Our relationship with God is based upon a covenant! We can pray according to the promises of God revealed in Scripture, knowing that He will keep and honor every promise! Philippians 4:19 promises, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Pray the prayer! Claim the promise!
Nehemiah prayed to a merciful God. Nehemiah 1:5 continues, “...that keepeth covenant and mercy.” Mercy is God withholding what we deserve. All we deserve is the full judgment and consequences of our sin. How else could we exist for one day, one hour, one moment, were it not for the mercies of God? It is by His mercies that we are not consumed! Every day we sin wilfully and repeatedly against God! Because God’s mercy endures forever, we have life, hope and opportunity to begin again! Hallelujah!
Nehemiah prayed to a God who especially loves those who are obedient. Nehemiah 1:5 concludes, “....for them that love Him and observe His commandments.” Nehemiah was an obedient servant. He acted upon God’s revealed will for his life! He told the Lord, “Here am I, send me.”
Nehemiah knew what to do and how to be so to receive the full favor and blessings of God upon his life. If you notice, I said the full favor and blessing of God. We do not deserve or merit the grace of God. We do not merit or deserve the blessings of God. However, we are fooling ourselves to believe that God as our Heavenly Father, is going to bless us fully, when we are walking and living in disobedience to Him. God chastens His children. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep (observe) my commandments.” Charles Stanley once said, “God doesn’t have favorites, but He has intimates.” We cannot live lives that are sinful, disobedient, and expect God to give us success.
Our success lies not in ourselves, but in the hands of the great God of Heaven. If we are to be successful, we must pray not only with a proper view of ourselves, but with a proper dependency upon God! In a real way, prayer connects us with the presence and power of God! We are involved in a Partnership with God! God is the Senior partner.
Third: Success comes when we pray with a proper view of our role in the world.
Nehemiah petitioned God to remember him for good, based upon his record as a man who lived for others, not himself. Notice his prayer in Nehemiah 5:19. “Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.” Nehemiah was not just a servant of God; he was a servant of the people. He lived for a cause that was greater than himself! Everything Nehemiah did was for the blessing and benefit of the people he served. When they were in danger as they worked on the wall, Nehemiah was quick to devise a plan that protected them and their families. He looked out for the welfare of the people when they were being charged interest on the money borrowed from their brethren. Even when Nehemiah was appointed governor, he refused to follow the lead of those who held the office previously, using the position to take advantage of the people they served. Nehemiah was always fair and just. Nehemiah loved and served his people!
True success is not selfish! Success is found in loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself! Do your prayers focus solely upon yourself? Why is this a great prayer? It is others centered, not self centered.
For Nehemiah, miracles did happen! He went to Jerusalem and successfully built up the walls. Nehemiah teaches us that success begins with prayer and ends with a surrendered life. As believers and as a church, prayer is one of our core values. Prayer is essential to Christian spirituality and success in this life! Persistent, prevailing prayer empowers us to achieve our God-given purpose.
Dan Crawford who lived from 1870 to 1926, spent most of his adult life serving as a missionary in Africa. When it was time to return home to Britain, Crawford described to an old Bantu, the kind of world to which he was returning. He told him about ships that ran under the water, on the water, and even those that flew above the water. He described English houses with all of their conveniences, such as running water and electric lights. Then Crawford waited for the old African to register his amazement. "Is that all, Mr. Crawford?” the aged man asked. "Yes, I think it is,” Crawford replied. Very slowly and very gravely, the old Bantu said, "Well, Mr. Crawford, you know, that to be better off is not to be better.”
What are you doing with your life? Do you pray? If so, do you pray with a proper view of yourself; a proper view of God; and a proper view of your purpose in this world? This is the formula for success! Its time to pray the Nehemiah way.difference in your world? Will you make a difference in your church? You must pray!