Dear Friends in Christ,
“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name” (Nehemiah 1:11a)
At the beginning of orientation for new Church Council members, I would often share something like this: “We are not business leaders. The Church of Jesus Christ is not a business. We have been called by God to be spiritual leaders, and spiritual leaders are first and foremost people of prayer”.
Nehemiah was not a prophet, a priest, or a Levite. Nehemiah was a lay leader, who was called by God to rebuild the crumbling wall of Jerusalem. To complete this monumental task, it took a lot of influence (leadership) and a lot of prayer. Nehemiah is a person of prayer; the kind of leader all of us long to be and long to have on the Church Council.
As I read through Nehemiah chapter 1, I notice four areas where Nehemiah excels as a spiritual leader:
First, Nehemiah sees the need. Though he is living 800 miles away from Jerusalem, he hears from his brother, Hanani, that God’s people are in trouble. The walls of Jerusalem are piles of rubble, which makes those living in the City of David vulnerable (Nehemiah 1:2-3). Nehemiah is not afraid to see what the real problem is. As you think about your own leadership, are there areas in your personal life and in the life of your parish that you are choosing not to see?
Second, Nehemiah allows the need to shift from his eyes to his heart. He becomes personally concerned with the need of God’s people in Jerusalem. This causes Nehemiah to weep, to mourn, to fast, and to pray (Nehemiah 1:4). A business leader might have thrown up his/her hands and demanded to know why the wall still wasn’t finished. “They’ve been back in Jerusalem for decades, and still no wall! I want names! Who is in charge?” Notice what Nehemiah does. He takes the need to heart. He weeps. He mourns. He fasts. He is compassionate. As you think about your own leadership, are there folks within your realm of influence who need your compassion more than your hardness?
Third, Nehemiah brings the need to God in prayer (Nehemiah 1:5-11b). This is the default of every great spiritual leader I have been blessed to know. They are always and forever people of prayer. As you think about your own leadership, how might you prioritize God’s gift of prayer in your personal life? In the life of the parish? In your life together as staff and Church Council? How can we expect God to bless our many endeavors, when we have not even sought God’s will through prayer and scripture (see 1:7-9)?
Finally, Nehemiah makes himself available to meet the need. He is going to leave Babylon and go to Jerusalem to lead the rebuilding of the wall. Nehemiah has listened. He has pondered. He has prayed. Only now is Nehemiah ready to act according to God’s will. Spiritual leaders are indeed people of action, but first and foremost, spiritual leaders are people of prayer.
Are there walls that need to be built? Are there goals that need to be accomplished? Is there a mission that needs to be pursued? Are there hungry people that need to be fed? Is there a promise (Gospel of Jesus Christ) that needs to be shared? Pray first, and then get at it with all the strength, diligence, tenacity, and grit that God has given you.