Nehemiah had a plan. He had official approval for his plan and royal documents to substantiate that ; he told the governor of Trans-Euphrates region of his plans and the king’s approval. Upon arrival, he surveys the situation at night; he conducts reconnaissance. Only then does he share his plan with the people of Jerusalem. However, Nehemiah’s prayers and plans conflicted with other leaders’ plans: “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite heard this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites”(Neh. 2:10). Nehemiah’s plans threatened to shake up the status quo in Palestine. When they learned of the project to rebuild the wall, the two enemy leaders scoffed and ridiculed the concept publically. Nehemiah responded with prayer and enhanced security. The Jews of Jerusalem bought in to Nehemiah’s vision; the prayers in Nehemiah 4:4-5, 9 use the pronouns “we” and “us” rather than I as the people rose to the challenges they faced. They had adopted Nehemiah’s vision as their own. We begin to see the role that prayer plays in the life of a faithful politician when he encounters opposition. Nehemiah prays hard; the first prayer in Nehemiah chapter 4 reads like a literal call for fire: “Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.” Nehemiah had arrived in Jerusalem with a vision; upon arrival, he went out to assess the situation at night before sharing his dream. Visionary goals often incite opposition. Many feel more comfortable in familiar failure or mediocrity than in changing their routines to seize success. Others have acquired influence because of poor policy; they would rather be big fish in a small pool than small fish in a big one. Outside the Jewish community; Sanballat and Tobiah, threatened by Nehemiah’s arrival, determined to undermine the plans of the newly arrived official. Inside the community, greedy businessmen and corrupt priests wanted to cling to practices that compromised the faith but made them a profit. Nehemiah prays that their sin will be exposed, for they impede the positive – “they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.” The second prayer in chapter four underscores that the people of Jerusalem had made Nehemiah’s vision their own: “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.” Negative thinkers and militant opponents would still pose threats to the rebuilding process, but the shared vision would prevail. Nehemiah’s prayers and careful preparation ignited renewal. In their communities, whether religious or political, godly leaders pray for positive growth and for defeat of practices that deny growth or the attaining of maturity. Like Nehemiah, they do research and network with others to ensure that they understand the situation, then they move out on the right path. They share their vision and move forward with a focus that frightens their opposition. They pray constantly. As Kouzes and Posner note, ” When things seem to be falling apart, leaders show their constituents the exciting new world they can create from the pieces” (The Leadership Challenge, p. 212). Nehemiah, the faithful politician, no longer prayed alone.
Prayer and Building Shared Vision
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