THE POWER OF PLEADING
Richard Elworth Day, in his book Filled With The Spirit,
wrote, "It would be no surprise if a study of secret causes
were undertaken. To find that in every golden era of human
history, it proceeds from the devotion and righteous
passion of a single individual. There are no bonafide mass
movements. It just looks that way. At the center of the
column, there will always be one person who knows God and
who knows where he is going." He is exactly right! That is
why God is always looking for leaders.
In Ezekiel 22:30, God said, "I look for a man who could
stand there and build up the wall and stand before me in
the gap on behalf of my people." then He said, "I could
find none." But He is always looking.
The reason God is always looking for leaders is because
nothing happens without leadership. Everything rises or
falls based upon leadership. That is true when you are
talking about a nation, city, church or family. Everything
rises or falls on leadership and it is really built from
the inside and works its way out.
In the book of Nehemiah, the men had come back from
Jerusalem and they gave the report, "Oh, Nehemiah, it's
terrible. Back in Jerusalem, the wall is down and the
people are living in squalor." Nehemiah wept, mourned,
fasted, and prayed. (Nehemiah 1:4)
When should you
Nehemiah was a man of prayer. I'm fascinated that in the 13
chapters of Nehemiah we find him praying nine different
times. So, when should you pray? You pray before you do
anything else, that's when you pray. Nehemiah's praying
lasted over a span of four months. In other words, Nehemiah
kneeled in the presence of God for four months before he
ever took a single step of action. A leader does more than
pray, but he doesn't do anything else until he prays.
Leaders make prayer a first priority; losers make prayer a
last resort. That is needed counsel especially for those of
us who are Type A personalities. You know what I'm talking
about? Those people who are goal-oriented, achievement
driven and busy people who want to get the job done.
Nehemiah was the epitome of a Type A personality. You don't
rise to be second in charge of a kingdom by just being a
no-count lay-about. This man was an organizer, motivator,
manager and get-it-done kind of guy. In 52 days, he rebuilt
half the wall around the city of Jerusalem. Talk about a
Type A! But, instead of just going out and doing something,
the first thing that Nehemiah does is get alone with
A good little book came out a few years ago. The best thing
about it was the title, Don't Just Stand There, Pray
Something. That's exactly what Nehemiah did. He was God's
kind of leader. He was a leader from the knees up. He was a
leader who understood that leading begins with pleading.
You pray before you do anything else.
Why do we pray?
1. Pray to
acknowledge your dependence on God.How do you
In fact the reason we don't pray more is because we
don't think we need to. We think we can handle it on
our own. What's your most common reaction when you have
a problem? I dare say for most of us, the common
reaction is "what am I going to do about this?" When
the reaction should be, "God, what do You want to do
All too often we tend to forget what Jesus said "Apart
from me, you can do nothing." (John 15:3) That's pretty
strong. Paul wrote "Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and petition, with
thanksgiving present your request to God." (Philippians
4:6) What do you pray about? Everything! Present your
prayer with petition. My fruitfulness and my usefulness
for the Lord begins when I recognize my absolute
dependence upon Him. "In Him we live, and move, and
have our being." The Bible says He holds the world
together by the very word of His power. We take that
for granted. Do you realize the molecules in your body
cling together? Oh, you say it's the laws of physics
and chemistry. Where do you think those laws came from?
The reason your body doesn't just go off into space is
because He is holding it all together by the very word
of His power. I pray to remind me of that.
2. Pray to
alleviate the burden.
Nehemiah dropped to his knees because he had this bad
report about what was happening in Zion. The Bible says
he wept over the ruins. Rather than simply mourn and
moan, he prayed. He took his problem to God. In Hebrew
Nehemiah means "the Lord is my comfort." Paul said "In
everything offer prayer, and the peace of God which
transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and
minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6) "But those
who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They
will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not
grow weary. They will walk and not faint." (Isaiah
40:31) That's why godly people take their problems to
the Lord because His peace follows prayer and God takes
that burden off your back and lets you soar again. It
alleviates the burden.
3. Pray to
access God's power.
This is the most important reason of all. Nothing
releases God's power like the prayer of faith. God
says, "Call to me and I will answer you." (Jeremiah
33:3) Oh, if we just had a better appreciation of the
power that God has available for us.
Israel was having trouble with a nation of people
called the Aramians. The Aramians were trying to
conquer them but at every turn, Israel was heading them
off and the king of Aram said, "There's some spy out
there who is telling every thing we plan." The people
said, "No, King, there's no spy. There is a prophet in
Israel named Elisha and he knows where we're going."
The king of Aram said, "Then we'll get him." So at
night he sent this huge army with chariots and horses.
At daybreak they had surrounded the city where Elisha
lived. A servant woke up and looked out and said, "Oh,
my lord, what shall we do?" Elisha said "Don't be
afraid, those who are with us are more than those who
are against us." (2 Kings 6:16) He prayed "Let their
eyes be opened." (2 Kings 6:17) When the servant looked
out the window again, he saw the Aramian army was
surrounded by horses and chariots of fire and that God
had blinded the Aramian soldiers.
My prayer is that God would open our eyes and let us
see the horses and the chariots of fire. I access God's
power through prayer. And Nehemiah did the same thing.
1. "Then I said, 0 Lord God of heaven, the great
and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with
those who love Him and obey His commands." (Nehemiah
1:5) Do you remember who Nehemiah worked for? He worked
for a guy named Artaxerxes, the Persian king, who was
the most powerful man on the face of the earth. The man
who is Nehemiah's boss is the king of the world. But
the first thing Nehemiah does is go to the King of the
universe. He goes to the King of Kings and recognizes
who the real ruler is. He starts his prayer with two
things that we teach our children to pray. He says,
"God is great, and God is good." See what he says: "Our
God is the great and awesome God, the King of Heaven.
God, you are good. You keep your covenant of love."
Praise is simply acknowledging God for who He is; a) He
deserves our praise, and b) He is the King. When you
focus on the greatness of God your problems shrink.
Nehemiah experienced that, have you? He did not allow
the difficult circumstances to diminish his need or
desire to praise God. He said, "God, I know our
situation is a mess, but you are bigger than the mess.
God, I know that the problems in Jerusalem are great,
but You are greater than the problems."
When things in my life are going well, when
circumstances are lined up in a rosy fashion, I'm quick
to praise God. God is great, God is good! But when I'm
in despair, when I feel like I'm at the end of my rope
because circumstances around me are as negative as they
can be, it's harder for me to praise. Nehemiah says
God, I praise you-I don't care what the circumstances
are. It doesn't make any difference. You are bigger
than my circumstances and the more I praise, the
smaller those circumstances get.
2. Confess your sins. "Let your ear be attentive
and your eyes be opened to hear the prayer your servant
is praying before you, day and night, for your servants
the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites,
including myself and my father's house, have committed
against you. We have acted very wickedly towards you.
We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you
gave your servant Moses." (Nehemiah 1:6-7) Nehemiah was
not born when Israel was taken into captivity but he
could identify with the sins that caused their downfall
and captivity. When you start extolling God for His
wonderful righteousness and holiness, then your own
smallness and sinfulness becomes more apparent.
The prayers of other great men of Scripture have a
common thread, they identify personally with the sins
of the people. One of the most righteous men who ever
lived was Daniel, not one negative word written about
Daniel. "We have sinned and done wrong. We have been
wicked and rebelled. We have turned away from your
commands and laws." (Daniel 9:5)
Ezra came back as a priest to restore public worship.
He was a great and godly man, but look what he prayed,
"Oh my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up
my face to you. My God, because our sins are higher
than our heads, and our guilt has reached the heavens."
(Ezra 9:6) We are so individualistically minded in
America, that kind of thinking seldom crosses our
When is the last time that you confessed the sins of
this nation and identified yourself as part of the
problem? When's the last time you've done that and
said, "God, I'm sorry. I'm a big part of this." Oh, no,
we like to pray for God to help those heathen, pagan
people that are out there doing all those terrible
things. When's the last time you confessed the sins for
your church? When's the last time you confessed your
part of the sins for your family? Society teaches us
that you are only responsible for you. That's just not
true! You are your brothers' keeper. We are all in this
together and there will never be revival where there is
no sense of community responsibility.
Leaders accept the blame, but losers pass the buck. If
you want to be a leader, you'd better be quick to
accept the blame and be quick to share the credit.
Losers, on the other hand, are always accusers and
excusers. Do you ever see them? They always say it's
their fault and they are the reason it's like it is.
Let me tell you why I'm not involved in all this!
Nehemiah stepped to the plate and said, "God, I've
never been to Jerusalem, and I don't know any of the
homefolk there, but I want to tell you I'm sorry. I'm
part of the problem."
3. You claim God's promises. Nehemiah prays,
"Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses
saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you
among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my
commands, then even if your exiled people are at the
farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and
bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for
my name.'" (Nehemiah1:8-9) He's claiming the promises.
He prayed to God saying "I've read your book. I've read
in that you promised if we disobeyed you, you'd send us
into exile. (Leviticus 26:33) You kept that promise.
But God You also promised that if we return to You
spiritually, You would gather us up and bring us to the
place where Your name dwells. (Deuteronomy 30:4) I'm
calling boldly on you now, God. Keep your promise."
That boldness may blow some of your minds. In fact,
most of you would think it very presumptive to even use
the word "remember" in the context of God. Now, God,
You remember what You promised. If that is your
thinking you need to read your Bible more because all
the way through it you find people reminding God about
what He promised. Abraham did it, Moses did it, and
David did it. Every one of the prophets did it. They
said, "God, I call to your remembrance your promises."
Does God need to be reminded?" No! "Has God forgotten
His promises?" No! Then why do we claim the promises of
God in prayer? Because it helps us remember what those
promises. Presumptive? No! Nothing pleases God more
than when you remind Him of one of His promises,
because you are stating to God that you believe
Do you realize there are over 7,400 promises from God
in the Bible? Over 7,400! Now, some of those are in a
context where they have a restricted audience for a
restricted time. But most of them are universal in
their scope and that is why they have been recorded for
4. Boldly make your petition. "They are your
servants and your people whom you redeemed by your
great strength and your mighty hand. Oh, Lord, let your
ear be attentive to the prayer, this your servant, and
to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering
your name. Give your servant success today by granting
him favor in the presence of this man." (Nehemiah 1:10)
Nehemiah has a heart that's breaking. He's mourning
over Jerusalem. He's willing to go there. He's willing
to rebuild the wall, but in order to go he's going to
need the king's permission.
That's going to be easier said than done because King
Artaxerxes is an unbeliever and Nehemiah is his right
hand man. This is the man whose trust has grown over
the years to the point that he tests the king's food
and drinks of the king's wine. Now Nehemiah is going to
say "Oh, King, can I take a little three year leave of
absence? Also would you equip me with men and equipment
so I can go 1,000 miles from here and rebuild a wall
that you don't know anything about?" What are the odds
he's going to say yes? Nehemiah knows that his
cleverness and his articulation and his personality are
not going to get it done. He also knows that God can do
it, so he prayed "God give me success." (Nehemiah
Have you ever prayed boldly, "God, give me success in
what I'm asking you to do." If not, what do you pray
for? We should not be afraid to pray for success when
what we are trying to do is advance the Kingdom of
When Arnold Palmer was back in his prime as the world's
greatest golfer, he was in Saudi Arabia and he was
doing a little golf exhibition. The king of Saudi
Arabia was so impressed that he told him before he
leaves that he needed to give him a gift. Palmer said,
"Oh, don't give me a gift. I was paid to come over
here." The King said, "You don't understand our
culture. For me not to give you a gift would be a great
insult upon me. So what gift would be appropriate?"
Palmer didn't know what to say, so he said, "Just give
me a golf club." He said, "Fine". The next morning, an
emissary arrived at his hotel and hand him the deed to
a 300-acre "golf club." The moral to that story is when
you are in the presence of the king don't bother to ask
for small things. Ask for great things.
Let's pray boldly. There is nothing wrong with asking
and praying to God for success if what you are doing is
ultimately for the glory of God. In fact, if we can't
ask God to bless what we're doing, then we need to be
doing something else. It's just that simple. Praise
Him, confess your sins, claim the promises and boldly
ask for success. Lesson
#1325 August 3, 1997