“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, second edition)
Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah:
1. Base your request on God’s character.
2. 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!”
3. Confess the sins you’re aware of.
After Nehemiah based his prayer on who God is, he confessed his sins. He says, “We have sinned.” It wasn’t Nehemiah’s fault that Israel went into captivity. He wasn’t even born when it happened, and 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.”
4. 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 telling God to “remember”? 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 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 was 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 OK to ask God to make you successful? It all depends on your definition of success! I believe a good definition of success is “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 should be able to 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.
Talk It Over
Why does God want you to expect him to answer your prayers and pray in anticipation?
What are the promises in God’s Word that you can claim?
Think of some of the requests you made of God this week. How could you have made those prayers more specific?