10 Prayers of a Leader


Leaders pray . . . the smart ones do anyway!

That is one lesson I learn from Nehemiah. When it came to vision, mission, and values -- the holy trinity of the corporate world -- Nehemiah could write the book. He knew where he was going, how to get there, and how to get people on board. But what set him apart was prayer!

Prayer was not a ritual for Nehemiah. It was his lifestyle, a constant communication with the Almighty. We see this as we examine the prayers from the book that bears his name.

  1. "Forgive me." I said, "O LORD God of heaven ... let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned." (Nehemiah 1:5-6)  Leaders are accountable to God. Every leader reports to The Leader. When we mess up--whether that is through selfishness, hardheartedness, foolishness, or any other sinfulness--we must confess that to the Lord. Walking in disobedience is like trying to pour our gifts through a straw. Our capabilities are diminished. Confession brings back the power and the blessing.
  2. "Help me." Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, "Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?" Then the king said to me, "What are you requesting?" So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king... (Nehemiah 2:2-5)  I love this prayer. The pressure is on! Standing before an inquiring King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah breathes a "Help me, Lord!" Leaders, it's okay to throw up an SOS to God!
  3. "Judge them." Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. (Nehemiah 4:2-5)  Facing the jeering and taunts of his adversaries, Nehemiah turned to God with his frustration. "Lord, ultimately they are mocking you. Shut them up!" Nehemiah prayed, and then he got to work!
  4. "Bless me." "Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people." (Nehemiah 5:19; 13:14, 31)  Nehemiah knew that he and his countrymen were "carrying the light" of truth and fulfilling God's plan.1 His prayer for God's blessing is a prayer of faith recognizing God as the one who ultimately brings justice and grants rewards. Leaders look to the Lord for their rewards, rather than hoping for public praise.
  5. "Strengthen me." Facing the erroneous and inflammatory claims of Sanballat and Tobiah, Nehemiah prayed, "But now, O God, strengthen my hands." (Nehemiah 6:9)  When enemies threaten and the work is hard, the leader prays, "Strengthen me!"
  6. "Remember them." Knowing that it was God's job to exact vengeance, Nehemiah turned his troublesome people over to the Lord. "Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid." (Nehemiah 6:14)  This is huge! Leaders who give their problems over to God are free to focus their energies on the task at hand. Don't drain your energy in a shouting match with your adversary, pray!
  7. "What do you want me to do?" It is obvious that Nehemiah spent time listening to God. On two occasions he spoke of what God "had put into my heart" (Nehemiah 2:12; 7:5). Leaders must slow down to listen to God. If you are looking for help in discerning God's whisper in your life, click here.
  8. "We need You!" "Leaders in the church ... must take the lead in humble confession and in praising God."2 Confession and praise keeps our compass pointing "true north." It helps us to remember that all of life is from God and to God and through God (Romans 11:36). Leaders who publicly stop to praise God, to acknowledge His greatness, His help, His glory, and their own shortcomings don't get entrapped by pride and blinded by self-centeredness. Nehemiah 9 is a corporate prayer of confession, in which the leaders acknowledge God's faithfulness despite the nation's repeated sin. They praise God for his faithfulness and acknowledge their complete dependence on Him.
  9. "We commit ourselves afresh to You." After the confession of Nehemiah 9, the leaders initiate a fresh commitment of the heart to serve the Lord and follow His Word. "The rest of the people ... join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God's Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord...." (Nehemiah 10:28, 29, 35)
  10. "We dedicate this to You." Great accomplishments call for great celebrations and great praise. Like Nehemiah, great leaders point people to God during these times. Leaders help people to acknowledge that they have the Lord to thank for their success.4  "And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem . . . I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks." (Nehemiah 12:27, 31)

Nehemiah prayed all the time. There was nothing too big or too small to bring before God. How about you? Which of the 10 Prayers of a Leader do you need to make your own today?


1 F. Charles Fensham, The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah in The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982. Page 199.

2 Breneman, M. (2001). Vol. 10: Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (233). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.Nehemiah 9 -- From verse 6-31

3 Psalm 78, 105, 106, 135, and 136 are psalms of "instructional confession."  They confess Isre

4 Fensham, page 258.