Everything lay in ruins. The wall was destroyed, the gates burned to the ground. Those who survived exile were disgraced. Heartbroken and grieving from this news, Nehemiah turned to God in prayer.
All through the book of Nehemiah, we see what a man of prayer he was. Nehemiah’s prayers were honest, heartfelt, and constant. No matter what happened—good or bad, frustrating or victorious—he prayed. When he was grieved because the wall of Jerusalem had been destroyed and still lay in ruins, he prayed. Before answering the king when he asked what Nehemiah needed to repair the wall, he prayed. When his enemies tried to intimidate him, he prayed. Even when false prophets tried to get him to fail, and when rumours spread, he prayed. When those around him felt discouraged, he prayed. When his enemies threatened to attack, he prayed. Finally, when the wall was rebuilt and Nehemiah and his fellow workers were victorious, he prayed and praised.
One of the most important traits we as leaders bring to our teams is a healthy relationship with God—a healthy soul. When we are connected to God, we help point those we lead to Him. When they see our first response is to pray, they will see a deep trust and reliance on the One who calls us to do this work and provides for this mission.
As leaders distracted by our own agendas, it is too easy for our prayers to become a to-do list for God. Our prayers become “Lord, please do this, please resolve this, and provide for that.” This can lead to a distant and frustrated relationship with the Lord, especially when a request isn’t answered on our timetable. Our prayers are our opportunities to abide in Him, and Him with us. The deeper our relationship with the Lord, the more we are able to lead from an attitude of peace and reassurance that God has the future in His hands.
There are seven areas I feel we should cover in prayer:
Thanksgiving: A heart full of gratitude helps us stay focused on how great our God is. Thank God for what He has done, remembering His faithfulness and provision. And thank Him for what He will do, building your trust.
Family: Our families are our priority, refuge, and safety net. Pray for God’s protection, provision, life guidance, and that each member feels God’s love. Pray that laughter, love for one another, and peace would increase within your home.
Personal relationships: Deep friendships provide encouragement and accountability. Pray for the relationships you already have and the ones God still will bring to your life. Pray for mutual accountability, encouragement, and love.
Wisdom: With so many looking to us for answers, pray you would hear God’s guidance, and see situations, decisions, and issues as He does, and have the courage to act accordingly.
Forgiveness: We all fail, we all sin and make mistakes. Pray for God’s spirit of forgiveness to make us quick to forgive.
Direction: Pray God would make your heart and mind sensitive to His leading and insight as He directs you to lead your team day by day, and for the future of our ministry’s mission.
Team’s Spiritual Health: Our abilities, joyfulness, and unity as a team to serve others is dependent on the spiritual health of each member. Pray for each member’s personal relationship with the Lord, family, and for a spirit of unity to increase.
Ultimately, Prison Fellowship International is God’s ministry—His people, His mission, His call to us. We need His constant guidance. Our roles are too heavy to carry alone. When we focus on Him and His kingdom, the weight of our roles gets placed in His hands. Then, depending on Him completely, we can simply follow His lead as we minister to our teams, prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families.
In all we do, let’s start with prayer. And let’s hold each other accountable by asking one another, “have you been praying about this” or “how is your prayer life” from time to time.
Let’s not get so caught up in what is demanding our immediate attention that we overlook our essential need and privilege for communicating with the One who loves us abundantly and without reservation.