After hearing about the sad state of affairs in Judah, Nehemiah received permission from King Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls. He recruited thousands of workers to repair breaches in the wall and organized guards to defend the workers from enemy armies. He made quick work of the rebuilding project, completing the work in just 52 days.
It’s an incredible story of planning, organization and leadership, but the rebuilding didn’t start in Jerusalem. The story actually begins with an act that offers powerful insight for our ministry planning task. After Nehemiah heard the bad news about the “great trouble and disgrace” in his native land, he did something important. He sought divine intervention from a Sovereign God. Nehemiah tells that part of the story this way:
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open 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 family, have committed against you.” – Nehemiah 1:4-6 (NIV)
Nehemiah mourned, fasted, prayed and confessed his sins to God. He started at the place we often overlook. He began his planning effort on his knees crying out to the God of heaven for mercy, direction and divine intervention.
The Holy Spirit
God sent His Spirit for challenges exactly like the one before you.
Jim Cymbala says it this way:
Many of us feel prompted to do something for God, but we hold back because we’re afraid to fail. A fear of failure stops us from starting the very thing God has laid on our hearts. It might be to join a ministry in our church (or even start one), share a Bible passage with someone on the phone, or perhaps start a prayer meeting. We know it is a prompting from the Lord. But that means leaving our comfort zone and stepping out into uncharted waters.
Jim Cymbala with Jennifer Schuchmann, Spirit Rising: Tapping into the Power of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), p. 156.
Be bold in the spirit and trust His leadership as you move forward. Don’t be afraid! And don’t depend wholly upon your own knowledge and experience. Instead, trust in the Lord and lean on his wisdom and understanding. Prayerfully seek His face and His will. Paul says:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NIV)
Prayer is a major part of your toolkit for applying God’s power and attention to earthly concerns. Why should you pray in the ministry action planning process? You pray to:
- Seek divine intervention in your church and community
- Seek God-inspired vision and values
- Appropriate divine power for your strategy planning task
- Discern His will for the plans you make
The Bible repeatedly calls us to seek the Lord and pray for His will:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. – Colossians 4:2 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
Pray without ceasing for your church, its vision and full unity of purpose. A true movement of God for any church’s growth begins with prayer!