Category Archives: Nehemiah

Planning While Praying

Those that know me well are well-aware that I am much more visionary than administrative.I love dreaming and seeing in my mind the final outcome of something that hasn’t even been conceived, let alone is close to being “born”.I pray and then I proudly announce, sometimes prematurely, what Jesus has told me. I never wonder how it’s going to get done or think about all the obstacles in my way.

I’m not a “planner” by nature. I don’t focus on the negative, the hard or even what seems impossible. I don’t listen to naysayers; in fact, they only make me word harder. I try not to become overwhelmed, to listen to the million thoughts in my mind that tell me I’m crazy, that __ won’t happen and that I am just a naive, crazy woman with an impossible dream. I just trust and move forward, or at least, that’s what I try to do.

In the end, I’m still human and can have my doubts. I also have a tendency to pray more than plan. This is not a bad thing, as one should pray before or while they’re planning….but not planning at all is not good, either.

As I said before, I have been going through Nehemiah with my husband, John. We are studying the book on our own and also with the help of Mark Driscoll, one of my favorite pastors of all time. Mark’s second sermon on the book (he goes through each book that he teaches verse-by-verse) was on the end of chapter 1 and first part of chapter 2. Nehemiah is still praying and mourning the condition of Jerusalem, but he is also planning, with the Lord’s direction, how he is going to approach the king (the same king that had halted construction of the wall just years earlier) and for what he is going to ask the king.

Nehemiah isn’t just locked up in a prayer closet with a vision and a lack of a plan to go with the vision. No, he is exercising both disciplines – prayer and planning. He is not making any plans without the Lord’s lead, but also not thinking that things will just “happen” because he’s spent time in prayer and hasn’t really thought about how to implement the vision God gave him.

He is asking God to do His part, but He’s also committed to doing his, as well.

In short, Nehemiah is a Godly, excellent leader.

In my own life, I have seen the effects of praying without planning and planning without prayer. Neither is good. Neither works or makes a difference, at least Kingdom-wise. Does God sometimes still use us despite our weaknesses? Of course. He’s a good, gracious God who loves His children. In fact, many times He uses us because of our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9-10)….those weaknesses, though, aren’t because we didn’t pray or didn’t plan. They are because we live in a fallen world and God, in His sovereignty, sees to it that nothing in our lives goes to waste, if we’ll allow Him to move and work through any circumstance. Our Heavenly Father’s goodness, however, does not give us a license to be lazy.

I have also seen the effects of planning while praying. To this day, if you ask me how before the age of 21 I took 750 pages of e-mails and turned them into a 212 page book, complete with title and organized chapters and, even more miraculous, fully funded and turned into a book called Breathtaking, I would tell you one thing – it was God.

I still stand by that, but I am also learning it was a product of obedience, of living my life for a year like Nehemiah and praying and planning at the same time. I didn’t always want to sit on my bed for hours and edit pages out of huge binders and call it a “book”, while many thought I was crazy, but I did it. I did it because the Lord asked me to do so for His Kingdom, not for my praise and certainly at times not for my joy, at least in the midst of compiling everything.

There were many times I wanted to throw in the towel, call it a day and stop touring the country asking people to fund a project that wasn’t even completed. When I started, Breathtaking was just 2 giant binders in my room that were slowly being edited. I mean, c’mon, I had chapter titles on an Arby’s napkin; that’s not exactly something you want to announce when you’re asking people for thousands of dollars. I felt at times like a traveling idiot, as I drove to dozens of different churches, community groups, whoever would listen and told them about my “dream”, about this supposed book that would come out if they would just partner with me and catch the vision. After many Sunday mornings, I got in my car and said to the Lord, “Are you sure about this?”….obviously, He was.

I knew that I had prayed and that I was planning at the same time. I knew that God was the one giving me the strength to not only be in college but also edit for an avg. of 8 hours a day for over 10 months. I knew that if I would have embarked on writing a book on my own, I would have failed. That’s what I love about Breathtaking and Breathtaking Ministries, Inc., the ministry that was birthed out of the theology presented in the book. They weren’t my idea. I also believe that re-building the walls of Jerusalem wasn’t Nehemiah’s idea. He chose, though, as I did, to partner with God and commit to do His part and leave the rest to Him. We chose to obey.

It”ll be 3 years in December that Breathtaking was finally published. Now, years later (that’s hard to believe), I see that God is asking me to pray and plan again. My life is completely different now, and naturally, so are my prayers and what God asks of me.

I am thankful for a husband that is completely different than me, that interacts with God differently than me and reminds me of my weaknesses. One of those is my tendency to want to pray and dream without planning along the way.

God has a funny sense of humor, at least that’s what we think. John is an internal processor. I am an external processor. John is content with seeing few people in one day. One of the biggest downfalls I see from working from home is my lack of interaction with humanity. John likes earth tones. I love bold colors. John doesn’t say 80% of what He thinks.  I say pretty much everything I think, at least to those to which I’m close. John feels loved through the dishes being done and me serving him in other tangible ways. I feel loved through vocal affirmation or cards filled with words. John files everything neatly. I used to have piles of stuff and called it “organized chaos”. John is a planner by nature. I am visionary by nature. John’s a realist. I am a dreamer. John struggles with planning without praying. I struggle with praying without planning. You get the picture. Though we’re different, neither one is better than the other. More importantly, since we’re wired so differently, together we are powerful and can make a difference for the Kingdom.

With the help of the Nehemiah’s example and my sanctification partner, I am re-learning the power of planning while praying. I am relearning that God doesn’t need me to tell Him my plans, if I’m not willing to surrender them to Him. I am relearning that God isn’t going to just give me some grand vision, even if it’s for the Kingdom, and expect nothing tangible of me.

In short, I am relearning the balance between trusting in God’s sovereignty and personal responsibility to be Jesus’ hands and feet. Is it always easy to discern? No, not at all. I am thankful, though, that God doesn’t give up on me and is always faithful to do His part. I just have to do mine.

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Prayer Changes Things

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol, that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. They said to me,”The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.” When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
Nehemiah 1:1-4

John and I have been reading Nehemiah together the past week or so, as well as listening to old sermons by Mark Driscoll (one of the best scholars and pastors of all time, hands down) on the book. We haven’t gotten past Chapter 1. It seems that our hearts are stuck at verse 4, where Nehemiah demonstrates the heart of Jesus for his city, which in his case is Jerusalem.

Many do not realize that the news that is being given to Nehemiah is over 100 years old, and most likely very much “old news”, even to Nehemiah.  For a divine reason, though, this time it strikes him differently and he finds himself broken over the vulnerability of the Jews in Jerusalem. They are without a wall to protect their city, which in our day, would be like being without a government infrastructure to protect and care for us, i.e. mass chaos (New Orleans after Katrina, Haiti after the earthquake, etc). Most likely looting, murder and rape were rampant in Jerusalem, and even 100 years later, there didn’t seem to be much done to resolve the horrid conditions. The Red Cross and Salvation Army weren’t showing up. Military regimes from all over the world weren’t being flown in to bring the city to order. The people were basically on their own.

Back to the story: there’s this man, Nehemiah ,who’s hundreds of miles away and works for the same man (Artaxerxes) who had declared years earlier for the rebuilding of Jerusalem to be halted (Ezra 4:21). Not exactly the best thing for a man who’s heart is clearly broken over Jerusalem’s current state of affairs. Instead of rushing to “fix”, or at least attempt to fix things, Nehemiah does something I often do not.

He prays.

This isn’t just some type of “Dear, Lord, you see that __ needs done. I want to do it. Pave the way for me to do so and let’s get it done for Your glory! Amen!” five-minutes-and-we-are-off kind of prayer.

No, Nehemiah is told “in the month of Chislev”, which most scholars agree would be some time in November or December. He doesn’t tangibly (because we all know we don’t think always think stopping to pray is us tangibly doing anything, or is that just me?) do anything, though, for around 4 months. He doesn’t speak to the King about it. He doesn’t get on Facebook or Twitter and make his status “I’m in deep intersession for Jerusalem! Pray for favor!”. He doesn’t blog about it. He doesn’t stew about it. He doesn’t whine about it.

He just prays – intensely.

On that note, there are many things that John and I are praying about right now. Some things are personal, some are not. Some things could affect just a few, some things could affect hundreds of thousands, if not more. I could choose to blog about them, but instead, I will continue to pray about them with my husband and allow our inner circle to pray about (most of) them, as well.

I have been reminded through Nehemiah’s example that prayer is important, that prayer changes things.

If you skip ahead and go to the end, you’ll see that it took Nehemiah and his team only 52 days to complete something that had been stalled for over 140 years. He also had to ask the permission of the same man who had halted production on the wall, a man who wasn’t too fond of the people in Jerusalem. Just the wall being built was a miracle, let alone how quickly Nehemiah was able to orchestrate its production.

What was the difference, you ask?

Prayer.

I know in my own life I have never been disappointed when I’ve really earnestly sought God through prayer. Whether that be through hand-written journals filled with prayer, getting actually on my knees and praying, praying throughout the day, praying with a friend, praying for years about the same thing– just praying. It’s not about talking about prayer and all the pretty little ways we want to dress it up and/or make it more complicated than it is; it’s about actually doing it and making it a discipline in our lives. That is the only way we’re going to see results.

We must have an attitude of prayer in order to be truly walking in the Spirit and most effective for Christ. There’s no other way to truly abide in the Spirit; there’s no other way to truly walk in the joy and peace Christ affords to us here on Earth as we await the Final Redemption.  I have lived my life in an attitude of prayer and peace and an attitude of quick-fixes and discontent. The former is always better.

In closing, I could give you all the theologically-sound reasons in the world why we should pray. What’s the point? It all boils down to two things.

The reason we don’t, as Christ-followers, value prayer comes down to one of two things or possibly both:

#1) We don’t believe – or have forgotten – God is who He says He is.
#2) We don’t believe  – or have forgotten – we are who God says we are (i.e. Spirit-filled, empowered believers)

For if we believe both of these things, how can we not do anything but pray?

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