Nehemiah Part 2: Fasting, Prayer, and Journaling

Nehemiah Part 2: Fasting, Prayer, and Journaling

Friday, September 29, 2017 – Audio Recording


What’s the easiest way for this car to get out of the parking lot? Back up into empty space then turn left and you are out.  However, sometimes it takes a few more turns than you might imagine in order to get out of the parking lot and into your driving lane. (Warning…for those on blood pressure medicine – you might want to shield your eyes!)

Painful…sometimes getting to where you want to go takes more turns than you first imagined.

This semester we are getting a Master’s Degree on Leadership from Nehemiah. Nehemiah begins with a “Vision” or holy discontentVision is a preferred future. It’s a picture of what could & should be done.   You experience something unpleasant & it has to change. For Nehemiah he heard about the trouble and shame of his people in Jerusalem and he had his holy discontent moment. This is the beginning of Vision. (1:4)

Last time we talked about Vision from 2 different angles:

  • Vision for your Soul – Who you are (expanding your interior life) 
  • Vision for your Self – What you do (expanding your exterior life)

Both are important, but your Interior Life takes priority.

Most men are great at expanding their exterior life (Job, Position/Influence, Hobbies, House, 401K) but many think that expanding their exterior life means that their interior life will automatically expand. NOPE, we have to work on our Interior lives (Souls).

This morning I want to remind you that getting out of the parking lot and into the driving lane for your life might take more turns than you first imagined

Think of Moses, when you first think of Moses what usually comes to mind?  Leading the Israelites across the Red Sea, out of Egypt and toward the Promise Land. But Moses was 80 years old when that happened. The first 40 years of his life he learned from Pharaoh on  how to lead a nation.

In Exodus 2 – He sees one of his own people being beaten by an Egyptian soldier and can’t take it. He has a holy discontent.

The problem is that Moses isn’t emotionally prepared – and Moses doesn’t have the skills he needs to survive in the desert.

So, The second 40 years of his life, he lives in the desert: Working on trusting God and learning how to lead a nation through a desert . You might say this a 40 point turn. It took Moses 40 years to get into the driving lane. When Moses is 80 years old, he is ready.

I talked with a man last week and asked how he got in the lane God designed for him. To paraphrase what he said: “I was in my 20’s, sitting alone and looking out at a certain situation, seeing something that needed to change. (holy discontent). So I whispered a prayer: “God if you make a way, I promise to have the courage to follow.”  It was a whispered prayer that at times I almost forgot about, but 4 years later God began opening doors and I walked through them. I have been running in this lane for 16 years!”

For Nehemiahthe distance between his Holy Discontent and external action wasn’t 40 years. The distance between his whispered prayer and God moving wasn’t 4 years. For Nehemiah, it was 4 months.

Although there was no external activity during this 4 month period (Nehemiah was still at his day job), there was quite a bit of internal expansion taking place. God was rapidly expanding Nehemiah’s internal capacity so that his Soul would be prepared for his expanded external world.

God was rapidly expanding Nehemiah’s internal capacity so that his Soul would be prepared for his expanded external world.

Nehemiah’s Foundation of Spiritual Disciplines – Prayer and Fasting

The tower to replace the Twin Towers took 11 years to build.  2 whole years were spent just on the foundation. This is your internal life. 

What are the habits or “foundational practices” Nehemiah used to expand his internal life?   It’s not magic, it’s not a miracle, it’s habits and practices. We see two of them in chapter 1.    These are frequently referred to as spiritual disciplines.

(vs. 4) “Fasting and Prayer” – This is the Biblical launching pad for vision and God ordained movements.

  • Matthew 4: Jesus is about to Launch his ministry, just before he steps into the lane which will change the world – He begins with 40 days of Prayer and Fasting
  • Acts 13: The launching of the Church into the world, the Vision for this launch and naming the Apostle Paul to lead the launch came out of a group of church people Praying and Fasting.

We could list many more.

Two things this practice accomplishes:

ONE: It takes you out of the center of decision making and makes you more receptive to God’s Guidance. When you have that holy discontent moment, you might take action right away (like Moses) or when you get a vision your first thoughts always seem like the right ones, but they may not be.

Prayer and fasting slows you down, takes you out of the center, and leaves room for divine direction.

TWO: A Critical word you will must exercise over and over again is the word “NO”.

Prayer and fasting help you exercise your “NO” muscle. When you get up early to pray or spend extra time on Sunday, you say “NO” to busyness and personal productivity. How often do you sit down to pray, and about 30 seconds into it you say to yourself, ”nothing is getting done…I have to get to work.” Prayer takes you out of the center and exercises the “NO” muscle.

Fasting helps you exercise the “NO” muscle especially to your body and emotions. If you fast for a day, how many times will you need to say “NO” to yourself? For me, quite a lot! As we make our way through this book, we will see Nehemiah exercising “NO” over and over.  God prepares him with 4 months of practice. You will have little success performing “on the spot”.

Businessmen – how often do you need to exercise “NO”?

  • No to working all the time….No to laziness
  • No to unethical practices causing you to cut corners, or to be dishonest
  • No to sexual conversations or inappropriate emotional relationships in the office
  • No to clients who want you to behave in a way contrary to your character

To run in the lane God has designed for you your soul and yourself must employ the habit of prayer and fasting.


How do we know that Nehemiah wrote stuff down during the 4 months?

Chapter 2: When the King asks him what’s on his mind, Nehemiah rips off a detailed game plan!   Who knows how many times he wrote stuff down, crossed it out, how many wads of paper were left on the floor?

But after 4 months of Prayer, Fasting, and Writing,  it was clear in his mind.

Reading makes a full man. Conversation makes a ready man. And writing makes an exact man. Exact meaning. He uses language with precision, which is the opposite of fog. Leaders that lead with fog are doing a disservice to their organization. They are going to drive their boat into an iceberg. But leaders whose mind is clear and who can express their ideas with precision and clarity steer the ship in the wonderful, lucid air of truth and openness. So I count journaling one of the most important habits in my life. -Francis Bacon

Here’s my prayer for us this year – by May of 2018 (8 months from now):

  • You will have habits in place which help you be receptive to God’s movement.
  • You will have an expanded interior life….a healthier soul.
  • Through these things, you will have a clarity of your external life.

We can talk about it more, but you have to do something.


1.  In a sentence or two, what’s the current condition of your interior life?

2. Discuss your Habits, Practices or Spiritual Disciplines you use for
 expanding your interior life. Do you pray, fast or journal?

3. Where do you need to exercise the “NO” muscle?


Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips

Pastor, Christ Community Church

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