When most young kids look at their dads, they see strength. They see a fountain of seemingly infinite knowledge. They see someone who always seems to know what to do. He can fix anything. He has the answers. He’s the smartest, strongest, and most capable human they know.
Oh, how wrong they are! Those of us who are dads know the opposite is often true. Being a dad can be the most confounding, most challenging, and most uncertain task imaginable. Dads often don’t have the answers. We don’t know what to do. We can’t fix problems. We’re lacking in wisdom and strength; we’re wholly incapable of fulfilling our role as fathers.
Significant decision points, challenging parenting situations, and discouraging circumstances all serve to remind us that we have limits. And if you are like me, your first instinct is to do one of two things: either freak out or dive right into whatever the challenge is, just to get it done and behind you. But you and I actually need help. Desperately.
For Dads who don’t have it all together…
That’s all of us. We need access to strength, wisdom, power, and enablement far beyond what we can muster. And if you are a Christ-follower, there’s one thing you must do first—before freaking out, before tackling that issue with a misbehaving child, before leading your family through dealing with that disappointing news.
Dads, pray. It’s something we all know we should do. It’s something we all believe in. But regularly the first action we should take is the last thing we even think about. This article has a simple, basic, foundational point, but this truth could transform our actions as fathers and leaders of our homes.
This past week, I read the prayer in Nehemiah 1 for the first time in a while. That led me to a broader focus on the way this Old Testament man prayed—how he prayed, when he prayed, and the primacy he put on praying in the midst of the challenges he faced. Daily. Naturally. Habitually. I trust these seven simple approaches below will be ones we can utilize as well, by God’s grace.
Applying Nehemiah’s Approach to Prayer
Nehemiah had a burden. He was burdened for his people. He was concerned for them. He was fearful of the challenges he would face were he to help them. So he prayed. When there seemed to be nothing else he could do, he prayed.
There is no hint in Nehemiah’s context about his approach as a father. But all the weaknesses we have as dads are present here in his situation (at least generally) because being a fallen human in need of divine help is universal! So read Nehemiah’s story (especially Chapter 1) and see the simple yet profound approach to prayer that by God’s grace we can emulate.
Pray with humble brokenness.
In 1:4 and 1:6-7 Nehemiah approaches God with a fundamental acknowledgement of need. He knew his own weakness. He knew of the sin present in him and his people. He knew of their complete unworthiness to approach Almighty God for help. He readily admitted the faults that made him unworthy. He came confessing sin. We must as fathers come to God in prayer with the same approach. “I am broken—for myself and my family. I need forgiveness and grace, even as they do. I have failed them, but even more foundationally I have failed you. And I come as one unworthy of your help.”
Pray the praises of God.
This is a prayer of supplication—Nehemiah needs something from God. But where does he start in 1:5-6? He starts by recounting God’s great character, not going to his list of demands. Praising God in our prayers for our own needs is an act of worship that brings God pleasure, but it also feeds the humility we just saw above. It reminds us that he is indeed the Source of help we need, because he is unlimited in his power and faithful love—exactly what we need in whatever we are facing.
Pray the Word of God.
1n 1:8-9 Nehemiah recounts God’s revelation—what God has said—in his prayer. I would encourage you to pray God’s Word back to him when you are overwhelmed in your fatherly duties. Recount to him his promises of presence or comfort, and give thanks that those truths are real. Verbalize his commands and your desire to obey; state his warnings and acknowledge your struggle to obey. One passage I often find myself recounting to God in prayer as I face parenting challenges is Philippians 1:6. “God, thank you that, in the heart of my redeemed children, you are at work. And no matter the challenge in their souls, you are not going to stop doing that work until you finish the job!” Pray his stated truth back to him!
Pray as God’s child.
Look at 1:10. Nehemiah is claiming his precious place as one of God’s people—his special chosen ones bought by him and to whom he is fully committed. God longs to hear your prayers and mine because of his steadfast love for us as his children. Even as you face burdens as a father with your children, he longs for you to come as a child to your Father with those burdens.
Pray for what you need.
This may go without saying, but praying for needs is clearly the thrust of Nehemiah’s prayer as he ends it in verse 11. God tells us to let our requests be made known to him (Phil 4:6)! He desires and commands us to bring our needs to him every day. Dads, we have many needs. We’ve rehashed them several times already! Take them to him.
Take your needs to him all the time. If you look in Neh. 2:4, he’s facing a fearful situation. He does not have time to lock himself away and have an extensive conversation with God like he did in Chapter 1. But here he shows this additional vital component of prayer—it’s to be habitual, spontaneous, automatic, and even impulsive. (This topic could stand alone as a blog post!) Pray first, pray at any time, pray always (Eph. 6:18).
There are many model prayers and passages that we could have visited to study this topic. But I find this example powerful in its simplicity and applicability for us as fathers in the face of our many weaknesses and needs. We need the help, strength, wisdom and grace our Father makes abundantly available. So ask him—do it first, and don’t stop!
Growing Fathers Team
Chris serve as an assistant pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, with a particular emphasis on the youth and on church-wide edification. He and his wife, Larua, have two children—Patrick and Kinley.View all posts by Chris