by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.
A few years ago, I took part in an exercise with a group of other people in management jobs that really changed my thinking. We were each asked to pick out a Bible character and discuss his or her leadership and management qualities and skills. Ultimately, the plan was for us to discover skills that we could apply in our own jobs, wherever we worked. I chose Nehemiah.
Reading the story of his life in the Bible, I was intrigued at the strong connection between his reliance on prayer and his many accomplishments. As a Christian Scientist, it was natural for me to pray to God when I was ill, and I’d had lots of physical healings. But now I realized prayer could help me in my work, too. And Nehemiah provided a good management model.
Nehemiah was serving as a cupbearer in the palace of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, when he got word of conditions in Jerusalem, and the fact that the city walls were all broken down and the people there were in a very sorry state. He felt called to go to Jerusalem to help them, but to do this he needed permission from the king. Anxious as he was to get started with this work, he knew that he had to wait for the right time, and he prayed for guidance about when to ask as well as for the right words to say. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health, “Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds.” It seems to me that Nehemiah’s desire to help his people was proof that he lived this statement. And his desire to go to Jerusalem was granted.
Rebuilding the wall would not be an easy task.
But again, he didn’t act impulsively or hurriedly. He prayed for guidance. And his prayer resulted in knowing just what he needed to do and say in the right way at the appropriate time.
Nehemiah was frank and forthright in talking with the people in Jerusalem, but he was also patient with their fears and discouragement. Under his guidance, they became united in their common goal.
As I compared Nehemiah’s actions to my own, it occurred to me I was often too impulsive in my work. I didn’t always fully consider the consequences of decisions made and actions taken. Nehemiah’s example showed me that prayer can bring clarity of vision—as well as tact.
The more I learned about Nehemiah, the more I was impressed by his humility. And I knew I needed more of this quality in my own work. There were too many times when I arrogantly insisted on “my way.
Mrs. Eddy wrote about humility, “One can never go up, until one has gone down in his own esteem” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 356).
Nehemiah turned to God and kept his own ego in check.
Nehemiah was never impressed by gossip, criticism, or doubt—he stayed on task and focused. His enemies tried to persuade him to stop his work many times. But his prayer-inspired clarity kept his focus on the work God was directing him to do.
This part really grabbed my attention. Too often, I allowed gossip or criticism to hurt my feelings and distract me from my work. Mrs. Eddy’s article “Taking Offense” is full of good advice for such times. She wrote, “It is our pride that makes another’s criticism rankle, our self-will that makes another’s deed offensive, our egotism that feels hurt by another’s self-assertion” (Mis., p. 224).
I could pray to God to guide me.
I was part of a management team that created and designed products for use both in the office and by the public. Consistency and clarity of message was crucial. Tight deadlines were routine and there was no time to placate sensitive egos. We needed to work together harmoniously without losing sight of our purpose and ultimate goal.
Before this Biblical management study, I often anguished over projects. I dreaded working with some of my colleagues and the tension resulted in daily headaches. I didn’t enjoy my job, and often thought about quitting.
But Nehemiah helped me to understand how to stay focused on the ultimate goal. As I tried to express more humility, I quit letting personalities and opinions—mine included—stop progress. In fact, I began to welcome fresh and new ideas. The willingness to be flexible became natural. The daily headaches ceased and the joy I experienced at work returned.
I’ve started to think of the Bible as a textbook for every area of my life. Whether as a business manual, a health guide, or a parenting and relationship workbook, I’ve found the Bible is a great reference book for all of life’s questions and problems. Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “The Bible contains the recipe for all healing.” I’m finding this to be true, at work and at home.