Nehemiah, in the face of immense adversity and destruction did what all Godly men and women do – he prayed. Let’s reflect on the prayer of Nehemiah:
4 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. 5 I said,Nehemiah 1:4–11 (NASB)
“I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 6 let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned.
7 “We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; 9 but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’ 10 “They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. 11 “O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.”
Nehemiah realized he needed to fast and to pray because it was the most important activity he could do in the midst of challenge. For us living on this side of modernity, it is easy for prayer to be displaced to an activity of convenience or ritual. We pray before a meal out of habit. We pray at Church. But for Nehemiah Prayer was a reaction birthed out of a deep devotion to God. When need arose he moved to prayer. Prayer is of primary importance. Timothy Keller expounds on this,
“Imagine you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine—a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss it or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some nights? No—it would be so crucial that you wouldn’t forget, you would never miss. Well, if we don’t pray together to God, we’re not going to make it because of all we are facing. I’m certainly not. We have to pray, we can’t let it just slip our minds.”Timothy Keller, Prayer
The fact remains that we are diagnosed with a lethal condition. Things have not changed from the days of Nehemiah; we are still trying to do it our own way. Nehemiah’s prayer begins with confession of the sin of God’s people. Prayer places a dagger into the heart into our self idolatry. Prayer reminds us that God is God, and we are not. Nehemiah then asks God to intervene in the plight of his people. They are desperate without his intervention, not to merely bless their own misgivings, but to move to redeem them as they “return to (Him) and keep (His) commandments.”
In light of this, today we are invited to pray.
- Take some time to confess. Confession is not just saying we are sorry, but fully owning our own culpability in our circumstances. We all face adversity, but we are responsible for every thought, feeling, attitude, and action. Sit in the quiet for 5 minutes and pray like David did in Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT). Confess anything the Lord brings to mind. This week we touched our propensity of political ideology. Confess any misplaced trust in man-made structures.
- Pray that God would continue to transform you into His image. Pray for a heart that is satisfied with God and God alone.
- Pray for our country. Pray that God would use our systems to honor him as we propagate justice for the widows, orphans, and the disenfranchised and to seek peace.