Learning from a great prayer (Nehemiah 1:4-11)
Do you know the feeling? There is a moment when you know what you need to do is pray, there is some form of great need that exceeds your resources or decision that outstrips your wisdom…and yet as you get down to pray you feel at a loss for words.
I love considering the great prayers of Scripture, learning from them by observing how these men and women engaged God in moments of great significance. Nehemiah hears a report of the state of Jerusalem, is reminded of the dire situation God’s people are in, under God’s judgement in a foreign nation, with the temple and the capital city in ruins. Nehemiah has no real power or position to affect any change to the situation…
But Nehemiah is in a personal relationship with the ONE who sits enthroned above the circle of the earth (Isaiah 40:22), and so he can call out to God. As he prays we can listen in and learn from one of the greatest prayers of Scripture.
So what can we learn from this great prayer:
- Heart: great prayers come from the heart that has been moved! (vs4)
- Clarity: prayer that starts with a clear understanding of whom you’re praying to fills that prayer with faith and meaning. After all there is no point praying to someone who can’t do anything about the thing you’re praying about! (vs4)
- Character: great prayers petition God on the basis of His unchanging character and the promises He has made (vs5)
- Repentance: in prayer we allow God to reveal what’s wrong in us and we turn to Him by turning from such sin. (vs6-7)
- Scripture: great prayers quote Scripture, the infallible word of God (vs8-9)
- Requests: to pray is to make your requests known to God (vs11)
- Perspective: true prayer helps us to keep things in perspective (vs11) so that even powerful kings become just ‘this man’.
- Action: prayer is not passive, when we pray invariably God reveals next steps which we must take with faith & obedience (Nehemiah 2:1)
Meditate on this prayer of Nehemiah’s and then incorporate elements of his prayer into yours.
When old news becomes news again… (Nehemiah 1:1-4)
Not all days are the same. Sometimes they fly by without any particular happenings to make them stand out or make them memorable. However on the contrary, all of us remember certain days with great clarity because those days changed the course of history or our own journey.
Nehemiah was part of a generation of God’s people who grew up in exile in Babylon, they didn’t live in the Promised Land, the land that was so central to their identity and history, but rather lived in a foreign land that was effectively ‘home away from home’.
Nehemiah and those like him had heard the old stories of the tragic sacking and burning of Jerusalem, it’s walls, it’s buildings including the temple of God. They knew the history. Some Jewish people, a remnant had remained in the land around Jerusalem but life was hard the city destroyed.
But one day when Nehemiah heard the news that he knew already, when he considered the facts that; “The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (Jeremiah 1:4) Jeremiah is suddenly moved!
Tomorrow we will see what he did with that moment but for today I want you to pause and to think about things in your life, in your church, your neighbourhood, your community that you know about and yet they don’t affect you…
So, ask God, invite God to speak to you about people, situations, injustice, abuse, unemployment, health and education issues and ask God to touch your heart like God touched Nehemiah’s heart suddenly – so that old news came alive and touched his heart and mobilised him into action.
I invite you to track with our church through the month of February as we read the book of Nehemiah…
Nehemiah is the Old Testament narrative history of God’s people in the time of Nehemiah as they under Nehemiah’s leadership they came out of Babylonian captivity (which had lasted 70yrs) and rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem thereby restoring life back to the capital city of the Promised Land.
As we read the book of Nehemiah it’s important to know the context. God’s people had repeatedly sinned, and although God had told them through many of the OT prophets that if they don’t repent from their sin He would punish them – they continued in their sin.
Eventually God judged their sin by exiling His people to Babylon, however God’s justice is restorative because God is just and God is love. He is not one or the other but both always.
Because of this, God’s plan was to redeem His people, and so God promised through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:10-14) even before they went into exile that He would restore Israel to the Promised Land after 70yrs of exile.
In the book of Nehemiah we witness that restoration starting as a group of people under Nehemiah’s leadership return to broken down Jerusalem and begin to rebuild the fortified wall that was so essential to the restoration of normal life in Jerusalem.
Through the book we will discover that a work of God like this requires good leadership who will follow God, requires people who follow God’s leaders, and people who have faith. We learn that restoration will often not be easy and we learn that doing what God wants often faces tough opposition.
Finally, we learn that restoration is not just a physical thing but ultimately is about our restoration back to right relationship with God!
As you read the book this month, my prayer is that you’d grow in your knowledge God and His ways. May you grow as you read the testimony of these God followers and their journey of redemption challenge and restoration.