Nehemiah Part Two Dive
BUT I PRAYED - A LESSON IN PRAYER FROM NEHEMIAH
In the Book of Nehemiah, we get a first-hand look into Nehemiah’s thoughts, passions and prayers. What strikes me as I study this book is how much he prays. I mean, this guy doesn’t do the normal ten-minute check-in every morning, tick off ‘Daily Prayer’ on his to-do list and continue on with his day. For Nehemiah, prayer is a lifestyle not a discipline. The word ‘pray’ appears eight times in the book and it isn’t in places you would expect...
The book opens with the title ‘Nehemiah’s Prayer’ in Nehemiah 1:1 – this whole book is going to show us the heart and prayer life of a leader who became the Governor of Judah, so we can take him as our mentor for prayer.
Check out Nehemiah 1:4 – on hearing the bad news that Jerusalem’s walls and gate and been broken, Nehemiah goes straight into prayer and fasting – not strategy and scheduling, systems or plans but prayer and fasting. Ask yourself today, what is your default when you hear news that upsets you, or stirs you or impassions you for a cause? Make it your reaction to pray.
N 1:6 LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keeps his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.
Let me show you a couple of things that I learnt from Nehemiah’s prayer life:
He prays in honour and submission to a great and awesome God (Nehemiah 1:5-6)
He begins his prayers with ‘LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God’. Know the God you pray to, know where He is seated, above all your enemies and your issues, above the nations and seated in heavenly places. But don’t just know it, pray it! It is from this point and place that you live out a lifestyle of prayer. Praying in submission is different to praying in honour – you can honour God without submitting to him. In Nehemiah’s life and prayers, you can hear his heart of submission to God’s will; asking God to hear him, asking God for favour. He knows that he is going to need God’s help and it is with a submissive heart that he prays.
He begins with repentance (Nehemiah 1:6)
Repentance is something that I feel has gone out of fashion today with our out-of-balance ‘gospel of grace’, but I think repentance is key to our Christian walk. Nehemiah prays and repents on behalf of the Israelites, but notice the ‘we’ he is repenting on their behalf, not accusing them but joining them.
He prays as a community, not just as an individual (Nehemiah 1:7)
Notice as you read Nehemiah how he takes responsibility in his prayer life for the community that he is praying for, rather than praying ‘them’ he prays ‘we’. He includes himself in the prayers of repentance and repents on behalf of his community.
He reminds God of his promises (Nehemiah 1:8)
As he prays, he calls the promises of God into action. He reminds God of what He said and activates it in his life again.
He prays before he acts, and after he acts, he prays (Nehemiah 2:4)
Remember, prayer is a lifestyle for this man; he doesn’t just pray when things go wrong, he prays all the time. The first thing he does is pray! That is a great lesson to learn as you read Nehemiah. This is not in his prayer closet, this is in the moment of action and Nehemiah is still praying and acting. Prayer and action go hand-in-hand in life. Don’t just pray about something, when God gives you the go ahead do it – act! But also, don’t just do things, make sure you’re praying about them and seeking God’s guidance first.
He prays when he is intimidated and the enemy comes against him (Nehemiah 6:9-10, 4:4-9)
‘But I prayed’ – in the midst of the enemies intimidation again Nehemiah goes to prayer. ‘But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat’. Did you notice again the prayer coupled with action? The enemy comes against him, Nehemiah prays and acts. I love this guy! We can learn so much from this incredible leader.
He prays as he leads (Nehemiah 13:22)
I love this prayer. In the midst of correcting his people and making hard decisions, his heart is always submissive to God and gaining wisdom from God.
He ends in prayer (Nehemiah 13:31)
The whole book ends with a prayer, just as you would expect from this incredible man of leadership, strength, wisdom and prayer.
The climax to this lifestyle of prayer is found in Nehemiah 6:15 ‘So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days’.
It only took them fifty-two days to rebuild the Wall! How incredible is that? All because they weren’t discouraged by the enemies’ plans, they relied on God’s favour and they based everything they did in prayer and action. Today, be encouraged to be a man or woman of prayer. No matter what comes against you, let your default be to pray to God and then act on what He says. Don’t be intimidated by the enemy, know the incredible and awesome God you serve. When you pray, you activate His promises, you activate His favour, you activate His power over your life and circumstances.
As you read Nehemiah, you are going to be following an incredible leader, who goes from cupbearer to Governor of Judah. As you read this book, ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can learn from Nehemiah; his passion for God, his wisdom in leadership, his heart for God and his people, his heart for the Word like Ezra, and his heart for prayer.
Have a great time reading Nehemiah today!