Nehemiah 1:1-6, “The memoirs of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah. It was the month of Kislev in the twentieth year. At the time I was in the palace complex at Susa. Hanani, one of my brothers, had just arrived from Judah with some fellow Jews. I asked them about the conditions among the Jews there who had survived the exile, and about Jerusalem. They told me, “The exile survivors who are left there in the province are in bad shape. Conditions are appalling. The wall of Jerusalem is still rubble; the city gates are still cinders.” When I heard this, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God-of-Heaven. I said, “God, God-of-Heaven, the great and awesome God, loyal to his covenant and faithful to those who love him and obey his commands: Look at me, listen to me. Pay attention to this prayer of your servant that I’m praying day and night in intercession for your servants, the People of Israel, confessing the sins of the People of Israel. And I’m including myself, I and my ancestors, among those who have sinned against you.”
Nehemiah was a man of prayer, vision and faith. In this blog, I’d like to focus on how he was a man of prayer. A man of prayer will have God’s favor in their life. I once heard, “One day of favor is better than a 1,000 days of labor.” If you expect the favor of God, you’ll have it everyday. Nehemiah was just that man! With impossible odds against him, he was able to rise above not only for himself but for a group of people.
Maybe you might find yourself in the same situation today. You might feel a burden for a task that you think someone more qualified should fulfill. The thing is…God is calling you to fulfill that task. He has been preparing you your whole life to give you that burden that you carry in your heart. Nehemiah was only a cupbearer in title but a leader in the making. Whenever we face a God-size task, God has to be in the picture.
Here is what happens, when we involve God with Prayer:
1. Prayer turns ownership into a burden: The Bible says that when Nehemiah heard the news about the broken walls in Jerusalem…he sat down and wept. In the hebrew that word ‘sit,’ means to collapse. When we pray, we will feel what others feel. In a day where we are surrounded by constant turmoil, it’s easy to become numb to the problems in this world. That’s why we need to take time to allow God to inject us with his passion for others.
2. Prayer helps us wait on God’s timing: Nehemiah waited 4 months until he took action. It’s not that he didn’t want to do something right away. He didn’t have to wait to put in his two-weeks notice. No, he was waiting for God’s timing. Ecclesiastes 8:5-6 says, “Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter…” One of the dangers of today is our constant desire for instant gratification. Nehemiah waited for the right time…and not only did he get approval to leave but he got everything he needed for the mission!
3. Prayer gives us clear direction for the future: A leader sees today but sees tomorrow just as clear. The enemy will try to mess up our plans with fog daily. That’s why it’s important for us to spend time with God, he will direct our paths. In his book “Caught in the Web,” Dr. Cho talks about a time when he was asked, “What’s the secret to your success?” His response, “Prayer, prayer, prayer!” What’s the secret to your success? This certainly was the secret to Nehemiah’s success…as we read on in the story, he was able to have favor with the king, with those on the way and with the people…ultimately completing his task in 52 days.
4. Prayer fuels the desire within us to fulfill God’s plan: Whenever Nehemiah came to a bump in the road, he hit his knees. This gave him direction, wisdom, passion but ultimately renewed his strength for the plan God had in store all along. “The self-sufficient don’t pray – they just talk to themselves. The self-satisfied won’t pray – they have no knowledge of their need. The self-righteous can’t pray – they have no basis to approach God.”