Do you want to see change in your life, church, family or ministry? Nehemiah teaches us a vital principle, BEFORE you go out to accomplish a major building project or a huge life change. You need to spend time in thought, in prayer, in fasting, in planning exactly what it is God is calling you to do. I have some bad new for the go-getters; the rest of this chapter is a prayer! Three verses about some bad news then all prayer. This is a hard pill to swallow for those who like to roll up your sleeves and start working. Prayer, planning and fasting, what fun!
What moves me to prayer and fasting?
Look at verse 4. What was Nehemiah’s response to the bad news he received about the remnant living in Jerusalem? When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” He mourned, he wept, he fasted, and he prayed.
What is fasting? In the Bible it is going without food for some period of time to focus your mind on prayer. It shows you and God that you are serious about what you are praying for. You show God that the spiritual work you are involved in is more important for the time being than your physical needs. It is one of the keys to spiritual breakthroughs, especially when it comes to these large life changing decisions and projects.
How long does this go on? Well we started the story in the month of Kislev – or December. Chapter 2:1 tells us when he finally has an open door with the king it is the month of Nisan – or April. Four months have passed.
Four months! Most of us have a hard time waiting 4 minutes for God to clarify his plans for us, or for God to break in miraculously and change our impossible situations. But Nehemiah prayed, and fasted, and waited, and prayed some more and fasted some more, and prayed some more, until finally the Lord opens the door for action on his part. In the next chapter we’ll learn what to do after we pray and fast and wait upon God.
But we’ve got some questions to ask ourselves.
• Are you willing to fast and pray for direction? Are you willing to wait for direction? Have you started planning?
When you have big desires for change you need a big God, a powerful God. For Nehemiah, to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem was not an easy task, after all for over 140 years no one else was able to get the job done. So what made Nehemiah think that he would be able to do it?
(And as we will find out later once Nehemiah got the project going in just 52 days it was finished!) The reason Nehemiah knew that he could do it was because Nehemiah had a powerful God.
Listen to how Nehemiah starts off his prayer in Nehemiah one.
“O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God.”
Our God is Great! And our God is Awesome!! He is the ultimate power source.
Nehemiah knew that if God was able to create this world. Since He brought it into being by simply speaking a word then nothing was too big for God. Do you believe that?
*Close your eyes and visualize a problem or obstacle that you feel will ruin your new beginning now visualize God. Who is bigger? You see God is not only powerful. He is all-powerful. And since Nehemiah had such a high View of God he knew that rebuilding some walls around a city would not be hard at all for Almighty God. God knew how to do it and he had the power to do it.
Do you have a high view of God? Are you willing to connect to his power?
Our God is the one true Almighty God He has always existed and will always exist. There is nothing that He cannot do. Nothing. Your God can handle bringing about the good desires in your life.
What moves me to confess?
I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
Part one of Nehemiah’s prayer is to base his request on who God is. “God, you’re a great God. You’re awesome! You keep your promises!” Part two I admit who I am. He says, “We’ve sinned.” Look at how many times he uses the word “I” and “we”. He says, “I confess. Myself. My father’s house; we have acted wickedly. We have not obeyed.” It wasn’t Nehemiah’s fault they went into captivity. He wasn’t even born when this happened years earlier. Yet, he is including himself in the national sins. He says, “I’ve been a part of the problem”.
There is personal confession and there is corporate confession. This is something we don’t know anything about. We don’t have a corporate sense in America today. We are very individualistic. We’re taught to confess my sins. When was the last time you confessed the sins of the nation? or the sins of your family? or your church? or your friends? We don’t think that way. We’re very individualistic. Our society has taught us the concept of you’re only responsible for you. And that’s just not true! Nehemiah says, “Not only do I have personal sin to confess but I have corporate sin. I’ll accept the blame for others.
What moves me to remember God’s promises?
Every one of us is aware of what a contract is. If you have a car, unless you paid cash you signed a contract to pay for it. If you have a house or rent an apartment you signed a contract. Did you know God has contracts? He does and another word for them is promises. Lets look at Nehemiah referring to God’s contractual agreement…
8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ 10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand.
.” Notice it says “if . I will.” Then again He says “if . I will”. He has a warning and a promise.
Nehemiah is praying to the Lord and saying, “I want You to remember what You told your servant Moses.” Can you imagine saying, “remember” to God? He’s reminding God what He had said in the past. God warned us through Moses that if we were unfaithful we would loose the land of Israel. But You also promised that if we repent You’d give it back to us. All through the Bible you find God’s people reminding God about what He said He wants to do. David did it. Abraham did it. Moses did it. All the prophets did it. “God, I want to remind You of one of Your promises.” then they’d share it.
Question: Does God have to be reminded? No. Does He forget what He’s promised? No. Then why do we do this? Because it helps us remember what God has promised. Nothing pleases God more that when you remind God of one of His promises.
Prayer transforms God’s promises into performance. Prayer is taking God at His word. It’s holding God to His promises. It’s asking God to do what He’s already promised He wants to do. Nehemiah says, “God, first I’m basing my prayer on Who You are. Then I’m admitting who I am. Then I’m reminding You of what You’ve said.”
There are over 7000 promises in the Bible waiting to be claimed.
Nehemiah could claim these promises because he knew them. The promises he mentions in these verses are Leviticus 26:33 and Deuteronomy 30:4. When was the last time you memorized a promise out of Leviticus or Deuteronomy?
The point is, the strength of my prayer life is determined by how well I know the promises of God. The secret of successful praying is pleading the promises of God. “God, you said it and because of what You said and who You are, I thank You that the answer is on its way. I’m expecting You to meet my needs.” We need to learn the promises of God.
11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king.
Nehemiah has the whole prayer just to have the little request at the end. “When I go before the king to ask to be released to go build the wall, give me success when I make that request to the king.” Nehemiah is willing to go to Jerusalem. He was available. He was willing to rebuild the project. But he knew he’d have to get the king’s permission first who was definitely not a believer. You don’t just let your right hand guy walk away. The king has the power of death and life over anybody. Nehemiah was asking a leave of absence for three years, to go back to his hometown and rebuild a wall the king had ordered not to be rebuilt. This was the reason he was asking for success when he went to talk with the king.
He’s not hesitant to pray for success. He’s very bold in his praying. Have you ever prayed, “Lord, make me successful!” What is the alternative, pray for failure? There is nothing wrong with praying for success if what you’re doing is ultimately for the glory of God. Pray boldly. Pray that God will make you successful in life for the glory of God. That’s what Nehemiah did. This is a valid prayer. Give me success!
*If I can’t ask God to bless what I’m doing, then I’d better start doing something else.
Remember this is just a sample prayer of four months of praying. What did Nehemiah do during these four months? Did he have this one prayer and he prayed it over several times a day? No, I doubt it. If Nehemiah was praying over a four-month period his prayer probably evolved into this. Like our prayers do a lot of time. You start praying for something and then it gets clarified. That’s one of the reasons God will delay answering prayers many times, He wants us to clarify.
I can imagine Nehemiah began with something like, “God, you’ve got to do something about those people over there. Please help them.” He probably prayed that for a number of weeks. Finally, God probably said, “Nehemiah, aren’t you being hypocritical? If you’re so concerned, why don’t you get involved?” Probably, sometime during that four-month period a little light went on in Nehemiah’s mind that said, “I could be the answer to that prayer. Maybe God could use me to go rebuild the wall. I’ll do it! I’m available!” Over a period of time he probably got the concept. First he prayed, God help them over there,” then he said, “Maybe God could use me as an answer to that prayer.” Now he’s finally praying, “Give me success.”
Next week we’re going to look at the next chapter and answer the question, “What do you do after you’ve seen your preferred future?” “How do I get the support from others?
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