Nehemiah 1:5-11 And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: (6) Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned. (7) We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. (8) Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: (9) But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. (10) Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. (11) O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.
A little boy was asked to pray before the meal. The boy looked over the meal set on the table before bowing his head. He picked up his fork instead and began to eat. His parents asked him why he didn’t pray before his meal. We will find out why the boy did not pray in just a moment, but it reminds me that a lot of people are puzzled and confused when it comes to prayer.
There are few places better in God’s Word to learn about prayer than the book of Nehemiah. A study in the life of Nehemiah is a study in the life of prayer. There are few prayers that you will ever read that are greater than this one before us today.
Notice with me the Focus of Nehemiah’s prayer. If you read Nehemiah 1:1, then 2:1 and study the different names of the months they used during Nehemiah’s day, you would notice that it covers a span of approximately 100 days. And as we see in 1:11, he prayed everyday that that day would be the day.
Nehemiah was consistent and persistent in his prayer for God’s intervention. Reminds me of that great prophet Isaiah and what he says in Isaiah 62:6-7, “ …ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, (7) And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” There is a single subject that that this grouping of books (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther) share. Remember when Mordecai was encouraging Esther to do something about Haman’s plan to have all the Jews killed in the book of Esther? He tells her in Esther 4:14, “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” I believe Nehemiah realized that God had placed him in a position of prominence for such a time as this, and his prayer reflected this great desire and burden. It was Chuck Swindoll who wrote this about Nehemiah – It is a tough combination to find a person who holds a high position in the eyes of the world and yet who is tender before God (Hand Me Another Brick, pg 19).
You understand that what Nehemiah was asking for was something that would be considered humanly impossible. While being the one who made sure the king’s food and beverages were not poisoned may not seem like a desirable job for us today, you have to remember that these were different times. Kings would often pick the best and brightest of those in their captivity for this sacrificial job. It had to be someone who he trusted, and with this great trust came great benefits. History shows that these cupbearers were often respected and honored more than even the king’s own family. So to be released from his position of king’s cupbearer and allowed to go back to Jerusalem for a rebuilding project would be unprecedented. Would the king be willing to give up the one person he has grown to trust in making sure that his meals and drinks were not poisoned? Nehemiah’s prayer needed to be very focused.
Also, we notice the Friend’s of Nehemiah’s Prayer. Something I have overlooked until I was studying for this series was a small phrase tucked away in 1:11, “…and the prayer of thy servants…” What an encouragement to Nehemiah to know that he was not alone in praying for God’s help. There are times in your life when you can literally feel the prayers of God’s people moving and motivating you. You will never be closer to a friend than when you pray together.
Prayer is one of the greatest weapons the Christian has at their disposal; yet it is often the tool that is most neglected and under used. One of the reasons is that there are a lot of questions surrounding how to pray. A preacher once shared this thought and said, “I am often asked this question, “How does prayer work?” My answer usually begins with the admission, “I don’t know how prayer works, I just know that prayer is work, and those who work at prayer discover prayer works!” (Nehemiah: Memoirs of an Ordinary Man, pg. 21)
Let me ask you this question today - How powerful is your prayer life today? Stephen Davey, in his book Nehemiah: Memoirs of an Ordinary Man, gives us a path to follow that leads to a powerful prayer life that I want to share with you.
P - PRIORITY OF THE SOVEREIGN – 1:5
The word Sovereign is one you often hear in description of God, which means supreme ruler, above all others. Dr. Harry Carr, in his book This I Believe, defines it this way - The sovereignty of God is not a divine attribute. It is the exercising of the divine will of God (This I Believe, pg. 44). We must always remember when we begin to pray that we are praying to the Sovereign, and we are His servants.
The first step down the path of powerful prayer is at the feet of the sovereign God’s throne. When we pray, we are not trying to manipulate and pressure God into doing what we want Him to. God is not some genie in a bottle who grants us three wishes. We must always pray as Jesus prayed in the Garden just before His trial and death by crucifixion – Not my will, but thine will be done. This is the start to the Lord’s model prayer – Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Our prayers should be a balance of boldness and reverence. Through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we can enter into the holy of holies and approach the throne of grace. So, we can approach God with confidence because we have been invited. Yet, we do so with trembling because we are aware Who it is that has invited us.