The Priority of Prayer
“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of
your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today,
and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Nehemiah 1:10
Nehemiah drew near to God with confidence in his time of distress. Word had come to him that the walls in Jerusalem were in disrepair and there were no efforts to rebuild the city. Just seven years before, Ezra was allowed to return with the exiles to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. He went not only with the blessing of King Cyrus, but also with the resources provided by the king. All this was in fulfillment of Scripture promising that God would bring back a remnant to Israel after 70 years of exile.
Now, however, it seems that the promises would go unfulfilled. Ezra 4 tells us that opponents to the rebuilding effort in Jerusalem were successful in stopping the work. Now in the opening chapter of Nehemiah, we are told that the very walls of Jerusalem are torn down and burned with fire. It is important for us to examine how Nehemiah responded to the news and apply any principles revealed in our own difficulties.
Nehemiah responded with prayer. vv4-11 contains this prayer. It is important for us to note, that before any action or decisions were made, Nehemiah’s first response was to pray. As Christians, we all know the importance of prayer, but admittedly, often we used prayer as a last resort instead of a first response
Nehemiah responded with passion.
v4 “as soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept for days..” Nehemiah’s passion was fueled by a God-given burden. Nehemiah’s prayer was passionate. This passion was expressed with tears and mourning over the condition of Jerusalem. Notice also that it wasn’t just for an hour or two, but for days. God-given burdens to not leave us after a few minutes. v6 tells us that he was praying day and night. Only a God-given passion can move us to persevere in prayer.
v7 tells us this passion led to a confession. Not only confession for Nehemiah’s sins, but the sins of Israel. Nehemiah saw his role as part of the nation of Israel in their failings. As part of the people of God, he acknowledged that their sin was also his sin.
Nehemiah responded with praise.
v5 -10 Nehemiah addresses God as the awesome great and awesome God. As well as the God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those that love him and keeps his commandments. Nehemiah knew who God was and he appealed to the character of God in his prayer. He knew God was a God of promise who would not abandon his people. He was the God who had redeemed them
Nehemiah appealed to the promises of God
vv8-9 Nehemiah remembered God’s promise to restore his people if they returned to him. Nehemiah appealed to God based on his promises. His appeal for success was not based on who Nehemiah was, but solely on who God is.
So how does this impact us today? We may not be concerned about torn down walls or a city in disrepair. However, there will be burdens placed on us and it is important that we respond in a godly manner. What can we learn from this first chapter of Nehemiah to help us?
There are at least two keys we can take away with us. It is obvious from Nehemiah’s prayer that he knew God. Nehemiah was intimately acquainted with God because he was intimately acquainted with the Word of God. Throughout this chapter it obvious that Nehemiah knew God personally because he knew the Word of God intimately.
Nehemiah’s passion and persistence came out of his personal knowledge of God. We too can grow in intimacy with the God of the Bible, by becoming intimate with the Bible. Daily Bible reading and meditating on the Word of God is invaluable to the child of God. Don’t underestimate the role to your spiritual growth that the Word of God plays.
Secondly, recognize that many burdens placed upon us, are placed by God himself. God uses circumstances, events, and others to move us to action. God-given passion is given for a reason. Don’t dismiss it lightly.
Finally, prayer is our first response. Before any decisions are made, any actions taken, we must go to our knees first. We need wisdom, discernment, and direction. These things often only come to us through prayer. It is often too tempting to rush into decisions and course of action that seems right to us, but many times is based on our own desires and wisdom and not God’s. To know God’s will we need God’s Word and prayer moves us in the right direction.