The book of Nehemiah is one that is filled with courage, effective leadership, faith, motivation, a great sense of adventure and a desire to honor God. Upon receiving information that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and in ruins and the gates burned with fire, Nehemiah clearly understood the dangers and disgrace involved (Nehemiah 1:3). It meant the city was unprotected, probably a laughing stock, with its security under grave threat from enemies. (Today we are battling with an unseen enemy that has crossed most borders in the form of a dangerous virus). He therefore resolved to do something about it. This great task that he undertook and finished efficiently was covered by much prayer.
This Devotional (in 3 parts) will focus on some of the prayer strategies adopted by Nehemiah. I trust it will help you in your own prayer walk as you face the challenges and the insecurities that life has thrown at us. Today, we will discuss 4 of those prayer pointers.
Nehemiah’s prayer was fervent (Nehemiah 1:4)
The Bible says that Nehemiah wept, mourned, fasted and prayed (Nehemiah 1:4). He prayed earnestly; day and night (Nehemiah 1:6). There is always a place for fasting and fervent prayer when we face stubborn challenges that seem to refuse to leave us and problems that seem to mock us. James says in James 5:16, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (NKJV). Satan will never give up without a fight, but we can always be overcomers through the principle of fervent prayer with fasting. Jesus Himself said so in Mark 9:29.
A quote by Martin Luther says, ‘If I should neglect prayer for a single day, I will lose a great deal of the fire of faith’.
In response to Nehemiah’s fervent prayers, God gave him military, political, administrative and leadership strategies that any modern day leadership guru could learn from!!
Illustration – I remember hearing a story about a prayerful missionary who was deeply disturbed by the enmity between two tribes in the area that he was ministering in. It is said that this man of prayer pitched his tent at the intersection where the two roads that led to the different tribes met. He then went inside the tent and began to pray fervently. Within a short period of time, the tribes made peace with each other.
Nehemiah focused on the greatness of the One he was praying to (Nehemiah 1:5)
He identifies his God with the terms, ‘God of Heaven’, ‘great’ and ‘awesome’, and as the One ‘who keeps His covenant of love’. Understanding who his God was clearly moved him to immediate action. We too need to keep our eyes and faith fixed constantly on “Jesus, the Author and finisher of our faith”, more than on our problems (Hebrews 12:2). The Psalmist said, “I lift up my eyes to the hills… My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).
Let’s ask God to open our eyes to His greatness so that we may ‘walk by faith and not by sight’.
It is said that the accomplished inventor George Washington Carver’s prayer every morning was ‘open my eyes that I may see’.
Illustration – In 2 Kings 6, the prophet Elisha was in Dothan when the Aramean army surrounded the city with orders to capture him. Although his servant panicked at the site of the large army, Elisha saw God’s horses and chariots of fire around him and experienced a great deliverance. (Please read the story).
Nehemiah’s prayer was for favor (Nehemiah 1:11)
We should never forget that God’s favor is upon His children at all times; even in the seemingly darkest moments. The Psalmist prayed “Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame” (Psalm 86:17). How true this was when it came to the opposition that Nehemiah faced! The scriptures speak of God’s favor repeatedly and we should believe and pray accordingly!
Nehemiah prayed for favor and received amazing favor from none other than the King himself. In fact, his focus was not on getting favor for himself, but for the work of God (Nehemiah 2:5). The King in return, was pleased to help him (Nehemiah 2:6). As a result, Nehemiah received bodyguards, a security contingent, letters of recommendation and the required timber, not only for the repairs of the city, but also for his own future residence in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:7-9)! Talk about having favor!!
May the church receive more favor to keep ministering effectively during times of crisis. And may world leaders receive more wisdom to handle the challenges around us.
Nehemiah prayed the promises of God (Nehemiah 1:8-9)
He remembers the promises given by God to Moses His servant and prays accordingly, so that he and the other exiled people could go back to their homeland.
Part of our prayer times should involve claiming, trusting and speaking out the promises that God has given us. And, there are plenty of them in His Word! Faith is always strengthened when we quote the promises of God in response to the attacks we face.
Sadly, we tend to speak more about our problems than about God’s great promises! Satan hates the Word of God and he will surely flee when we resist him with God’s promises. Let’s speak them out boldly against all opposition.
Illustration – I pray often for people in the services at Peoples Church and almost always pray the promises of scripture over them, according to their need. It’s beautiful to see how people respond and agree in faith when the promises of God are prayed over them! I also remember the times I claimed God’s promises of healing for chronic asthma as well as for a serious back problem (besides others), and how God proved that He was true to His promises.
In closing, let’s look at the results of Nehemiah’s work. Let me quote from the NIV Study Bible,
‘The walls that lay in ruins for nearly a century and a half, were rebuilt in less than two months, once the people were galvanized into action by Nehemiah’s leadership’ (page 703 – unquote). To be exact, it was done in just 52 days!!!
Let’s unite and intercede in prayer today, asking God to intervene in similar fashion.
May God be with you as you meditate on these 4 thoughts on prayer. Our next post will deal with further prayer pointers from the book of Nehemiah.