Do you ever look at prayer as a “quick fix” to a difficult situation? There is so much more to prayer!
All too often we look at prayer as a “quick fix” to a difficult situation. Have you ever said, “I’ve tried everything else—I might as well pray! Often we only have “time” to offer a few quick prayers hoping to bring God into the situation so that everything will be fine. Sometimes this proves to be the case (although probably more because of God’s great love for us than from the power of our prayers).
If you are involved in a work of God, and hopefully we are all active in a ministry of some sort, you need to look at prayer not as a quick petition, but rather as part of the long-term strategy for accomplishing the work that God has called you to. It involves a commitment to pray and work until you see completion. An illustration from the sports realm might be helpful. Many would liken prayer to a series of sprints, while instead, we would be better served to see prayer as a long-distance runner would view the course before him.
Nehemiah saw prayer this way. In Nehemiah 1, we see that he had a difficult task ahead of him. After hearing a report of the poor condition of Jerusalem and its inhabitants he believed that God called him to travel to Jerusalem and take the lead in seeing the walls of the city rebuilt. As you look at this story, please note how prayer is an integral part of this mighty work of God…not as a quick fix, but as a continued dependence upon God for help and direction.
As an important government official in Babylon, Nehemiah received word of the demoralized Jewish remnant in Jerusalem and the sad condition of Jerusalem’s walls. His response was to weep and pray: “For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4). Out of this time of mourning comes this powerful prayer, recorded in Neh 1:5-11, “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 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.’
They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 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.”
Nehemiah’s prayer was not an act of devotion wedged into an already busy schedule. He stopped what he was doing and gave himself fully to God in prayer. The task ahead was too daunting for anyone but God Himself. Nehemiah’s example reflects some important issues in prayer that we should follow when interceding:
RESPONDING IN OBEDIENCE
(Nehemiah 2:12). Although it is not mentioned in the passage from the first chapter of Nehemiah, we learn later on that God had placed the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls upon Nehemiah’s heart (“I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem”). Nehemiah simply was aware of what God desired to accomplish, and made himself available to be used in a powerful way to fulfill God’s plan.
HAVING AN ATTITUDE OF WORSHIP
(Nehemiah 1:5). Nehemiah did not enter lightly into God’s presence. He reverently acknowledged the awesomeness of the God of heaven, asking for His divine attention.
PERSISTING IN PRAYER
(Nehemiah 1:6). Nehemiah refers to the fact that he is praying day and night for this particular issue.
PRAYING IN HUMILITY
(Nehemiah 1:6-7). He approached God with humility, confessing his sin and the sin of his people. He repentantly accepted God’s judgment upon them as right and just…no excuses…no whining! He simply humbled himself before God and stated his case.