What Nehemiah can teach us about prayer
Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the Persian king, Artaxerxes. This means he was the person who ensured the safety and the quality of the king’s food and drink. It was obviously a much-trusted position.
Nehemiah was a descendent of one of the numerous Jewish families who had chosen to remain in the East when the first exiles went back to Jerusalem.
But, Nehemiah loved his homeland even though he had spent his whole life in Babylon and when he heard that the walls of Jerusalem, the holy city, were in such rubble, the news upset him and he went straight to God. The story of Nehemiah is how he goes to Jerusalem to rebuild those walls and does so in a miraculous 52 days! But, it is also the story of spiritual renewal and rebuilding a people’s dependence on God. When we take our eyes off of God, our lives begin to crumble just like Jerusalem’s walls.
When Nehemiah went to God in prayer, he then looked for ways with God’s help to improve the situation. We are God’s hands and feet on earth. Too often we pray without looking for what God wants us to do. We show God we are serious when we combine prayer with thought, preparation and effort.
Nehemiah’s prayer demonstrated all the elements of effective prayer:
1. He praised God
2. He offered Thanksgiving
3. He offered repentance– not just for himself, but for the whole nation
4. He made a specific request
5. He ended with a commitment
Praying like this helps clarify the problems we are facing. It reminds us of God’s great power to help and it puts into words the job we have to do. By the end of this prayer we can figure out what we need to do. If we pray the right way, difficult decisions fall into proper perspective and then appropriate actions can follow.
Also, Nehemiah prayed not only for help, but also for success. When God’s purposes are at work, we shouldn’t hesitate to ask for success. And lastly, Nehemiah prayed constantly, even when talking to other people, because he knew God is always present and in charge. And he could confidently send up little emergency prayers throughout the day because he had established a relationship with God during times of extended prayer.