The Prayer of a Man Who Cared

Bible Reading: Nehemiah 1

The Great Coastal Gale of December 2007 caused an incredible amount of damage to our church building.  The total costs for the repairs–paid almost entirely by insurance–would ultimately exceed $900,000.  For ten months we were locked out of the sanctuary portion of the building and forced to meet instead in a much smaller “Playroom.”  It was an intimate setting, to say the least, so everyone was eagerly anticipating the day when we could regain full use of our facility.  I began a study through the book of Nehemiah, and we were all encouraged by the example of Nehemiah’s leadership efforts when it came to rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  That work all started for him when he first got the news of the dire situation of the remnant who had returned, and the broken-down walls and gates which had been destroyed by fire.  Nehemiah got that bad news, and “sat down and wept for days, and continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).  What do you do with the bad news you hear?  Nehemiah has set a good example for us.  He was burdened by a spiritual need, so he took the matter to God in prayer.

Nehemiah’s prayer began with praise and adoration–a good place to start in our prayers!  Prayer is an activity of worship and worship is, by definition, acknowledging the worth–the glory–of God. In order to worship God in Spirit and in truth it is imperative that we think rightly about God. We need to think about who we are praying to, according to the truth that is revealed about Him in the Scriptures. Nehemiah spoke to God by name in his prayer–Jehovah Elohim.  Jehovah (Yahweh) is the name which speaks of God’s self-existence and eternality.  The name Elohim speaks of God’s power and strength.  Nehemiah’s prayer focused on various aspects of God’s nature.  He is the great and awesome God!  The faithful God who keeps His covenant and loves with a steadfast love!  He is all of that with respect to His people, and Nehemiah appealed to God accordingly.  Adoration of God is the best place for us to start in our prayers.

Nehemiah confessed to God his sins and the sins of his people.  The term translated “confessing” is a particular Hebrew term which is sometimes translated “confess,” but is frequently translated “praise” or “give thanks.” Note how Vine’s Expository Dictionary explains these varied uses of the term: “An affirmation or confession of God’s undeserved kindness throws man’s unworthiness into sharp relief. Hence, a confession of sin may be articulated in the same breath as a confession of faith or praise and thanksgiving. The confession is not a moralistic, autobiographical catalog of sins–individual infractions of a legal code–but a confession of the underlying sinfulness that engulfs all mankind and separates us from the holy God.”  Notice in the confession of sin that Nehemiah didn’t give any excuses. He did not try to explain it away. He did not rationalize it. He did not blame anyone else. He simply acknowledged to God the utter failure of His people to do what it was that God commanded them to do.  In all of this he’s set a good example for us to follow.

Nehemiah had fasted and prayed for days. Undoubtedly God had worked in that time to move to align Nehemiah’s heart to His will–that Nehemiah would endeavor to go to Jerusalem and lead the rebuilding effort! Nehemiah had but one request, “Give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of man” (Nehemiah 1:11). Nehemiah was the cupbearer for the King. A prominent position, but nonetheless one in which he was subject to the will and whims of that powerful man. Nehemiah knew that success was dependent on God’s working on his behalf to move the heart of the king. Note how he prayed again in the King’s presence (Nehemiah 2:4b). God answered Nehemiah’s prayer, and Nehemiah would go on to be used by God to rebuild the walls of the city. But it all started when God told a man who cared about a spiritual need and that man prayed. We do well to follow Nehemiah’s example, both in his response to the bad news he received and in the manner in which he prayed.

When Bad News Comes Our Way the Best Thing We Can Do is Pray


God of grace and God of glory,
on your people pour your pow’r;
crown your ancient Church’s story,
bring its bud to glorious flow’r.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.

Lo, the hosts of evil round us
scorn the Christ, assail his ways.
From the fears that long have bound us
free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the living of these days,
for the living of these days.

Cure your children’s warring madness;
bend our pride to your control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal,
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal.

Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the gift of your salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
serving you whom we adore,
serving you whom we adore.

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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