In previous posts, I’ve been talking about the example given to us by Nehemiah of powerful prayer. His prayer continues in VV 8-9; “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 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.’ God’s warnings were accompanied by a promise! And, Nehemiah is claiming the promises!
He says, “God, remember the instruction you gave!” Can you imagine telling God to remember? Does God have to be reminded of what he has said? Of course not! Then why do this? It is to remind us, to help US remember what God has promised. In vv. 8-9, Nehemiah is referencing promises that God had made in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 30. You don’t have to memorize the book of Leviticus to have a strong prayer life. But, the point is this… the more familiar you are with the promises of God in His Word, in the Bible, the stronger your prayers will be! Nehemiah prays the promises of God!
Then finally, Nehemiah makes his petition to God. Sometimes we may call this, “supplication.” He makes an earnest and very specific request of God. Vv. 10-11; “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 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.”
God knows what you need before you ask Him, right? Of course. But you don’t know if you’ve gotten a specific answer unless you make a specific request! Nehemiah is asking specifically for “favor in the presence of this man.” The “man” being the one who sits on the throne at this time- King Artaxerxes. And he adds, I was cupbearer to the king. Sounds like he was a butler or something, but it was much, much more. The cupbearer to the king was one of the most important and most trusted positions in the kingdom! That’s why he needs the king’s favor… Nehemiah is about to make a huge ask.
His prayer is a great example for us. But let me ask a question. Do you think when Nehemiah first heard that report from his brother that the first thing that came to his mind as he began to mourn and fast and pray was, “Hot diggedy dog, I’m going to go rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and get her done in 52 days!” Not at all. Again, he prayed over this for 4 months! I suspect what happened is that sometime toward the end of that third or early in the fourth, that it began to dawn upon Nehemiah that HE could be the answer to that prayer, that God could use HIM to go and rebuild the wall. So, his prayer evolved from, “Oh God, please help the people of Jerusalem,” to, “God, please give ME success in helping the people of Jerusalem!”
Prayer can be dangerous like that. At the very end of Matthew 9, Jesus tells the disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers. And, at the very beginning of chapter 10, guess who Jesus sends out? The disciples! Let’s all do some dangerous warfare praying today.