Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

08/02/15 Sermon - Nehemiah's Prayer

“Nehemiah’s Prayer”

Nehemiah 1:1-11

 

Well we have completed the reading and studying of the Book of Mark in the New Testament. So today we are going to begin studying the Book of Nehemiah, in the Old Testament. How many of us have previously studied the book of Nehemiah? Great. I hope that each of us takes time in the weeks that go by and reads through Nehemiah on our own and allows God to speak to us through His Word.

Now before we get started in discussing the first chapter I think it is important to do an overview of where Nehemiah was placed in history.

Our story begins in the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, and Nehemiah was in the citadel of Susa.

To give you an idea of what the time period of Nehemiah was, he was living approximately 1000 years after the time of Moses when the Jewish people had successfully escaped bondage from Egyptians, and some 400 years before the birth of Jesus.

The reason he was living in the citadel of Susa, was because the Jewish people had failed to follow God’s plan and had been captured by the Babylonians, first the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel and then the southern Jewish kingdom of Judah. Not only had the people been captured, but the city of Jerusalem was in ruins and the once-glorious temple built by Solomon had been destroyed. The Babylonians deported just about everyone they could get their hands on and Jerusalem had been left as a ghost town, abandoned and forgotten,or so it seemed.

The Jews had experienced exile before and so those who had been deported chose to find a life for themselves in the various places they found themselves. They continued to follow the God of their fathers, but chose to do so in Babylon, with no intention to return to Jerusalem. In fact, many of us have read stories of some of these Jews who had made it to prominent positions in Babylon and as faithful followers of God their names have gone down in Jewish history.  I am sure many of you remember Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, leaders in Babylon and of course Esther was made queen in the courts of the Persian king.

After 70 years of captivity, the Jewish people were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Ezra, a scholar and teacher who studied the Scriptures led 2% of the Jewish people in exile, about 50,000 of them, with him to Jerusalem and began rebuilding the city. They had managed to rebuild the temple and established a spiritual foundation, returning to the study and living out of God’s Word. However, every time they attempted to rebuild the walls around the city, their enemies attacked and they were forced to stop.

Think about it,a city without walls,at this point in history,was a city that was vulnerable and unprotected.

There was no safety for anyone who lived there. Enemies were able to come and attack whenever they felt like it. The temple could be rebuilt, but nothing of value could be placed in it, because the items would have been easily taken. The Jews who lived in Jerusalem at this time lived in daily stress and fear, and they never knew when they would be attacked or brutalized.

It’s at this point, 15 years since Ezra has returned to Jerusalem, that Nehemiah gets his report from his brother Hanani, who has just returned from his visit to Jerusalem. Nehemiah is anxious to hear how things are for his Jewish brethren and for the city of Jerusalem.

The answer his brother gives brings Nehemiah to his knees and causes him to weep. Hanani reports that those who have survived the exile and have now returned to the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and its gates had been burned with fire.

It is at this point we should start taking notes from Nehemiah.

There were 2,450,000 Jews living outside of Jerusalem at this point. Granted, not all of them had heard the recent news concerning the state the province was in, but each of them knew it was bad off.

Yet, this one man, hears the news and can no longer stand, and he immediately begins to cry. Obviously Nehemiah has the eyes and heart of God, and is seeing things the way God would see them.

This is confirmed, because as we continue to read, not only does Nehemiah sit and cry, he mourns, fasts and prays for some days, before the God of heaven.  He can’t let it go. It starts to take over his thinking, his prayer life and becomes something that takes over his mind and heart.

We then read his prayer to his Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God. As we go through Nehemiah’s prayer I want to outline some significant points that can assist us in our prayers today.

The first point is Nehemiah saw the big problem, knew he couldn’t fix it on his own and spent four months praying about this situation. The actual building of the walls took only 52 days, but the foundation of the building of the walls, was laid down during Nehemiah’s four months of prayer. Nehemiah didn’t rush into a plan, I suspect because initially he probably had no idea what he could do. So for four months he prayed to God seeking guidance.

As we read through verses 5-7 I would like to point out my second point. Nehemiah prays with humility. No where in his prayer does Nehemiah take prominence. God is the one who is great and awesome. God is the one who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commandments. Nehemiah seeks God’s ear, prays to be heard and then he repents, not only for himself, but for all of his fellow Jews. Nehemiah establishes who is important and who is in need.

Thirdly, Nehemiah comes to God looking and stating God’s promises. Nehemiah reminds God that He had made a promise with Moses and with His people, back in Deuteronomy and Leviticus

“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 from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.”

God delights in his children and desires to fulfill his promises. Unlike us humans, who if you are like me, may become annoyed when your child says to you, “But you promised!”

God doesn’t promise lightly and every promise He has made, He delights in keeping.

It is up to us to know God’s promises.

That is why it is so important to be reading God’s Word.

Lastly, Nehemiah prays with a heart and soul that is ready to do something.

He doesn’t just pray, God fix this.  Nehemiah prays that God would give him success.

As Nehemiah steps out to accomplish what God has put on his heart, he prays for success. Nehemiah had it in his mind to begin by talking with King about the problem. Nehemiah could logically think this because it turns out his position was cup-bearer to the King. Which was a position that allowed him daily access and personal conversations with the King of Persia.

Definitely, not a coincidence.

Today, as we prepare for the Lord’s Supper, I would like us to take the time we set aside for prayer and think about the example Nehemiah presents to us today on how to pray.

First, take as much time as needed to pray over the issues in your life that bring sorrow or pain.

Pour out your heart and your soul to God in prayer.

Seek God’s view on the situation.

Build a foundation of prayer before you act.

This means lifting up not only the situation, but also praying specifically for each person and each detail that surrounds it.

Second, make sure you are praying with humility. Humbly bow down before God, recognizing your sin and others sin in the situation and praying for forgiveness. 

Colossians 1:13-14 “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son, he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Thirdly, seek God’s Word for at least one of His promises and claim it.

Write it down on a 3 X 5 card and memorize it.

Read it throughout the day.

Pray it back to God whenever it comes to mind.

In Psalm 81:10 God states, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”

God is just waiting for us to ask Him to perform His promises, so He can open His storehouse and provide.

And finally, be prepared to act, regardless of how impossible it may seem. Nehemiah may have been the King’s cup-bearer, but that in no way made it seem possible that the King would be concerned for the Jews and be willing to assist in re-building the walls in Jerusalem. But Nehemiah was a man of conviction and ready to act. He wasn’t praying that God should get someone else to do something to make it better. He was putting himself out there and ready to be God’s servant.

As we continue to read, we discover Nehemiah becomes stretched in many ways.

The circumstances that come our way, whether we create them or others impose them on us, are the very things God uses to draw us closer to Him and refine us.

So as you pray, don’t whine or ask God to get someone else to move, be ready for God to use you.

Let’s take time right now to pray.

Perhaps some of us have some obstacles or know of someone with obstacles that are beyond our ability to overcome. Like Nehemiah, the first place to begin is on our knees, in prayer. Today we will begin our congregational prayer time with quiet prayer for the obstacles in our life.

 

Let’s pray.