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Nehemiah Prays

“When I heard these things I sat down and wept.  For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before God of heaven” Chapter 1 v 4 (NIV)

So who was Nehemiah, why was he important and what can he possibly teach us in the 21st Century?  The book starts in the Persian City of Susa in 444BC where we learn that Nehemiah is a cup bearer to the King.  Not a priest or prophet but an ordinary man albeit in a responsible position of trust and potential influence – after all he had to taste everything brought for the king so could have been poisoned at any time!

When one of his brothers visits from Judah Nehemiah asks about the state of Jerusalem even though it was a city some 800 miles away with many people he didn’t know - a city that had been destroyed some 150 years earlier with the walls still in ruins.  However his heart was for the things of God – if Jerusalem was special to God then it was also special to him.  The reaction to the news that Jerusalem was broken not only physically but also spiritually, might seem a bit extreme to us.  But God was going to use him and was preparing him for the times ahead.  After all He had placed him in the important job, with a heart full of concern for the people of Jerusalem.  God knew he needed the right man for the job, He needed a leader someone who could influence others to get the job done.  Leaders need to prepare for difficult work and what better way to do this but to pray. And boy did he pray – not just once but over days and not just pray but he fasted as well.  How many of us can say we would do this when we are faced with issues of great concern?

Lord, as we look at our world today place on our hearts those issues that you wish us to pray about.  You have put us where we are for a purpose, help us listen to your calling and act on your commands.  Amen

Nehemiah Prays Again

“The king said to me, “what is it you want?” Then  I prayed to the God of heaven……”

Chap 2 v 4 (NIV)

So having spent four months praying (and we assume fasting as well) Nehemiah’s plight is finally brought to his employers, the King’s, attention.  But before Nehemiah could tell him everything what does he do – he sends an arrow prayer to God!  How many of us in times of sadness, worry, hardship uncertainty send those arrow prayers – I know I do and I know that God hears and then responds normally by giving me the strength needed to respond to whatever is required.  In this case, Nehemiah is actually asking to go to Judah to help rebuild the city of Jerusalem.  Not only that, he is also asking for safe passage through the countries on the way to Judah and also for timber to help build the gates and the walls of the city.  So what did the King do with the requests – he granted them even though it would have meant he was without his employee for a considerable length of time – was this the first sabbatical?!  God had to have been behind all this as the request could have been seen as an act of treason with the potential for creating an alternative seat of government.  Whatever it was, God had his plan, he had his leader to deliver the plan, and Nehemiah responded to the call without moaning or complaining.  Do we respond when we hear Gods call and if not why not?

Lord, help us to really listen when you call so that we may respond without complaining to what you place on our hearts.

Nehemiah Prays Again, Again

But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat”

Nehemiah Chap 4 v 9 (NIV)

Having started the building of the wall, and Chapter 3 gives us a list of all those involved in the building from high priest to goldsmiths to merchants to servants, there is growing ridicule form Sanballat and Tobiah as to what “the feeble Jews” were doing.  So what was Nehemiah’s response to these threats -  why of course he prayed!  Nehemiah’s leadership and his practical administrative strategy skills were evident here using half the workforce on construction and half standing guard (v16), even the workers had their swords by their sides.  Guards were also out at night protecting the people as they slept.  Just because God was with them (and us) doesn’t mean that we don’t need to be proactive and protect ourselves as well.   As Christians we seem to attract opposition and difficulties but we have that great hope and provider who works with us to support us and help us through those difficult times – if only we will let Him in and rely on him  - prayer being the key as Nehemiah clearly demonstrates throughout his life.

Lord as we journey through our lives you never said it would be easy, but you did say you would be there for us.  Help us to see that our strength and courage comes from you even in the most difficult of times.

Nehemiah Ponders

When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.  I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials.  Chap 5 v 6,7 (NIV)

So with the building work well under way and protection in place what could possibly go wrong for Nehemiah.  Unfortunately, as so often happens in life, another problem appears and this time its not a minor problem – a famine had hit the land and many of the people were in a very poor way having mortgaged their property in order to buy grain.  Not only that the rich landowners saw it as an opportunity to make even more profit by exploiting their poorer countrymen.  When Nehemiah heard what was going he was angry, but instead of venting that anger straight away he pondered on it!  How many of us in the same situation could do that?  Would we jump in with both feet shouting and accusing in no uncertain terms? Or would we ponder (and presumably pray) and reflect on what words to use.  Yet again we see Nehemiah not having knee jerk reactions but thinking before speaking.  He must have been well respected with his peers as those who were guilty immediately said “We will give it back …. And we will not demand anything more from them”  Nehemiah’s style of leadership was very much a generous and caring style.  He lead by example, he didn’t burden the people like his predecessors had, nor lord it over them.  Instead he financed his house out of his own pocket.  God calls us to live lives of integrity so that we are in a position to challenge the injustice around us.  How is your life matching up to this?

Lord, as we see the many injustices in the world open our hearts and minds to those in need and help us to respond to the needs with care and compassion. 

Nehemiah Prays Again Again, Again

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking “Their hands will get too weak for the work and it will be completed.” But I prayed “now strengthen my hands”  Chap 6 v 9(NIV)

So 52 days after starting the build, the wall is completed a no mean feat!  I don’t think we could even contemplate the amount of blood sweat and probably tears that went into this build but more importantly the amount of prayers that also went into it - with Gods help anything is possible!  But in Chapter 6 we see a personal attack on Nehemiah – from spurious meetings enticing him to leave the work through to circulating lies about him.  But yet again we see Nehemiahs character  - he simply wouldn’t be side tracked and refuses to listen to their threats.  But continues in the task knowing that he is doing God work.  How often do we suffer personal attack? Have rumours spread that are untrue? How often have personal attacks distracted us from Gods work?  These attacks are felt deeply and we often just want to run away and hide.  But do we have the perseverance of Nehemiah to not let these attacks distract us from doing the tasks that God has put before us?  As Nehemiah clearly demonstrates throughout these first few chapters his first thought is always to lift his concerns and issues to God in prayer – and we can and should to.

Lord as we travel through our lives may we always turn to you in prayer in the good times but also in the difficult times of our lives knowing that you will always be there and will listen to us.

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