Saturday, June 27, 2009

4 Elements of Nehemiah's Prayer.

Hello SCC family. If you'd like to continue the discussion from Sunday's (6/28) message feel free to leave a comment or ask a question by clicking the "comments" link under this post.

During part of my message this morning, I outlined four elements of Nehemiah's prayer from Nehemiah 1:4-11, but did not go into much detail. Here's a few more thoughts on these elements from Nehemiah's prayer

* Nehemiah's prayer seems to have evolved a period of four months. When he first heard the devastating news about his homeland, we read that his response was that of mourning, fasting, and praying. Surely, you've felt the sense of despair that seems to hover over Nehemiah after recieving this news. And, in those moments, our response may be something like, "Why God?" or "Look at me, God. Take notice of my situation." We mourn, in the presence of God. But as you finish that prayer or those prayers, our concerns change; and, so, our prayers change as well.
Over a period of 4 months our prayers may change from, "Hear my cry, God." to "Give me direction, God," and finally, "Grand me success as I cary out this plan." Our prayers change, because we sense an answer from God. We may receive guidance from Scripture that seems to speak to our situation, or receive council from an unsolicited Godly source, or notice His hand at work in the circumstances of our lives. It's important that we seek God's answer to our prayers and not deceive ourselves by declaring that our own agenda is an answer from God. But, he does answer. And, in this way, prayer really can be an evolving conversation.
(On a side note, We're not sure of the nature of Nehemiah's fast. There are many types of fasts mentioned in scripture. Basically, Nehemiah deprived himself of something--likely food--as a way to express his mourning and as an means to help him focus his prayers.)

At some point during those four months, Nehemiah offers up this prayer:

1. Worship [vs. 5]
"Then I said: 'O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands,..."
Nehemiah beings his prayer with a worshipful attitude toward God. In these four months of prayer and fasting, he never forgot that the one to whom he was praying was the awesome God over heaven and earth, the faithful YHWH of Israel, who keeps his promises.
As we pray, we must not forget that the God we encounter is a holy God; the mighty creator of things seen and unseen, who gave his only Son as a ransom for our lives.

2. Confession [vs. 6-7]
"6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses...."
Before Nehemiah makes his request, he confesses his sin and the sin of his brothers and sisters before God. Confession is an important part of our prayer lives. Many of us think to ourselves, "God already knows our sins, why do I need to confess them to Him?" But confession is more for our benefit than it is God's. It is important to recognize who we are before this holy, awesome, powerful, loving, just, perfect savior of our souls. How can we align ourselves with the will of God, if we do not recognize who we are in His presence.
Consider the words of David, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened..." (Psalm 66:18). Perhaps God is more concerned with whether or not we have aligned ourselves with His will and purified ourselves for His use, than he is with fulfilling our wishes. When we begin our prayers by desiring for ourselves what He desires for us, the requests that follow are likely to be more sensitive to his will. (See John 5:14-15).

3. Declaration of God's Promises [vs. 8-10]
"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.' 10 "They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand...."
How do we know that we're praying according to the will of God? We can always be sure that our desires are in line with God's when our prayers are based in the truth of His Word. I imagine that during those 4 months verses like Deuteronomy 30:1-5 came to mind. Perhaps Nehemiah learned verses like these from his parents. Maybe, he was searching the Scriptures for some kind of guidance during those 4 months. Maybe the synagogues that were instituted during Nehemiah's day recited this verse on a regular basis. But, somehow, Nehemiah, knew this verse; it was in his heart. And as he prayed, he reminded himself of the promise that God had made. He reminded God of this promise. He knew that this request was something God desired to answer in His strength and in His timing.
God has given us many promises in the Bible (2 Peter 1:3-4). Do you know them, are they in your heart? Do you remind yourself of these promises in the presence of God? Here are a few of the promises that I often include in my prayers: 2 Peter 1:3 (He's given me what I need to be who I should be); 1 Cor. 10:13 (I can handle this temptation, with His help); Romans 8:28 (He can take our lives and make them into something beautiful); Matthew 16:16-18 (the church will endure whatever obstacles come her way).

4. The Request [11]
"O 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.'"
Finally, the request. Now that he has reminded himself of who God is, of who he is in the presence of God, and the will of God for his situation, Nehemiah makes his request. It is a request born out of a sensitivity to what God desires to do and not not a selfish agenda; Nehemiah's honesty in these previous elements has ensured that this is the case.

The answer to this prayer is amazing. Not only does the King allow Nehemiah take a leave of absence to return to his hometown and rebuild its walls, he guarantees his personal safety, provides the timber that will be required to build the walls, sends an army and cavalry with him for the journey, and appoints Nehemiah as governor of the province of Jerusalem. Within 52 days, the wall was built despite insurmountable odds, external threats, and internal strife.
(If you haven't done so already, read the story of Nehemiah in your Bible.)

How often to do you include these elements in your prayers? Which of these elements do you sometimes forget when conversing with God? Why do you think prayer was so important to Nehemiah that he would commit himself to it for 4 months prior to making a move?


Anonymous said...

any comments?

Anonymous said...

great sermon! can't wait until next weeks building block!

Dan said...

Thanks anonymous. Feel free to type your name in the "comment as" box underneath the comment box. Select "name/url" fromt the dropdown menu, and enter in your info.

Dan White said...

After yesterday's message, my friend Gary asked why I though Nehemiah mentioned that he was cupbearer to the king in the curious way in which he does in 1:11. We came up with a theory, but I'd like to know your thoughts on this.

Dan White said...

If you didn't join us yesterday, you might not know that everybody took home a little block of wood, to remind us to begin the ministry of SCC with the building block of prayer. Every we look look at the block, we're supposed remember to lift up SCC in prayer.
Pray for God's direction. Pray that we'd be sensitive to that direction, rather than pushing our own agendas. Pray for success as we serve others with the love of Christ.
If you need a block we have plenty; stop by the office and we'll get you one. Or make you own block. Put it in your bathroom, or in your car, or above the door of your home, as a reminder to pray for SCC.

Mark Hughs said...

I really liked the sermon. Looking forward to being a part of a new beginning. But is the worship team going to use the drums and bass next week.? I like the old songs, but I kinda missed the upbeat music.

Mark Hughs said...

I'm just playing! Of course we're going to have drums and bass next week!!!!!

Dan White said...

You're hilarious, Mark!

Anonymous said...

Of course it's hard to hear the message all the way back in IL!!! but LOVED the opportunity to read about it. Great stuff Dan, as usual!! I think we all need to start,TODAY, praying like Nehemiah for the things that are happening in our world today!! Keep up the great work!
Cathy Miller from the Prairie Not sure how to use the profile stuff. =/

Nancy P said...

I think this blogspot is a phenomenal idea. People fritter away so much time I things like twittering about whether Michael Jackson is being vilified in death. To actually have further conversation about Sunday’s sermon, instead of placing it on a mental shelf, is wonderful. That being said, I’ll have to get back to you on Nehemiah 1:11 – I have some thinking to do.

Mark Hughs said...

I find it so interesting that the Biblical men of God wept. In today's world, that is so taboo. I was raised not to cry. But as Nehemiah prays and fast, has also wept and mourned. In Samuel 30:4, when David and his men returned to Ziglak to find that their town was destroyed and their women and children were taken captive by the Amalekites, David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. And then in John 11, (the shortest verse in the Bible) it describes that Jesus wept, when he learned the news of Lazarus' death.

But it all started with tears. Nehemiah's tears resulted in the rebuilding of the Jerusalem walls. David's tears resulted in the defeat of the Amalekites. And Jesus' tears resulted in a miracle those rose Lazarus from the dead. The next time tears well up in my eyes, I hope I will be able to see past them and know that God has more in store. Surprisingly, most good things start with weeping.

Dan said...

Good thoughts, Mark.

J. Ward said...

Dan, Great 1st message...can't wait for more. Nehemiah leaves us quite the model for prayer... ...Working on understanding the whole fasting thing better.
Mark, good words about weeping. Why is it so hard for us (guys especially...) to be true to our feelings and weep when moved by God in an area. I know for myself, it is pride. I know our culture plays a large role in that, as well.
Oh that God would soften our hearts to allow us to express the emotion He has created us to experience!

And yes...we def. need the bass and drums back!!


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