Nehemiah’s Prayer

Read: Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the concept that his words are written 1,000 years after Exodus–that is such a long time! And yet Nehemiah’s first words look back on Moses.

As one in the king’s court, Nehemiah had the privilege of access to information about the Jews returning from exile. I’m sure Nehemiah knew the king supported the Jews returning from exile, but I’m not sure why he didn’t join the group in returning himself. Perhaps he thought his prominent position better served the kingdom and was willing to continue worshipping God from afar.

His distance did not reduce his concern for his fellow Israelites. He asked one of his brothers for an update on Jerusalem:

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:3-4

Nehemiah’s heart is broken at the report. His prayer of confession points all the way back to the laws given to Moses:

We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. Nehemiah 1:7

Yes, Nehemiah prayed, but he was a man of action and not just words.

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.” Nehemiah 1:11

The span of time between chapters 1 and 2 are perhaps 3 or 4 months. I suspect Nehemiah prayed this prayer many times as he sought to discern God’s call for him at this time and in this place.

Do we pray this fervently? This unselfishly? This direct?

There is much work to do in the church today, the bride of Christ. Lord, help us discern your will and take action to do something with your words.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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