The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire. (Nehemiah 1:3, NIV)
Friend to Friend
Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king of a land far from his home. (Which means he held a trusted position that allowed him personal access to the king.) When some old friends came to town he found out that his people, the Jews, were in a terrible situation. Deeply burdened by the news, he wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed. He took the devastation of his people to heart and responded on a soul level.
The Bible shows us that Nehemiah prayed. He was pressed but not crushed. He told the Lord that he was sorry for the way he and his people had rejected God and for the ways they had disobeyed His commands. He remembered the instructions of God to His people and reminded Him of His promises. And he asked God to hear his prayer, give him favor and lead his responses.
I read this and see a vibrant example of the way I should respond when difficult situations come my way. When my loved ones are hurting. When my homeland is unsafe and vulnerable to attack. Here are a few basic faith principles we can apply that Nehemiah modeled in his prayer and in the conversations that followed.
#1. BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS.
Nehemiah wept and mourned in response to the situation. You don’t need to pretend that you’re “fine” when life hurts. Instead, You can do what Nehemiah did: cry. Be sad. Mourn. Grieve.
Because life is hard … and just because we’re Christians does not mean we get easy passes. Thankfully, God knows sorrow well and is the generous source of comfort we need.
Nehemiah’s powerful prayer included the following. I’ve bullet pointed them to be a useful guide:
- Begin with confession (on behalf of me and my people).
- Remember and remind God of His Word
- Petition on behalf of others (Pray for your people. Stand in the gap. Intercede.)
- Ask for success (Yes. You read this right. It’s okay to ask God to give you favor. Nehemiah did!)
- Ask for mercy (That the punishment we and our people deserve would be withheld.)
While following this template of Nehemiah’s prayer doesn’t guarantee any of us that God will answer our prayers as we expect Him to, it does give us a step by step path to follow that will focus our hearts God’s intervention.
Then, after Nehemiah prayed, the Lord allowed the king to see that something was wrong. And the Lord allowed Nehemiah to experience the favor he asked for. BUT he has to face his fears in order to step into the provision God had for him. And this shows us another great takeaway…
#3. DON’T LET FEAR HOLD YOU BACK.
Nehemiah was heavy with sorrow and the king noticed. In chapter 2 the king asked Nehemiah what had made his him sad. “So the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” (Nehemiah 2:2)
Insightful king, right?
The next words Nehemiah writes are, “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” (Nehemiah 2:2-3)
Amazingly, the king cared! He asked what he could do to help, and then provided Nehemiah with everything he needed to go back to Jerusalem and help his people rebuild the ruins.
Nehemiah could’ve shrugged off the king’s question. He could’ve said,Nothing is wrong, my lord! I’m fine. All is well. But he didn’t. Even though he was afraid, he spoke truth. He didn’t let fear hold him back. And as a result, he was equipped with what he needed and was mobilized toward healing.
Are there complications that have your heart grieving and sifting through ashes? Perhaps you are trying to keep a stiff upper lip and carry those broken burdens quietly? Know today that God is all about rebuilding broken hearts and hopes. He specializes in transforming smoky ash heaps into beautiful displays of His grace. He moves you toward that beauty and healing as you move toward Him in distress as Nehemiah did.
Dear Lord, You are compassionate, gracious, faithful, and powerful. Please forgive me and my loved ones for the ways we’ve disobeyed You. Please bring redemption and healing to the following _________________. Pour out Your favor and mercy on us today, and help me to follow Your leading. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
Read Nehemiah 1. Write out Nehemiah’s prayer, but make it your own.