A story is told about a small town that had historically been “dry,” but then a local businessman decided to build a tavern. A group of Christians from a local church were concerned and planned an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. It just so happened that shortly thereafter lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. The owner of the bar sued the church, claiming that the prayers of the congregation were responsible, but the church hired a lawyer to argue in court that they were not responsible.
The presiding judge, after his initial review of the case, stated that “no matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in prayer and the Christians do not.”
Do you believe in prayer—-the power of prayer—would that belief be evident in the way you live your life?
Our study today:
- Nehemiah prays out of a burden for His people (1:1-4) Read
Nehemiah’s story begins with a great burden being placed upon his heart, through the agency of “one of his brothers,” and men from Judah. It is unclear as to whether or not Hanani was simply a Jew or an actual brother as it appears in 7:2. But the term for brother is the same in both places and is widely interpeted in the original language. In any event, through these people a burden, deep burden, was placed on the heart of Nehemiah for his people.
At this point in their history the Jews had been delivered from their exile in Babylon. However, those that returned to Jerusalem and Judah, and inhabited the city, were faced with broken down walls and burned down gates (security was an issue), and with many enemies around them fear grows like weeds. Because of this there is embarrassment and shame as well.
As Nehemiah learned of the plight of his people, he sat down and wept. He was in great sorrow over these things and so he turned to the God of heaven in fasting and prayer.
Notice, this is not just a casual sadness, or a sudden emotional response to some bad news, no, he is deeply feeling their trouble and disgrace, so much so, it leads him to mourn for several days. It is this heavy burden for others that leads him to pray to the God of heaven! If you looked at Genesis 18 you would find something similar happening to Abraham.
There we see Abraham entertaining three men by the Oaks of Mamre. He desires to be hospitable and wash their feet and feed them, so they can refresh themselves. They agree, and so Abraham get’s Sarah to quickly prepare some food for the men. In verses 9-15 the promised birth of Isaac is foretold, but it is verses 16-32 I want to focus on.
Verse 17 is said in Abrahams hearing, “shall I hide from Him.”
Verses 20-22 The Lord speaks of the “outcry” from Sodom and Gomorrah, their depravity, and His placing a judgement on them. And then adding to his concern, the men turn and went toward Sodom!
When Abraham learned that the Lord was about to destroy the city of Sodom, he immediately became burdened for those people, maybe more so his nephew Lot who lived there. We see his concern, or burden, led to his pleading with God not to destroy the whole city.
Here, as in Nehemiah, we see the power and importance of intercessory prayer. As Abraham pleads with the Lord for the city and the number of the righteous to be found gets lower, God remains faithful in his intention NOT to destroy the city if even only 10 righteous are found there.
God answered his prayer one better than he asked for (19:27-29)! Only Lot and his two daughters made it out alive, no other “righteous” people were found there. Just as nehemiah prayed out of a burden for his people, so to Abraham out of a burden for those people, and more so his nephew.
Question: Do you see a relationship between feeling burdened over something and praying with intensity or deseration?
- Nehemiah prays to God who forgives and redeems (5-11) (Cr. David Psalm 32)
- Nehemiah prays while he takes action (2:1-8)
Prayer is: Purposeful, powerful, and His answers are praiseworthy!