NEHEMIAH PRAYS

                                                               

     Nehemiah 1:1-28                                             

                                                        

 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:

  1. 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!

GENTLE RESTORATION

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Extended reading: Galatians 6:1-5

Devotional verse: Galatians 6:1

“Brothers and sisters, even if a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you are not tempted as well.”

People make mistakes all the time. “I’m only human” is the explanation we hear so often after someone has failed relationally, morally, or otherwise. It seems like we do not take sin as seriously as we should. We tend to think that we won’t fall prey to another temptation since we suffered dire consequences last time. How is that working for you?

The most recent events surrounding some leaders in the Hillsong church movement and those that have surfaced about a famous apologist, well known in Evangelical circles, prove painfully otherwise. In these verses, Paul instructs his readers to gently pursue restoring a fellow Christian who fell into sin back into a right relationship with God and those they have sinned against.

Paul gives two reasons for such tenderness. The first is not as obvious but is implied in the word “gentleness.” When we fall into temptation and succumb to its pressure, we feel ashamed, foolish, and heartbroken that we gave way to the flesh once more. If we were caught in it, the embarrassment and consequences following the particular sin could be a heavy burden to bear. So, Paul is expressing the need for us to humbly admit our sins to one another so we can mutually encourage and hold each other accountable in our Christian walk. 

If we would be more willing to share our struggles and help others who are struggling with sin, we would be able to move forward in our walk of faith more confident, encouraged that we are not in this fight alone. 

Prayer: Father, As much as we hate sin, we confess that we often fall into it. We often compound the issue by not being honest with others about our struggles. Holy Spirit, work within us a greater sense of honesty and humility so that we can mutually encourage one another along the way. Amen.

HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR ME

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I know not what this day will bring

Or what my troubles may be;

But I know who holds tomorrow

And His grace is sufficient for me.

Burdens will come and test my heart,

more rain than sun I’ll see;

Still I’ll hope in God above

Cause His grace is sufficient for me.

Although I have many weaknesses

The power of Christ rests upon me;

His power is made perfect in weakness

So His grace is sufficient for me.

Why should I fear in times of trouble

There is nothing your eyes don’t see;

Though many be rising against me

Your grace is sufficient for me.

By His grace I have been redeemed,

Cleansed by His blood and set free;

Though Jesus died He lives again

Such grace is sufficient for me.

So, I’ll draw near His throne of grace

finding mercy in my time of need;

Gaining strength for my tomorrow, and

Finding His grace is sufficient for me.

                                                         Larry G. Stump Jr.