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!

THE POWER OF GOD TO CHANGE LIVES!

EXTENDED READING: MARK 1:21-28

DEVOTIONAL READING: VERSES 27–28

27 And they were all amazed, so they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding region of Galilee.

During Christ’s earthly ministry He not only taught the people about God, their creator, sustainer, and savior, He also displayed the power of God in His many miracles and healings that He performed. This scripture displays one such time in the life of Christ when He and His disciples walked into a town known as Capernaum.

His teaching had authority behind it, unlike that of the Scribes and Pharisees. His authority extended into the realm of healing people from various diseases and demon possessions, as is testified to hear by Mark. The audience was amazed at what had just taken place, a man who was possessed by an evil spirit inside the synagogue, was freed from his bondage by Jesus Christ!

God’s power to change lives was on display then and is still active today! If this Jesus has the power to cast out demons, how much more able is He to free us of our bondage, our sins that so easily entangle us? 

John”s testimony was : “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Will you look to Him today and have have your sins forgiven?

PRAYER: Father, I pray for anyone reading this devotional that does not know Jesus and has not yet received His saving grace. Please draw them to yourself, grant them repentant faith and new life in Christ. Help them understand that you are able to remove the bondage of sin that they are under and replace it with thy righteousness thru Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Amen

THE SPIRIT OF TRUE WITNESSING

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EXTENDED READING: ACTS 5: 12-32

DEVOTIONAL VERSE: Verse 32

” And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

When you have the opportunity to be a witness for Christ and share the Gospel with someone, who do you think is the “soul winner?” I ask this question because there has only been one soul winner in all of history, contrary to some modern-day teaching, and it isn’t you or I. It is and always has been the Holy Spirit.

Ray Stedman said it well, “we are not salesman for God, with a mandate to talk people into buying something. . . No salesperson is dependent upon a person working within him to do the job properly. Yet that is who we are as witnesses for Christ.”

“Our witness as a believer is vitally related to the Holy Spirit. Jesus had said that the Holy Spirit would be a witness and that the apostles would be witnesses. He had shown them how the Holy Spirit would not testify of Himself but Christ. 

In this verse, the fulfillment of that promise is evident. The apostles were conscious that the Holy Spirit of God indwelled them. They recognized that they were instruments of God to the degree that that Spirit possessed them.

There is a tremendous lesson here for every believer. No one can be a witness for Christ and a herald of the Gospel by individual initiative. It is only as one follows the direction of the True Witness that he can communicate to others the divine testimony.”

Empowerment for witnessing comes from Him.

PRAYER: Father, help us trust that your Spirit within us is the only one who can save sinners. Grant to us encouragement to witness for Christ and boldness to speak the truth in love to those who desperately need to hear it. Amen.

*Adapted from the Topical Chain Study Bible

THE POWER OF GOD

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Extended reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

1 Corinthians 1:18 “for the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 

The idling of car engines stopped, and many people, including myself, left our vehicles to begin the one-mile hike to the cross. In a small town known as Paxinos, Pennsylvania, the Easter service at the cross is a big event. The 24 foot high cross, placed initially and maintained by the Boy Scouts, troop 250, sits high on top of a mountain, and the only access to it is by walking unless you are unable to walk, then a van will transport you to the top. 

Young and old alike come faithfully each year to sit beneath the cross and hear a sermon of power, hope, and love: the message of the cross! As the pastor preaches, we enjoy a fantastic panorama of the surrounding countryside. The view before us reminds us all that the forgiveness purchased by Christ Jesus on the cross is available to anyone who will turn to Him in faith! 

It’s easy to hear these words of Paul and become discouraged. After all, many people are perishing because they think that no one can die and return to life again. But we should be encouraged as we read these verses because God, in His wisdom, was pleased to use what seems foolish to some to save even the most hardened of sinners! 

Listening to the Easter message reminded me of the ongoing work of salvation that God is accomplishing through His Son, who came to seek out and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Let us encourage one another with these words.

Prayer: Blessed Lord Jesus, let our faith be fixed and unaltered, one that never grows weary or disheartened. Help us be pleased with what you are delighted with, always rejoicing in the hope and glory of Christ Jesus! 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.