There are four parts to Nehemiah's prayer. There are four areas to focus on when we engage in prayer.
Text: Nehemiah 1:1-11
The first part of prayer is referenced in verse 5: Adoration, praising God. Nehemiah 1:5, “I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,”
When we come to God in praise we are not just coming in prayer to a man, an idea or a philosophy with some wishful thinking or good thoughts. When we come to God and lift up His name, we are speaking to the Almighty, Sovereign and Omniscient God who is enthroned in Heaven. He is awesome and beyond comprehension, and this should put everything else in perspective.
Who is a greatest ruler on earth compared to God? What situation - what wall - is stronger than God? What boss? What spouse? What disease? We begin with praise.
The second part of prayer, Nehemiah confesses his part in the problem. Verses 6 and 7, “Let Your ear - God - now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am, praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances, which You commanded Your servant Moses.”
Nehemiah’s confession is not just about what God’s people did 140 years before. Not just whining or complaining about how they all sinned and got into this mess. Nehemiah is praying about his own part in that sin. This is a hard thing to do. When we are in conflict with another person our usual response is to blame the other person. We work hard to think of a long list of how the other person is the real root of the problem. We rarely honestly consider our own part in the problem.
Nehemiah goes to God and says, “I am guilty. I confess. I’m part of the problem. Change me. Work in my life so that I can be a part of the answer.”
The third part of prayer is that Nehemiah claimed God's promise. Verses 8-10: “Remember the word which you - God - commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’ Jerusalem. They are your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand.”
Nehemiah knew his Scriptures. In the middle of his prayer he quotes God’s word from Leviticus 26, God’s promise to judge and scatter Israel if they turn to sin (Leviticus 26:14); and from Deuteronomy 30- God’s promise to restore the nation from its exile. Nehemiah says, “Lord, we’ve disobeyed and you were true to your promise. We’re judged and scattered. But, Lord, You also promised to restore us and protect us. I’m claiming that promise.”
Sometimes, especially when we are pinned up against a wall, we should stop and make a list of God’s promises. Somewhere on that list we will undoubtedly find at least one promise that we can claim in our situation. God doesn’t flippantly hand our promises. God makes promises to us purposefully to meet every situation and need that we have in life.
We can claim these promises:
“Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)
“Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things everything we need for life now and forever all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Jesus said, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
Whatever the circumstance, He is always with us.
The fourth and final part of prayer, Nehemiah brings his request to God. Verse 11, “O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man. Now I was the cupbearer of the king."
What is Nehemiah asking for here? He is asking is to be successful in bringing his plan before the ruler of the Persian Empire. It's a bold and courageous prayer. It comes from the lips of Nehemiah, who reveres God’s name.
In this world of cell phones, email, Voice mail, texting, twitter, television and all the constant activity and movement, it is so tempting for us to want to move on quickly to our own solutions, or to spin around getting frustrated and depressed by our problems. We need to stop, go in prayer and wait on God to clear our vision. We need to quiet our hearts and turn in faith, to God. He is who we need for impossible circumstances. Like Nehemiah, He is waiting for us to cry out to Him.
Let's stop and review...there are four parts to prayer: adoration, confess your part in the problem, review and claim God's promises to you, bring your request to God.
Let us now look at the second part of Nehemiah’s response. Nehemiah 2:1-8, "And it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of the king of the Persian Empire that wine was before him, and I - Nehemiah - took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. So, the King said to me, “Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, 'Let the king live forever'. Why should my face not be sad when the city - Jerusalem - the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?”
Then the king said to me, “What would you request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.”
Then the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him, “How long will your journey be, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me, and I gave him a definite time. And I said to the king, “If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the city and for the house to which I will go.”
And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me.
Nehemiah's next step was to prepare for God to move. What does preparation mean?