Posted by: mikenicholsblog | April 22, 2015

saturated with prayer

When was the last time an event or circumstance triggered emotions and passions which were nearly overwhelming? We can all remember one such event that took us by storm, and definitely caused an eruption of emotion and passion … 9/11!  We all remember where we were and the horror of watching the World Trade Center collapse. Without a doubt, Christ-followers around the world were praying and mourning. The thought of those days will never leave us, and I’m not sure if any of us have ever had such a sense of nationalistic fervor.  Those days surrounding September 11, 2001 came to mind as I’ve been reading the story of the man Nehemiah, as captured in the Old Testament.  Nehemiah was confronted with the sad state of those who had survived the Babylon exile.  The walls of Jerusalem had been reduced to rubble and the city gates had been consumed by fire … the sight and thought of it overwhelmed him. Look at his response:

When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of heaven.
Nehemiah 1:4

Nehemiah mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of heaven. We all were emotionally struck by 9/11, but consider the depth of Nehemiah’s response. Along with his mourning, Nehemiah fasted and prayed. My purposes in mentioning 9/11 are not to draw attention to nationalistic pride (although it is admirable), nor to revisit the horror of that day.  Rather, I believe it provides us some measure of context in which to better relate to the man Nehemiah and his unique story. He has always been a favorite character of mine in Scripture because of his passionate response to a devastating situation, and the amazing story of his leadership in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days. But there is far more to this man than his leadership or passion. The book of Nehemiah is saturated with prayer.

Careful reading of the book of Nehemiah should cause us to see how this man consistently went to the Father in prayer. I have heard it said that this book could be used as a manual on leadership. After spending time reading this week and last, I certainly couldn’t argue with that.  However, I’d also be quick to suggest it’s an equally excellent reference for great principles on praying. There are 12 references to Nehemiah praying in the 13 chapters that make up the book. Nehemiah didn’t just have an emotional response to Jerusalem’s plight and then go on with his life. He fasted and prayed for days, and was then led by God to do the seemingly impossible.

There’s no question that Nehemiah was a man of great faith, and possessed great confidence in God. Prayer was a part of his life, and I believe an integral part of his success in the monumental accomplishment of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. But what about us, and what about now? Our lives are not dominated (although there is much to pray about) by massive nationalistic issues like the one that Nehemiah faced, but we are embroiled in everyday issues which can become overwhelming and very emotional. How do we process or respond to those issues? How is our faith worked out in family, personal and work struggles that we face daily? How do we pray, and do we even consider fasting?

To be perfectly honest, I was personally struck by the words fasted and prayed when I read Nehemiah chapter one. Although the issues that I face don’t rise to the level of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, they are very important to me. I certainly pray about them, but are they worth fasting about?  I know the answer for me! What about you?! There is not a question in my mind that when we genuinely pray and fast, God moves. The question is, are we willing to really seek God this way in the big issues of our lives?

Nehemiah was burdened, and he did something about it. The results were astounding for his people. If we would be just as focused in fasting, praying and leading those around us, what would happen?


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