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When Nehemiah receives the bad news about Jerusalem and its people, his first reaction is to weep, to lament, and to mourn over the continuing disgrace of the situation. And this was a godly reaction: remember how Jesus taught that "blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted" Ė Nehemiah recognised the shameful reality and responded with godly sorrow which drove him to his knees to repent and to intercede. So you see: when the going gets tough, the tough get praying!
And itís clear that ...
>> NEHEMIAH WAS COMMITTED TO PRAYER
It was an instinctive response. It is the first thing that the man, or woman, of God could and should do. For Nehemiah, it was just the most natural thing to do: to speak with the God of Israel, to express his concern about the people and city, and to receive Godís comfort and guidance. This immediate reaction suggests that Nehemiah was already in an established relationship with God Ė this was no one-off event, but part of a whole life of faith.
Prayer must also be our instinctive response Ė not only to bad news and tragedy; but also to good news and celebration Ė and it will be if we regularly give time to come into Godís presence and to both speak and listen to Him. Commitment is something which people these days seem to want to avoid; commitment to prayer is something which Christians cannot afford to ignore.
In the text, we can also see that ...
>> NEHEMIAH WAS SINCERE IN PRAYER
His tears were genuine: he shows great empathy with the poor people in Jerusalem who were feeling lost and desperate.
We need to understand that Nehemiah was in quite a privileged situation in Susa: we learn from the last verse of chapter 1 that Nehemiah was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, a position of some considerable influence. The cupbearer was responsible for tasting the kingís wine to safeguard against poisoning, and for guarding the royal chambers; so it is not surprising that he was usually a trusted official and confidante of the king. As such, it might be slightly surprising that he was so concerned about what was going on hundreds of miles away. Indeed, Nehemiah himself would have been born in captivity in Babylon, and so had no real experience of living in Judah.
But his tears are undoubtedly genuine: remember, weíre told that he mourns and fasts Ė he is totally serious about this. He is a godly Jew who is in tune with the heart of God, and so he feels compassion for all of Godís people and for Jerusalem.
As Christians, we too should be unashamed to weep for those of Godís people who are suffering around the globe; we should be unembarrassed about shedding tears for the state of Godís creation. If we are sincere and godly people, this should be happening without us even thinking about it. Nehemiah wept, Jesus wept Ė let us be weepers, too, as we are brought into tune with Godís heart.
Next, we must appreciate that ...
>> NEHEMIAH WAS SACRIFICIAL IN PRAYER
After all, he gave over a significant time to fasting from food. Now, his fasting may have had several benefits:
first, as we have already seen, it highlighted his sincerity;
second, it will have focused his mind upon the issues;
third, it freed time up for concentrated prayer
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