Summary: Series on men and women’s prayers in the Bible that made a difference and how prayer truly is the difference maker in our lives. I borrowed the outlines from SermonCentral Pro Contributor Tim Byrd.
The Process of Prayer.
I checked my notes and realized that it’s been a long time since I gave you a Bible quiz. Here’s a new test for you. I’ll give you a hint ¬all the questions have to do with the Old Testament. Who was the greatest comedian in the Bible? Samson. He brought the house down. Who was the greatest male financier in the Bible? Noah. He was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation. Who was the greatest female financier? Pharaoh’s daughter. She went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a little prophet. Who is the greatest babysitter mentioned in the Bible? David. He rocked Goliath to a very deep sleep. Who is the shortest man in the Bible? Knee-high-miah.
Tonight we are continuing on with our series of Prayers that made a difference and tonight we are going to look at Nehemiah. Nehemiah is one of the great characters of the Old Testament, but perhaps not as well known as some others.
Let me briefly set the historical context. In Genesis 12, God called Abram to leave his country and to follow Him to another land. As Abraham obeyed, his descendents multiplied. The Israelites were later enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years until God called them out under the leadership of Moses.
Eventually they were allowed to enter the land God had promised them, Canaan. Hundreds of years passed during which the nation experienced struggles, faithlessness, and wrestling with God. The high point of Israel’s history came when David, a godly king, was called to sit on the throne. For forty years David expanded the nation in both breadth of influence and knowledge of God.
But things went downhill from there. After his son, King Solomon died; Israel was split into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom had ten tribes and was referred to as Israel. The Southern Kingdom had two tribes and was referred to as Judah. Because of their disobedience, the Assyrians conquered Israel and the ten tribes were scattered and became known as the “ten lost tribes of Israel.”
Even though the southern tribes saw all this happen, they, too, continued to rebel against God. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army captured the Jews, Jerusalem was destroyed, the walls were knocked down, and the temple was burned. The people were deported and were forced into slavery again. Their history had come full circle. The city was left in ruins.
It must have been a traumatic thing for the Jews to see death and destruction and then be forced to leave their homeland and travel about 1,000 miles to a foreign country. Many of God’s prophets predicted that this captivity would not destroy the nation; it would eventually end and the people would be allowed to go back home. Daniel understood this truth when he was reading the book of Jeremiah.
God did not forsake His people. He allowed the Persians to take over the Babylonians and he moved King Cyrus to make a decree to let some of the Jews return. And in three stages, over about a hundred years, they were allowed to migrate back to Jerusalem, only to discover the city was still demolished and desolate. Living there was dangerous and difficult and sorrowful.
After the decree of Cyrus, 50,000 Israelites returned to Judah with Zerubbabel and began rebuilding the temple. Unfortunately, they got discouraged and quit. God then sent them the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage them to finish the project. Ezra was also sent to help restore their spiritual fervor.
Finally Nehemiah tells his story in the twentieth year of the reign of Artaxerxes. By now Persia had replaced Babylon as the region’s great power, and the Persians ruled with a very different means of control. The commitment of the Persians was to resettle captured people in their native lands. Conquered peoples could act with a degree of autonomy as long as they supported the state and paid their taxes. As we start the book of Nehemiah, God is about to instigate another movement back to the Promised Land. The book falls into several divisions. The first six chapters cover the rebuilding of the wall, while chapters 7 through 10 deal with the renewing of Jerusalem’s worship with the final chapters addressing the repopulation and revival of God’s people.
Are you ready to dive in? I can hardly wait! When it comes to the book of Nehemiah prayer is one of the overriding themes of the book and the secret to Nehemiah’s success. The prayer in chapter one is the first of 12 different prayers recorded in the book. It begins with prayer in Persia and closes with prayer in Jerusalem. His prayers are filled with adoration in chapters 8 and 9; thanksgiving in chapter 12; confession in chapters 1 and 9; petition in chapters 1 and 2. There are prayers of anguish, joy, protection, dependence and commitment. It’s a story of compassionate, persistent, personal and corporate prayer.