Summary: Third in a series unlocking keys to experiencing prevailing prayer. This message explores the need for personal, generational, and corporate confession and repentance.
In the movie Shadowlands, a really well done look at the life of Christian author C.S. Lewis, Lewis has returned to Oxford from London, where he has just been married to Joy Gresham. Joy is dying from cancer, and through the struggle with her illness, she and Lewis have been discovering the depth of their love for each other.
As Lewis arrives at the college where he teaches, he is met by Harry Harrington, an Episcopal priest, who asks what news there is. Lewis reflects on his recent marriage to Joy, and her medical condition, and decides to answer the question based on the marriage, and gives a very positive response.
Harrington, not aware of the marriage and thinking that Lewis is referring to Joy’s medical situation, replies, “I know how hard you’ve been praying. Now, God is answering your prayer.”
“That’s not why I pray, Harry,” Lewis responds. “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God; it changes me.”
We are building block, upon block about the power of prayer. And as we venture forward, I hope we understand what C.S. Lewis understood. Prayer is not so much about changing God. It is about our being changed. It is about our finding ourselves in a place of desperation where we are unable to not pray. And it is about learning to experience prevailing prayer which can change us.
One of the ways that happens is through the unleashing of the power of repentance in our prayers. Turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Nehemiah. One of my favorite books, documenting the life of one of my favorite characters in the entire Bible. A man of great passion for his city. A man with a clear call to the restoration of a city. A man that realized that for things to once again be as God intended, there was a greater work to be done than simply the rebuilding of a wall.
In the book of Nehemiah you will find the ninth chapter. It has been called the “Levites Psalm”, and is known to be one of the most eloquent recitals of God’s marvelous acts in Israel’s history. Many cite the tradition that Ezra wrote these words, and call this “Ezra’s Grand Psalm.” It is one of a number of great psalms of Scripture actually located outside the book of Psalms. Similar to “The Song of Moses” that you find in Deuteronomy 32, or “Deborah’s Song” in Judges 5, and “Hannah’s Song” in 1 Samuel 2.
This chapter is arguably one of the most significant in the whole of Hebrew Scripture. It recites the basic Old Testament story line, with a glorious focus on the work of Yahweh in the lives of His chosen people. However, the passage does not end with history but with response. Because any true understanding of the person and work of God leads to a human response.
Journey with me quickly through the book of Nehemiah. In chapter 1, Nehemiah receives word while serving as the cupbearer to the king in Shushan that Jerusalem is in a desperate state. The wall is in disrepair. The city is unprotected. The naked eye sees little more than rubble, destruction, and the city is in a condition of despair and great reproach.
Chapter 2, Nehemiah secures King Artaxerxes blessing, and journeys to Jerusalem to lead the effort to restore the city. In the third chapter the work of rebuilding the wall begins with a fervor. By chapter four, enemies surrounding the city of Jerusalem are getting concerned with the progress, and begin plotting and planning attacks to disrupt the work.
Chapter 5, the grumbling begins among the people doing the work. They have been making significant sacrifices to focus their efforts on rebuilding the wall, and it is beginning to take a toll on them financially, physically, and emotionally. So they let their leader Nehemiah know it. In chapter six, the villains of the story Sanballat and Tobiah scheme and plan to pull Nehemiah away from the work, but he stands firm to the great work that he has been called to. And the wall is completed.
Chapter seven provides us a genealogical listing of those individuals who were a part of this great reconstruction effort. And with the physical structure restored, in chapter eight it is time to focus in on the spiritual condition of the community. So Ezra gathers all the people together, and reads from the law of God. Reestablishes the order of feasts and celebrations that God had commanded of His people. And spiritual renewal, revival begins to take place within the nation.
So we have now arrived at the twenty-fourth day of Tishri, sometime in the September –October window. . .just like the current point of our calendar and two days after the completion of the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Nehemiah 9:1 (read through verse 3).