Summary: Nehemiah's prayer was an example in practicality, specificity and common sense when coming before the LORD with our needs and burdens. Prayer is an orderly time of conversing with God, who wants to hear from you daily.
This message is a continuation of our look at the prayers of the Jewish statesman Nehemiah and his concern over the rebuilding of Jerusalem, which had laid in ruins for decades after its destruction by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., which brought the kingdom of Judah to an end and its roller coaster history of godly and reprobate rulers, along with the national fickleness in worshipping the LORD and then running off to offer up sacrifices and devotion to demonic idols and deities that had included the sacrificing of babies and children to the Phoenician idol Moloch, which God had forbidden the Israelites to ever do (Leviticus 18:21, 20:3; 1 Lings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:10). God had enough of this blatant rebellious attitude and wickedness and had destroyed the nation as a result. The surviving Jews were then led into exile as prophesied by Jeremiah and Ezekiel for a period of seventy years, which finally purged them of ever wanting to return to idolatry and instilled within many of the exiles a renewed desire to worship and serve the living and true God as they began to return to the land and build a new Temple as well as rebuild Jerusalem. This return had been a promise made by the LORD to His people and now the time had come to see that it was fulfilled. Nehemiah was God's man in the right place and the right time to carry out that promise, and it began with specific prayer.
Prayer is NOT a cold recitation of generalities said in a short period of time in order to fulfill one's religious obligations. It is not to be a time where we feel obligated to mumble a few pious words before we dig into lunch. The apostle Paul wrote that when we engage in prayer, we are to make our requests known to God (Philippians 4:6-7). Our prayers are meant to be specific. We might know exactly what to say, or be in such a position where we cannot utter words but need to rely on the intercession of the Holy Spirit to bring our needs before the throne of God (Romans 8:26). Nehemiah had put together a well -structured plan that was workable and realistic in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and humbly asked the LORD if He would put His blessing upon it. He had an idea that he was sure came from the LORD and was within His will to accomplish and would bring glory to Him.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach and there is no need to fear that God will either rebuke or withdraw His guidance from you for having a good idea based on sound reasoning and clear thinking. The very fact that you may have put together a wise plan that will benefit you, your brethren, and give glory to the LORD is itself a testimony to the power of faith in God. He makes a way where there seems to be no way and clears the way for His children's ideas to shine forth and will end with Him receiving all of the credit and honor. we are to pray until we know in our spirit and by circumstances that God has answered out prayer. What is about to happen in the life of Nehemiah can be applied to our prayer life. We will look at some point to remember and use as we seek the LORD'S direction for any situation we might face.
Point 1: Changing Hearts and Minds is the Work of God (Nehemiah 2:1-5)
Nehemiah took a risk when he appeared in the king's presence with a forlorn expression on his face. He was sad over the condition of Jerusalem. This was a risky move as servants were not allowed to show sorrow in the presence of the king as this could be seen as a sign of disloyalty. Part of Nehemiah's prayer was answered when Artaxerxes asked him what was wrong (v.2). He told the king what was taking place in Jerusalem. The king then asked what he needed to take care of the problem. Artaxerxes was willing to help because God had moved his heart (v.4).
Point 2: Prayer and Waiting go Together
This request did not start immediately. Supplies, workers, escorts, and government approval needed to be put into place and secured. Everything needed to be in order and that meant waiting for several months, which was one of the shortest waiting periods recorded in the Scriptures. Abraham, by comparison, had to wait on the LORD for over twenty-five years before Isaac was born. Moses was on the backside of the wilderness for forty years until God decided to have an obscure bush start to burn and catch Moses' attention and fulfill his calling. David was anointed king of Israel by the prophet Samuel when he was seventeen, but had to outrun and outfox the murderous King Saul for thirteen years before the crown was placed on him. Even our Lord Jesus did not start His public ministry until he was thirty. This means that God's schedule and ours do not often work in accordance with one another. He is beyond the scope of time, space, and matter, so nothing holds Him back or limits Him as what to do and He does all things for His pleasure at any time for our benefit and for His glory. He works at the right time and in doing so, will put people and events into place that will be used in the answer to our prayer as we wait on Him. Do not decide at some point to try and work everything out on your own without His guidance. You will end up with a mess that could have been prevented if you had just waited and allowed the LORD to get the job done. I speak from hard learned experience and do not wish to repeat it.