“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4
Often when we talk about the book of Nehemiah in the Bible, it usually revolves around the topic of Christian leadership.
Yet, if we sit down to read the book at one go, we would discover that there are many important themes in the book besides Nehemiah’s excellent example in leadership.
One of these themes would be Nehemiah’s heart of prayer.
From the beginning of the book to the end, Nehemiah incorporates prayer into every stage of the process as he led the Israelites who returned from exile to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and their spiritual lives. He showed by example the importance of prayer in the daily lives of believers – seeking God as we make decisions, crying out to God as we feel different strong emotions and committing our circumstances to God as we face difficulties.
In the beginning, after Nehemiah received news about the discouraged hearts of the remnant and the state of the physical wall and gates of Jerusalem, he wept, mourned, fasted and prayed before the Lord (vs 4). When he was distraught and emotionally down, he sought the Lord in response and turned to the Lord through prayer.
In Nehemiah’s prayer in the first chapter, he not only expressed his grief, but he also praised God and extolled His great Name. In his deep distress, he turned towards God’s unchanging character and promises. He kept his eyes on the Lord and interceded on behalf of his people. He confessed not only his own sin, but also the sins of the people. He remembered God’s promises and covenant through his prayer, knowing that as God had brought His people thus far, He would continue to lead them forward. He also committed his plans and strategies to the Lord. He led the people to turn to God and prayed to Him corporately.
Throughout the book of Nehemiah, we see him talking and communicating with God, even until the end when he had to follow up on the progress of the people and was discouraged to see that they had gone back to their ways. He put things in place and with a possible sense of exasperation, the book of Nehemiah ended with his prayer to God to “remember me, O my God, for good.” God is always in the scene, and Nehemiah is fully aware of His presence and involvement in his life. Even when things were not turning out as he expected, he looked to God and sought comfort and strength in Him.
This resulted in Nehemiah having a godly perspective on the situation he was in, helping him to focus on what was truly important, and lessening his anxieties as he remembered that God was still in control.
What about you today? Is God in every part of your life? Do you turn to Him when you are overjoyed, distressed, disappointed, angry and sad? Are we deeply convicted that God has been with us and is with us and will continue to be with us in every detail of life’s journey? Do we influence those around us – our friends, our parents, our children to turn to God first when we meet with difficulties? Do we pray together and lead by example?
Let’s learn from Nehemiah who hurries to God in prayer in every situation, and let us grow a heart that prays unceasingly.