The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol, that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. They said to me,”The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.” When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
John and I have been reading Nehemiah together the past week or so, as well as listening to old sermons by Mark Driscoll (one of the best scholars and pastors of all time, hands down) on the book. We haven’t gotten past Chapter 1. It seems that our hearts are stuck at verse 4, where Nehemiah demonstrates the heart of Jesus for his city, which in his case is Jerusalem.
Many do not realize that the news that is being given to Nehemiah is over 100 years old, and most likely very much “old news”, even to Nehemiah. For a divine reason, though, this time it strikes him differently and he finds himself broken over the vulnerability of the Jews in Jerusalem. They are without a wall to protect their city, which in our day, would be like being without a government infrastructure to protect and care for us, i.e. mass chaos (New Orleans after Katrina, Haiti after the earthquake, etc). Most likely looting, murder and rape were rampant in Jerusalem, and even 100 years later, there didn’t seem to be much done to resolve the horrid conditions. The Red Cross and Salvation Army weren’t showing up. Military regimes from all over the world weren’t being flown in to bring the city to order. The people were basically on their own.
Back to the story: there’s this man, Nehemiah ,who’s hundreds of miles away and works for the same man (Artaxerxes) who had declared years earlier for the rebuilding of Jerusalem to be halted (Ezra 4:21). Not exactly the best thing for a man who’s heart is clearly broken over Jerusalem’s current state of affairs. Instead of rushing to “fix”, or at least attempt to fix things, Nehemiah does something I often do not.
This isn’t just some type of “Dear, Lord, you see that __ needs done. I want to do it. Pave the way for me to do so and let’s get it done for Your glory! Amen!” five-minutes-and-we-are-off kind of prayer.
No, Nehemiah is told “in the month of Chislev”, which most scholars agree would be some time in November or December. He doesn’t tangibly (because we all know we don’t think always think stopping to pray is us tangibly doing anything, or is that just me?) do anything, though, for around 4 months. He doesn’t speak to the King about it. He doesn’t get on Facebook or Twitter and make his status “I’m in deep intersession for Jerusalem! Pray for favor!”. He doesn’t blog about it. He doesn’t stew about it. He doesn’t whine about it.
He just prays – intensely.
On that note, there are many things that John and I are praying about right now. Some things are personal, some are not. Some things could affect just a few, some things could affect hundreds of thousands, if not more. I could choose to blog about them, but instead, I will continue to pray about them with my husband and allow our inner circle to pray about (most of) them, as well.
I have been reminded through Nehemiah’s example that prayer is important, that prayer changes things.
If you skip ahead and go to the end, you’ll see that it took Nehemiah and his team only 52 days to complete something that had been stalled for over 140 years. He also had to ask the permission of the same man who had halted production on the wall, a man who wasn’t too fond of the people in Jerusalem. Just the wall being built was a miracle, let alone how quickly Nehemiah was able to orchestrate its production.
What was the difference, you ask?
I know in my own life I have never been disappointed when I’ve really earnestly sought God through prayer. Whether that be through hand-written journals filled with prayer, getting actually on my knees and praying, praying throughout the day, praying with a friend, praying for years about the same thing– just praying. It’s not about talking about prayer and all the pretty little ways we want to dress it up and/or make it more complicated than it is; it’s about actually doing it and making it a discipline in our lives. That is the only way we’re going to see results.
We must have an attitude of prayer in order to be truly walking in the Spirit and most effective for Christ. There’s no other way to truly abide in the Spirit; there’s no other way to truly walk in the joy and peace Christ affords to us here on Earth as we await the Final Redemption. I have lived my life in an attitude of prayer and peace and an attitude of quick-fixes and discontent. The former is always better.
In closing, I could give you all the theologically-sound reasons in the world why we should pray. What’s the point? It all boils down to two things.
The reason we don’t, as Christ-followers, value prayer comes down to one of two things or possibly both:
#1) We don’t believe – or have forgotten – God is who He says He is.
#2) We don’t believe – or have forgotten – we are who God says we are (i.e. Spirit-filled, empowered believers)
For if we believe both of these things, how can we not do anything but pray?