We've been exploring what the Bible has to say about prayer, and no series would be complete without a look at the prayers of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was a Jew who lived in Babylon during the exile. He was likely born in Babylon but held a keen hope that his people would return to Jerusalem and that Jerusalem would someday hold the same reputation it once did. He was the King's cup-bearer (which was kind of the like the wine sommelier, server, and poison checker crammed into one).
Nehemiah heard a bad report from people who returned from Jerusalem. The city was in shambles and the wall was destroyed. "The remnant there is the province who had survived the exile," said his brothers," is in great trouble and shame" (Nehemiah 1:3). Nehemiah was broken. He wept for days. But that's not all he did. He started fasting and praying. He prayed and prayed. It seems from Nehemiah 1:1 and Nehemiah 2:1, that he prayed for about 4 months. This matter was deeply burned on his heart. H.G.M. Williamson writes, "[Nehemiah's] persistence in prayer over several months demonstrates how fully involved he became in the fate of his fellow Jews" (WBC, Vol. 18, 1985).
We can read a sample of his prayers in Nehemiah 1:5-11, but I suspect there were some that included confusion, some that were deep pleading, some begging, some seeking understanding, and so-on. When you are still sad over the matter and have been praying about it for 4 months, it's likely that a lot has been said in prayer. I think it's safe to say that this matter had been deeply bathed in prayer.
But not all of Nehemiah's prayers were these lengthy prayers. Nehemiah is also famous for showing us the "arrow prayer." (They might also be called dart prayers, bullet prayers, missile prayers, microwave prayers, quick shot prayers, and so-on.) Look at this prayer in chapter 2, specifically in verses 4 and 5. If you actually opened your Bible and read, you probably noticed that the Bible doesn't report what he prayed, only that he did. You might have also noticed that he didn't have time to pray a long prayer. Just maybe, "here we go God," or maybe it was, "this is what we've been talking about Lord," or even just" help me God." In any case, it was likely really short.
But it is not as if that was the only prayer Nehemiah had given to this situation. He had been praying and praying. He was ready. He was, "prayed up" I've heard it said. "Loaded" and just needing to execute.
Nehemiah had turned his problem into prayers. He does that same thing again later in the book. Are you turning your problems into prayers? Are you praying when you have time and then shooting arrow prayers when you don't?
We'll be talking about this more this Sunday as we conclude our series, "If My People Pray. . ." I hope you'll consider joining us at 11.
Soli Deo gloria!