Who is Nehemiah

Nehemiah was a high official in the Persian court of King Artaxerxes I at the capital city of Susa, which lay 150 miles east of the Tigris River in what is now modern Iran. He was a Jewish captive and served in the royal court as the king’s cupbearer. That fact that he, a Jew and captive, would serve the king in such a position of trust is a strong testament to Nehemiah’s character. His position also placed him in a position that was close to the king and allowed for him to ask favors of the king.

His name means, “Yahweh has comforted” and he is identified as the son of Hachaliah. He was a pivotal leader for the Jews in rebuilding the wall and turning the people back toward God. From the book of Nehemiah, we can learn from his example to gain wisdom in overcoming troubles and trusting in God. The book also demonstrate Nehemiah’s prayer life, leadership, and faithfulness.

The State of Jerusalem

Hanani, only identified as “one of my brethren” came from Judah and Nehemiah asked how the Jews were doing who had returned to Jerusalem. The reply is not good. They report that the survivors that were left there are in great distress and reproach. The walls around the city are broken and the gates were burned.

Nehemiah’s response

Nehemiah was upset by the report. So much so that he cried for “many days” and he fasted and prayed. He, like Ezra, humbled himself before God. His grief was so great that it became apparent to Artaxerxes and the king permitted him to go to Jerusalem.

What does Fasting do for prayer?

Nehemiah shows us how to pray to God and how to listen for his answers. In chapter one he spent a long time in prayer and fasting. Verse 4 says he sat down and wept, and mourned for may days while he fasted and prayed. Fasting demonstrates to God the depth of your desire for the thing you are praying about. It also releases His supernatural power. Moses fasted before receiving the Ten Commandments. The Israelites fasted before a miraculous victory. Daniel fasted in order to receive guidance from God. Jesus fasted during His victory over temptation.

So what does fasting do for prayer? Throughout the Bible we see people fasting when they were facing a crisis, needed God’s protection or deliverance, when the recognized sin and came to God in repentance, when they need God’s guidance, and as an act of humbling themselves in worship. Most of the time, we fast when we reach a point of spiritual desperation and we want to turn our focus towards God as we seek Him in prayer. It is a time of looking within and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of sin or unsurrendered parts of our lives. It’s a time of doing spiritual business with God when our hearts are broken and we need to come home to the Father.

Nehemiah’s prayer

Fasting and prayer go hand-in-hand. And we find that Nehemiah not only weeps over the condition of Jerusalem and fasts, he also prays. His prayer consisted of four parts: 1) He glorified God by listing the Lord’s attributes. 2) He confessed sins of the people, as well as his own sins. 3) He trusted God to keep the promises He made to Moses to restore the people. 4) He asked for success before King Artaxerxes.

Using Nehemiah’s prayer as a model

Nehemiah interceded for his nation and we can do the same for our nation. As we realize the depth of our sin and how far we have strayed from God, our responses should be the same as Nehemiah’s. It should break our hearts so that we weep before God, fast and pray for America. We can use the same four parts of Nehemiah’s prayer as we pray for America.

Give God Glory

First, we can give God glory for the centuries where He has protected us, blessed us, and made us the great nation that we were. We can acknowledge God’s unchanging, holy attributes. The state of America today isn’t because God changed. It’s because we changed. We changed our focus from being God-centered to self-centered. Instead of “One nation under God,” we are “A divided nation under self.” We want to live our own way rather than God’s way and we shove His laws out of the way in an attempt to feel less guilt. Regardless – God is still God. He never changes and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is just as holy today as He has been every other moment of history. So we need to acknowledge His holiness and unchanging character.

Confess Sin

The part of Nehemiah’s prayer is one of confession. Very simply put in his prayer, he says, “We’ve sinned as a nation and I have sinned.” In praying for America, we need to acknowledge the sins of our nation – and they are many. As we confess the sins of our nation, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the sins of our nation and as they come to mind, confess them on behalf of our nation just as Nehemiah did for Israel. However, he didn’t stop with just the nation’s sins. He also acknowledge that his father’s house and he had sinned. We can also see that he doesn’t just say “Forgive our sins.” He states what those sins are. He names them as he confesses them.

Pray God’s Promises Back to Him

The third park of His prayer is to tell God about God’s promise to his people. In verse 8, he says, “Remember…” He wants God to remember the promises He made to Moses where God warned the nation that if they turned their backs on Him, He would scatter them among the nations and that is exactly what happened and where they are now – scattered. But God also promised that when they returned to Him He would gather them together again even from the farthest parts of the earth and bring them back to the land of promise.” Nehemiah wants God to now remember the second part of His promise and bring the people back.

There are no written promises in God’s Word regarding America specifically, yet there are promises that we can take to God. Psalm 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” We can pray 2 Chronicles 7:14 back to God. While the verse is a promise for Israel, the principles for healing any land are still the same. We also know that God’s desire is that no one should die and go to hell, so we can pray for the lost to be saved. As you fast and pray, you should be spending time in God’s Word and has the Holy Spirit reveals verses that apply to our nation, pray those verses back to God.

Ask God to prosper us as we seek to be obedient in what He asks us to do.

The last thing Nehemiah prays for is that God would “prosper” him as he goes to the king to ask permission to return to Jerusalem. Nehemiah doesn’t just weep, fast, and pray – but He seeks out what God wants to Him to do and asks for God to pave the way for Him to be obedient. He puts actions to His prayers and steps up obediently. As a result, the wall will be rebuilt and Nehemiah helps to determine the future spiritual course of His nation as He leads them back to the Living God.

Praying for America

So what about us today? We need to start with the same broken heart that Nehemiah had. If your heart isn’t broken for the state of America, then start by asking God to break your heart for what breaks His. A broken heart brought before God is right where God steps up and does God-sized things. A broken heart is a humble heart and that is what we are focusing on this week as we get ready for a national day of fasting and prayer for America on July 5. Join us this week as seek to come before God, with broken and contrite hearts humbled before a holy God.

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