Take It To The Lord In Prayer

Bible Book: Nehemiah  1 : 4
Subject: Prayer; Power, God's; Miracles from Prayer; Brokenness

Take It To The Lord In Prayer

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Nehemiah 12:1-4: "1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven."

Nehemiah was a child of God held captive in a foreign land when he heard about the destruction that had taken place in Jerusalem, and he was suddenly gripped with a deep concern and sorrow. He was burdened for the cause of God and pain of God’s people. What could he do in those circumstances? He had no resources, no followers, and no human means of escaping his current circumstances. He was a mere slave - a servant of the king. In fact, his job was to be the cupbearer to the king - nothing more and nothing less. What could he do about the tragedy that had taken place? He was over 900 miles from Jerusalem in a day when travel was by caravan - by camel and donkey or on foot. Changing the situation looked impossible - in human terms, it was impossible.

Nehemiah knew there was a God in heaven who heard prayer, and so he took the one course of action open to him – he began to pray fervently, consistently and passionately

Do you ever look at this world, the condition of the churches, the sadness of what sin is doing, and feel helpless to do anything about it? What about in your family, is there any situation over which you feel God has no control and you certainly don’t have an answer to change it? If you are a child of God, there is a path of power open to you - the path of prayer.

Whether Nehemiah knew it or not, when he began to pray he was on his way to a miracle. That can happen, and does happen often, to simple people like us. We stop complaining and start calling on God, then we see change occur. The change we see doesn’t start in others, when we pray it begins in our own hearts.

I heard about a rather egotistical supervisor, jealous of his position in the company, who called one of his employees into his office. "Smith," the boss said  solemnly, "I'm told that you've been praying for a raise. I want you to know that I will not tolerate anyone going over my head!" Well that is what Nehemiah decided to do – he was determined to go over the head of the greatest and most powerful man of his day, Artaxerxes, and to take the matter straight to God. Do you need a miracle? Do you have a river you cannot cross, a mountain you cannot climb, or a problem you cannot solve? Take it to the Lord in prayer. He is a miracle working God.

The songwriter Joseph Scriven wrote years ago:

”Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

That is what I want us to consider in this message today. Have we lost the sense and truth that God answers prayer? Let us remember the story of Nehemiah and the brokenhearted people of God and recall that prayer brought forth a miracle from the hand and heart of God. My dear friends, we can still take it, whatever “it” is, to the Lord in prayer.

Let’s consider the miracle changes that took place because a man prayed sincerely and trusted God completely. There are just two major points we need to consider.

First, note …

I. The Dedication in Nehemiah’s Prayer

One reason that prayer is so difficult is the time required to carry out prayer effectively. We are a busy people, or least we think that is the problem. We like activity and we expect life to be filled with noise. The pandemic we have been through lately has revealed that God can slow us down if He wishes to. He can stop us in our tracks.

To get alone with God requires that we slow down and turn off everything in this world and look to heaven. The phrase, “I sat down,” seems to indicate that this was a change for Nehemiah. Perhaps he was like us and had been a busy, active man in the court of Artaxerxes. Perhaps he even used his busy life as an excuse for not praying. His life with filled with commotion and duties. When the word came about the condition of Jerusalem, Nehemiah finally sat down and considered how important it was for him to stop and spend time with God.

You cannot pray without stopping everything. Now don't get me wrong, it is possible to pray as you drive your car, jog down the street, or engage in a number of human activities; however, it is seldom that one can pray a miracle-prayer that manner.

The fact that Nehemiah actually placed the words “sat down” in this text tells us it was significant to him. Sitting is something we all do every day, many times a day, but when Nehemiah used it here I believe it had significance in two ways.

A. The Thought It Took

We must stop and think about the things of God – we must deliberate on the things of God and the issues of life. I am not talking about intellectual thought but rather I am talking about spiritual thoughts – God thinking.

I know you remember the story of the Prodigal son. He is said to have “come to himself” and then he arose and went to his father. What does that mean? It means that he stopped long enough to think about where he was, where he had been, how far he had fallen and what he needed to do about it. He remembered his father’s house, the smell of the food from the kitchen, his warm where he used to sleep and the joy he had once felt there. He considered the change that needed to be made in order for him to escape the pig sty he was in at that moment.

Sadly, many people never stop to look at where they are and what they are doing. In a world of digital devices that can occupy us at any hour, twenty-four hours a day, it takes discipline to commit to prayer. Listen, if we just drift along in life, we will naturally drift away from God.

B. The Time It Took

It takes time to truly meditate and concentrate on a Bible passage, on some attribute of God or on a promise that He has given us He has given us. When we meditate as we should, our hearts are touched by the truth and we are at a place where real change can  begin to take place. The songwriter wrote, “Take time to be holy.” Indeed, you cannot pray and touch heaven without taking time with God.

Meditation means to take time with God so that He can speak to us and lead us. We must get rid of the 60 second Bible commentary or one minute daily devotional book and spend real time with God.

Nehemiah sat down and took some time to deliberate and meditate upon God and to talk to God. A miracle doesn’t take place through some mumbled words over a meal or a quick prayer before bedtime. We are, like Nehemiah, to sit down” or “bow down” and spend some quality time with God. Yes, that is hard because the world is always calling us to the many things we can be doing.

Listen to what God says in His word:

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

This means to cease from striving in the flesh and begin to get close to the Lord. When are still, we come to realize who He is and what He can do, and that causes us to cease from self-reliance and to rely on God’s power. Nehemiah sat down and spent time with God. He stopped his own busy life and got down to business with heaven. He was n his way to real change - to an incredible miracle.

II. The Determination in Nehemiah’s Prayer

Nehemiah was no doubt a praying man before he heard about the walls of Jerusalem, but clearly something changed as he turned to God with the troubling news he had heard. He became a man of determination in prayer – a man of passion and tears. His prayers were no longer routine and repetitive statements but came from deep down inside him. Tears fell from his eyes, we are told.

It is quite easy for us to grow cold in our prayers – to lose the sense of wonder when we are before God. A. J. Gordon, a great preacher from the past, shared a great comparison to our prayers and those of Jesus when He was on earth. He wrote:

“Where are our tears? Jesus had tears! He wept at Lazarus tomb. He wept over the city of Jerusalem. Look at Hebrews 5:7. Jesus wept in prayer many times we are told. Jesus had tears; where are ours? Paul had tears. When he wrote to the Corinthians, he did so with tears. When he wrote to the Philippians, he wrote with tears. When he met with the believers on his way to Jerusalem, he wept. Paul had tears, where are ours?”

The question is haunting, isn’t it? Where are our tears? Many are lost because we lack passion. The Bible clearly states that when we go forth weeping, bearing precious seed, we will doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing our harvest with us. There are few tears these days for those without Jesus.

Listen folks, much work for God is left undone because we lack passion in our prayer lives. Service is not performed because we do not pray. Gifts are not given because we do not spend time before God. Progress is not made because we forget that God’s people can only move forward on their knees. Why do we not pray? We lack the passion and faith required to get before God with a sincere heart. Nehemiah had a new passion and it changed his life and the life of an entire nation.

We see his determination in two ways …

A. His Continuation in Prayer

There are some people who have a passion, but it is temporary -  it does not last. There are those who are excited for a while and then they cool off.

Thanks be to God for those who become fired up for God's work and who do not lose their enthusiasm. Nehemiah was never the same after this experience. When you read the end of the Book of Nehemiah, you note that the people had built the wall but began to fade in their zeal and faithfulness to God. Nehemiah chides them. He is the same man after all those years had passed. He never lost that flame that was birthed in prayer. If we continue in sincere, fervent prayer, we will find the fire burning for God through our tears and through our years.

B. His Commotion in Prayer

He was moved – his emotions were activated. Now, realize this – to grieve is different from simply weeping. Nehemiah was disturbed in his inner being. He mourned or grieved over the state of God's work and the sad situation among God’s people. His prayers came from deep down in his emotions – from his heart.

How long has it been since you looked at the world, considered the weakness of the Church and felt yourself mourn as you prayed. One can deplore a situation without even thinking about taking it to God in prayer. You can fuss and fume about politics and crime, but when do you weep before God with a heavy heart over the broken lives in this world?

I have been a preacher of the gospel for more than fifty years, and I can tell you that there is an unprecedented lack of brokenness among God's people in our day for the horrible damage that godless living is causing people. Broken families, drug deaths, gang violence, deadly shootings, vulgar behavior, spousal abuse, increased suicides, and many other sorrows now plague our culture, yet where are the tears before in prayer? It seems our churches are more concerned with finding Bible verses that promise success and personal victory than a burden for the hurting world all around us. Nehemiah had a position that involved everyday service in the palace of an earthly king,  but when he heard of the sad state of God's people and God's city he was driven to his knees with weeping. Oh, that we were like that today in our churches today. Nehemiah was "moved" in his soul for the situation of turmoil and defeat that God's nation was experiencing. 

This is, I believe, is the greatest missing element in our current Christian community - the lack of broken-hearted, dedicated prayer warriors who get on their knees and fall on their faces in tears for broken down churches in a broken down world.

Conclusion

Nehemiah was so upset at what he saw and was so committed to prayer before God that he began to miss meals. He fasted, not so much from spiritual discipline but from a broken heart. Have you ever noticed that a real tragedy takes away your desire for food? Word comes that a parent, child, spouse, or dear friend has suddenly died. The last thing on your mind is a meal. Do you know why we take food to people when someone dies in the family? It is usually because those who are in sorrow do not have the desire or energy to prepare food for those who will be at the home. All their energy is wrapped up in grief and sorrow.

Nehemiah cared so much about God’s people, God’s House and God’s Name that he simply had no desire to eat. How long has it been since any of us have felt that way about God’s work? You see, Nehemiah turned from the flesh to the spirit. I’m sure Nehemiah ate – he had to, but it was not like before. His heart was too heavy for a heavy meal.

In Alexander Solzhenitsyn's book, "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," Solzhenitsyn tells about Ivan enduring all the horrors of a Soviet prison camp. One day Ivan is praying with his eyes closed when a fellow prisoner notices him and says with ridicule, "Prayers won't help you get out of here any faster." Opening his eyes, Ivan answers, "I do not pray to get out of prison but to do the will of God."

That is what happened to Nehemiah. He was not praying for his situation to be better, but for God's will to be done. Nehemiah prayed to the point that God’s will became his only desire. A miracle of unbelievable proportion came from the prayers that Nehemiah prayed. The people were freed from capture, allowed to go back to Jerusalem, given money and guards to secure their travel, helped with funds to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple. We cannot imagine today what a victory that was – how monumental it was. It was a God-thing! The God who did that through the prayers of Nehemiah is the same God we pray to today. He still answers prayer.

How about you, do you need to make a fresh commitment to pray and to pray with passion and persistence? Is there a need beyond your ability to provide the answer? Well, it is not outside the power of God to hear you and answer you. I think we all need to pray with more faith and more fervor – how about you? Let’s make that commitment right now and keep that commitment in the days to come.

The greatest prayer you can ever pray is to ask God to forgive your sins and to accept His Son as your Lord and Savior. You can do that right now.