Bible Studies for Life

with Beth Bowman

Sunday, August 2

Return to Prayer

Nehemiah 1

Recently, Lifeway Research conducted a survey about prayer. The findings were interesting: When Americans prayed, 82% of them prayed for family or friends; 74% of those prayers included praying for themselves; but only 42% of the people surveyed included any prayers asking for forgiveness from sin. About half of Americans (48 percent) say they pray at least every day, while a third (31 percent) say they pray several times a day. Overall, about two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans say they pray at least once a month (lifewayresearch.com October 1, 2014). Nehemiah shows us the perfect model for prayer and seeking God through fasting during a heartbreaking and difficult time.

Around one thousand years after Moses and about 400 years before the birth of Christ, the scripture tells us that Nehemiah asked some people who had returned from Jerusalem about the state of the city. It is easy to see how Nehemiah’s desire to live for God results in an ongoing concern for others. Because he lived in the Shushan, the fortified palace and was an important servant in the King of Persia’s household, he was probably a busy and important person. Our scripture today’s shows his compassion and desire to see how the Jews were doing.

The men answer his question with dire news. The remnant of the people was in distress and great trouble! The gates and the walls were torn down.

Reaction: Nehemiah reacts quickly, in verse 4, “When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Many scholars believe that Nehemiah prayed for four months before taking action to do something. He let his sadness and mourning compel him to pray and seek God. Many times we do not want to pray because we believe that we can fix problems in our own strength.

Repentance: No doubt that Nehemiah’s time with the Lord in fasting and prayer had God’s purposes all over it. God used that time to place in Nehemiah’s heart a desire for repentance. Nehemiah acknowledges that he and his Father’s house had sinned. He acted humble and identified with the needy. He prayed using “we” instead of “they”.

Remember: After confessing sin, Nehemiah takes time to ask God to “remember” the promises He had made.  This is an awesome way to come to God-praying back to Him the promises He had made to Moses.  God had not forgotten His promises to Moses but this verbalization of that promise helped Nehemiah to position his prayer. Remember those bumper stickers that said, “God said it. I believe it”? Nehemiah’s repeat of God’s previous promises was the opportunity to verbalize his faith.  The promise he reminded God about was a conditional one. If the people return to Him…then He will show mercy and gather the exiles together in safety. Nehemiah displays great faith by reminded God of His previous commitments.

Walk: Have you spent time in confession lately? What promises of God can you pray back to Him in faith? Have difficult situations caused you to act in your own power or the power of God through prayer?

Run: Spend some extended time in prayer and fasting. Take significant time out of your life to seek God and worship Him. Ask Him to reveal sin in your life that has crept in.

Soar: Stop and take a look at the suffering of the world. Are there Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted for their faith? When will you stop your busy life long enough to pray for them?

My most precious moments with Jesus have not come during the easy times of my life. My fellowship with him has not deepened on the brightest of days but rather, those times in which I have been heartbroken, sad and discouraged. It is during those times that I have had a small glimpse into His perfect mercy, compassion and care. It has been during those times that I just had to trust His plans working out for His ultimate purposes for me. I know you can probably share similar times in your own life. Let those precious times be a reminder to always seek Him first and not our own power, abilities or talents to guide us through-just Christ and Him alone.

Bowman is Minister of Connection, First Church, Brandon, and a speaker for women’s events.