King David, the “man after God’s own heart” said that he meditated on God’s law day and night. It was said that the reformers and preachers of the early revivals spent hours reading God’s Word and in prayer– sometimes going into the late hours and sometimes starting before the day had begun.
They all had something in common with Nehemiah– they had a thirst for and were constantly in God’s Word. You can see it from the rest of the first chapter of Nehemiah::
Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” – Nehemiah 1:8-11a
At the end of Nehemiah’s prayer, we find Nehemiah rehearsing to God what God’s promises were to Israel. Anyone having studied the Bible will recognize these promises coming from the book of Deuteronomy, and the words sound similar to the prayer that Solomon offered when he dedicated the temple.
Trusting God’s Promises
What I find interesting is that Nehemiah, at this time, was actually in a foreign land– a captive there as his people had been since the Babylonians had invaded around 70 years prior. And yet he still knew the promises that God made to His people– and he claimed them.
So in the second half of Nehemiah’s prayer, he acknowledges and accepts why he is in Babylon, but pleads the second half– that God will grant favor upon him as he requests mercy in the sight of “this man”– by which he means the king.
Now, you and I don’t have promises like Israel did– where we will be called back to a land or made to prosper. Reading through the New Testament, the life of a Christian is anything buy materially prosperous. We are told to expect persecution, because the servant is no better than the master and our Master was killed while being sinless. We are told that to live is Christ and to die is gain, and that we await an eternal home where we shall be with Him.
That being said, God promises never to leave us or forsake us. He promises to bring all things to remembrance, and that the Holy Spirit will help us and pray for us. There are many promises for the believe, and we need to be aware of them and trust in them as we trust in Him.
I also get a dose of humility out of this, and the whole prayer. Nehemiah is acting like he deserves nothing– he and his people stand before God powerless and deserving what God has given them. Yet he pleads God’s promise for His name, much like Moses asking God not to wipe out the complaining Israelites because it would reflect poorly on Him.
Nehemiah doesn’t even want to approach the king without God’s help, and that’s all he asks for, that the king would show him mercy to glorify God.
Our prayers need to be more concerned with God and giving Him glory than ourselves– and how often is it the other way around?