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God's Servant- A Person Of Prayer!

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Arise And Build!  All Things Are Possible With God’s Help

God’s Servant:  A Person Of Prayer!

Nehemiah 1:1-11

(Definitions taken from Old Testament Word Studies, William Wilson, unless stated otherwise.)

Prevailing Prayer

       William Carey was once reproached for spending so much time in prayer that he neglected his business.  He replied that supplication, thanksgiving, and intercession were much more important in his life than laying up treasures on earth.  “Prayer is my real business!” he said.  “Cobbling shoes is a sideline; it just helps me pay expenses.”  The Lord honored Carey’s vigorous faith, for he became a renowned missionary and was mightily used by God in India, Burma, and the East Indies.

       Today, I want to talk about prayer in the life of a leader—and we are all leaders in one way or another.  We are either leaders with positions or leaders without positions.  Even housewives are domestic engineers who should be leading their children towards a dynamic and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ.

       If you want to know whether you are a leader or not, simply look behind you.  If you don’t see anyone following you, then you are not a leader and you are simply taking a walk.  But, I believe if you look hard enough, you will see someone following you.

       In addition, we are equipping every believer for “The Day of the Saints,” which is the next major spiritual movement on God’s prophetic calendar.  In “The Day of the Saints” believers, not fivefold ministers, will be witnesses for Jesus Christ and transact Kingdom business with miracles, signs, and wonders.

       Consequently, today, as a part of a new series of messages, we are going to look at the prayer life of an Israelite leader by the name of Nehemiah.

Besides the leading of the Lord, there are also other good reasons for preaching out of this book right now:

1.     It gives us an excellent theme upon which to base our building program;

2.     It talks about the trials of trying to do something for the Lord;

3.     It illustrates the devices of Satan;

4.     It also illustrates how we, as Christians, should respond to the devices of Satan;

5.     It provides some excellent examples of leadership and leadership principles;

6.     It deals with the importance of interpersonal relationships and integrity.  And,

7.     It discusses the elements and process of revival.

Now, these sermons are going to be quite different than before, because, the last time I preached them, in a series, was in 1988.  We won’t be able to preach on all of these themes, because I am not going to preach the whole book of Nehemiah, but we are going to be here for the summer.  So, we should be able to cover enough for the Spirit to do what He wants to do.

(All right, let’s see what we can learn about prayer from the life of Nehemiah.  Notice with me please Nehemiah 1:1-11.  In order to understand exactly what is going on in this story, let’s consider:)

I.     The Plot (vv. 1-3).

(In order to understand the plot or action of this story we must understand the background of the story, so let’s look at:)

A.    The Circumstances (vv. 1-2).

The Nation of Israel had been taken into captivity by the Babylonian Empire.  God had warned Israel to turn from her sins or become slaves.  Unfortunately Israel refused to hear God’s warning.

But, remember, God is bent on delivering and blessing His people.  So, He prophesied through the prophet Jeremiah that after 70 years of captivity, He would restore Israel to her land.  Consequently, the Persian Empire overthrew the Babylonian Empire and began to allow the subject people to return to their homelands.  As a result, Israel returned to her land under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Ezra, but the walls of the city remained in ruins.

·        The walls of the city were symbolic of and necessary to the peace, safety, security and pride of Jerusalem and the Israelites.  And,

·        Government and business was carried on at a city’s gates, so the gates represent the security and stability of the city.


(We are now ready to pick up the story of Nehemiah.)

       We don’t get much background information on Nehemiah himself except that he is the son of Hacaliah.  But, we do get some insight concerning what was on Nehemiah’s mind.  Nehemiah had two concerns on his mind:

1.     The Jews.

I am using the term “Jews,” for alliteration.  The correct term for this period of time is the Israelites.  Be that as it may, Nehemiah was concerned about the condition of his countrymen who had survived the captivity and gone back to Jerusalem.  So, he inquired about their welfare from his brother and some visitors from Jerusalem.  We can see that Nehemiah’s first concern was for people.

       In the heart of every born again believer is a love and concern for the welfare of his/her brothers and sisters in the Lord.  That concern may be effaced or masked by culture or issues, but it is still there, because of the impact of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Relationships are everything, because believers are subjects of the Kingdom of God and that Kingdom is based upon relationships or kinships—Jesus being King and God being our heavenly Father.

In a day of extreme concern over productivity and success, it is a breath of fresh air when I see someone concerned about what God is concerned about:  relationships, fellowship, and love.

(But, Nehemiah also had another concern:)

2.     Jerusalem.

Nehemiah was also concerned about Jerusalem, the holy city, the ‘city of peace,’ the city of David.  Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and the site of the Temple, the previous dwelling place of God, on earth.

       We must first be concerned about those who are of the household of faith, but we must also be concerned about the present corporate dwelling place of God, the local body of body of called-out believers known as the church.  Paul wrote in

1 Corinthians 3:16 (NLT), “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?”

Not many are concerned about the local church, but as the church goes so goes Christianity.  The local church is central in the plan of God to evangelize the world.  The Church exists to facilitate and usher in the final manifestation of the Kingdom of God!!!

(Keeping in mind the background of this story, the plot or action of the story surrounds a crisis.  Let’s examine:)

B.    The Crisis (vs. 3).

·        Sin had caused the fall of the nation of Israel.

·        Sin had caused her captivity.

·        Sin had left only a remnant of God’s people.

·        Sin had left that remnant in great distress and reproach.

distress “to break, to break in pieces; to do ill, to afflict.”

reproach “to pluck or strip off; to disparage, to vilify (slander) a man’s character, reputation, honor, to reproach, to rail on, blaspheme.”

This once proud and mighty nation was now only broken in pieces, but was being slandered and railed on by the nations of the world.

       The wall was broken down and the gates had been consumed by fire.  This great city was destroyed.

       The typology obviously has to do with the Church, and the visible Church, in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of perceptive believers, is almost destroyed.

·        We have lost our effectiveness.

·        We have lost our zeal.

·        We have very little influence.

Even though we are in the midst of a revival and time of refreshing, that comes from the presence of the Lord, what is true of the Church in general must be true, at least in part, to The House of the Lord.


       Jesus showed John this era in the Church’s history prophetically through his message to the Church at Laodicea.

Revelation 3:15-17 (NASB-U), “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. [16] So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. [17] Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

       Nehemiah’s passion was for His people and their physical and spiritual welfare.

Our passion ought to be for our brothers and sisters and for the local church.

What is your passion?  What a distress we are in!

(Now, let’s consider the impact that the distress of the Jews and Jerusalem had on Nehemiah.)

II.    The Penitence (vs. 4).

Nehemiah displays his personal concern and passion for the Jews and Jerusalem, by weeping and mourning over the condition of Jerusalem.

       What causes you to weep and mourn:  The war on terror, the interest rate, the cost of gasoline, etc.?  We ought to be weeping and mourning over the condition of the spiritual lives of our brothers and sisters and the condition of the visible local churches, with special focus upon our own church.

       Please note that this was very unusual for a man of Nehemiah’s position.  In the eleventh verse we find these words,

“Now I was the cupbearer to the king.”

A cupbearer was an employee of the king who held a very high and honored position.  Nehemiah tasted the wine that was being served to the king to make sure that it had not been poisoned.  This person usually became a very close friend and personal advisor to the king, because he was virtually always in the King’s presence.  This is what makes Nehemiah so unusual.  He was a high ranking government official, yet he was concerned with the needs of the common people and the welfare of the holy city of this people.  Even though he was an Israelite, he could have ignored the plight of the Israelites because it was not affecting him personally.  But, being a man of God, he was concerned with the things of God.

       Notice that Nehemiah was not fivefold minister or priest, he was a government official.  Yet, he was a force for God!

God is doing a new thing, as “The Day of the Saints” approaches; He is equipping believers to be powerful ministers.

We need believers who are secretaries, workers, heads of companies, etc., etc., etc. who are concerned about the condition of the Church, even though they may be successful in the marketplace.

(Well, what did Nehemiah do?)

He didn’t quit his job and run off to Jerusalem!  It was the grace of God that had put him in that position.  He fasted and prayed before the God of heaven!  Nehemiah was serious enough to turn his plate upside down and go to God in prayer.  Fasting can be a tremendous tool when our lives and motives are right.  Prayer is the force that moves the arm that moves the universe.  Charles Swindoll says, “The mark of a serious leader is he goes first to God with the problem.”

       We need leaders and believers who are willing to fast and pray about the condition of the Church!!!  The Church is God’s vehicle to usher in the Kingdom.  So, the Church is close to God’s purpose and God’s heart!

(We have before us one of the great privileges of the Bible.  We can study and gleen from the prayer of one of the great men of God.  Let’s consider Nehemiah’s prayer.)

III.   The Prayer (vv. 5-11).

As we look at the elements of Nehemiah’s prayer, they will correspond with almost all of the elements of the ACTS formula of prayer.  I would like to recommend to you the ACTS formula of prayer.

Adoration

Confession

Thanksgiving

Supplication

(Let’s look at verse 5:)

Nehemiah’s prayer begins with adoration.  He beseeches God on the basis that He is Lord, Yahweh, and that He is the great and awesome God.  Adoration or worship is the internal realization of the worth or value of God.  It centers in His person and not in His acts.  Although, we come to know about God’s power through His acts; we come to know God’s person through His attributes.

Praying through God’s attributes is one of my prayer practices.  In my prayer time, I begin by reading or reciting my awareness of and appreciation for the attributes of God.  His attributes include:

life,

self-existence,

self-sufficiency,

infinity:

as to substance, He is immense;

with respect to duration, He is eternal;

in terms of knowledge, He is omniscient;

in the area of moral excellence, He is holy - i.e. righteous and just;

as to power, He has

incomprehensible power,

immeasurable power,

infinite power,

absolute power,

ordinate power),

omnipresence,

transcendence,

wisdom,

immutability,

sovereignty,

incomprehensibility,

inscrutability,

trueness or veracity,

faithfulness,

light,

goodness,

mercifulness,

graciousness, and

love.

       Nehemiah doesn’t just recite God’s attributes, but He reminds God of His covenant and His lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments.

God’s lovingkindness is the unspeakable love and the tender mercies of God towards His covenant people.  God’s lovingkindness is His steadfast, everlasting, unending covenant love!!!

We can remind God of His mercy, because of His New Covenant through the shed blood of Jesus Christ!!!


In addition, Nehemiah reminds God of His promises.

Because, we are partakers of the New Covenant, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we can remind God of His promises to His Church and His saints, and demand mercy on the basis of those promises.

Perhaps the most prominent feature of these verses is Nehemiah’s fervency in prayer.  He prayed day and night, and yet his prayer was no mere exercise or rehearsing of vain words.  This was fervent persevering prayer.

We must become people of prayer, who engage in fervent prayer about the Church and about what we should do!!!

We also see that Nehemiah confesses the sins of the people and his own sins.

       The confession of sin is crucial in the process of being Spirit controlled.  From the NT. perspective, the word “confess” in the Greek is homologeo and means literally “to say the same thing as another.”

       We also see here another great leadership characteristic:  he identified himself with the sins of the people.  He takes responsibility for his own sins, as well as the sins of the people.  Notice the words ‘we’ and ‘I.’  He says,

We have sinned against Thee; I and My father’s house have sinned.  We have acted very corruptly against Thee...”

He could have prayed, “They have sinned against Thee; They and their father’s house have sinned.  They have acted very corruptly against Thee...”

       We must learn to identify with the Church and her sins and the sins of the people!!!

Now, Nehemiah doesn’t just remind God of general promises, but of some specific promises!  He reminds God of His promise to return the Children of Israel to the place where He had chosen to dwell.  He had chosen to dwell in the Temple in Jerusalem.  God spoke to Solomon at night after the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem and said this in

2 Chronicles 7:16 (NASB-U), “For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.”


And God was bound to honor His promises.

       Praise God that He has promised us salvation, eternal life and rewards in heaven, and He will pay in full!

Nehemiah also reminds God that they were His redeemed people.

redeem – “to loose, or separate; to redeem, ransom, of price; to set free, deliver, without reference to price, from servitude, death, etc.; it is used of redemption out of Egypt.”

Sometimes, it is good to remind God that we are His people.  It is not to inform God, because He knows, but to become more aware of it ourselves.  Sometimes I tell God, “We are your people whom you have brought from sin to salvation, from Douglas to Thornton, from Thornton to Brown, from Brown to Hawkins, from Hawkins to Diagonal.”

Finally, Nehemiah not only reminds God of His promises, but in reminding God of His promises He is actually petitioning God with respect to the plight of Jerusalem.  He asks God to listen to his prayer and the prayers of the Children of Israel.  He prays for success and compassion in approaching King Artaxerxes.  He asked God to touch the heart of his boss and make it compassionate.  It is important that he now share with us how he is going to get an audience with the king:  He is cupbearer to the king.  Nehemiah was a remarkable man.  He was evidently one of the Hebrews of the caliber of Daniel and the three Hebrew boys.

Daniel 1:3-4 (NASB-U), “Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, [4] youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.”

       Nehemiah had a job record that commended him to his boss.

       We need a job record that will commend us to our bosses, when it is time to do something for the Lord!!!

       Nehemiah didn’t allow his position to interfere with his ministry.  He did not pray Lord bless them, but Lord make me successful in helping them.

We cannot allow our jobs to interfere with our ministry in God’s Church and Kingdom!

Nehemiah got involved in meeting needs.

We must get involved in meeting the needs of people in the church.  Ministry is meeting needs!

       Charles Swindoll says, “Nehemiah 1 is a blend of prayer and action.  All who lead must place a high priority on prayer.  Why is prayer so important?  Here are the four shortest reasons I know:

Prayer makes me wait.

Secondly, prayer clears my vision.

Thirdly prayer quiets my heart.

Fourthly, prayer activates my faith.”

We ought to pray at all times and not lose heart!

(Now is the day of salvation.  Come to Jesus, now!)

Invitation:  You can trust God through prayer.

Call to Discipleship:         1.     A more fervant prayer life.

                                  2.     Prayer for personal problems.

                                  3.     Prayer for the success of our building program.

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