My friend Kevin Walls at Heights Community Church recently claimed “A study of Nehemiah IS a study of prayer.” I agree. It’s certainly also other things, but as Kevin points out, there are (12) calls to prayer in a book with 13 chapters. It’s the kind of stat that somehow we miss; somehow I miss. Guilty of getting caught up in details of this or that, I often miss the most obvious things…
In verses 1-3 we learn of the time this history is recorded and of a rather simple question to Nehemiah’s brother Hanani, “How are things going in Jerusalem?”
We do not know Nehemiah’s age, but the date of this question is around 450 BC and the date of the Jews return and re-building of the temple project is about 550BC – nearly 100 years earlier! The context isn’t nearly as surprising as it might be today, because the most recent exodus would have taken the majority of people Nehemiah grew up with and cultural ties mattered more than they do to, at least, me and the majority of my friends. Nonetheless, consider what that says about this man that he would ask, that he cares about his culture, his people, his family, his God. Such a simple question, “How are things going in Jerusalem?” that changed so many things.
(…there is, of course, another major bible character that asked a few questions that changed quite a few things…)
While initially tempted to think this question is about his people, I think the most fitting reason for this question is Nehemiah’s understanding of his God and the work that He is doing, likely because of his personal passion for knowing God, for reading the bible, for communing with Him regularly.
In V3 the response comes that things are not going well, the wall has been torn down and the gates destroyed by fire and as a result, Nehemiah sits down and weeps, mourns, fasts and prays (v4).
ACTS is an acronym often used in a prayer format which stands for:
Which (not surprisingly) Nehemiah (loosely) follows, naturally. That is, I quite doubt he had “ACTS” etched in a wall somewhere…
Reminds me of another well-known parallel ACTS prayer :
The most memorable part of Nehemiah’s prayer is the inclusive we. He is in Persia. He has been prayerful, mindful, in service to God. More specifically, he is NOT in Jeruselem guilty of anything that we can tell. Nonetheless, in humility, he comes before God guilty, confessing a sin on behalf of his people, of which he is a part.
Circling back to Kevin Walls in his Chapter 1 overview, he sums that servant leaders:
- Pray from brokenness
- Pray from understanding God
- Pray from confession
- Have uncompromising commitment to knowing His word
Nehemiah characterizes these things. Generally speaking, anyone who loves God should characterize these qualities. I certainly do not.
Perhaps someday I will.