How Long Nehemiah Prayed

I’m listening to some sermons on Nehemiah and this fellow made a wonderful observation that I want to share with you today.

When Nehemiah, cup-bearer for the king of Persia, heard that his ancestral city of Jerusalem was lying in rubble and his fellow Jews were in distress, he prayed fervently. Between chapters 1 and 2 there is a period of 3-4 months. Nehemiah prayed for 90-120 days before God gave him the first opportunity to petition his boss, Artaxerxes the King of Persia, to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild.

When the people of Israel began to rebuild the walls under his leadership, it took the Jews 52 days to build the wall (Nehemiah 6:15).

Do the math. Nehemiah prayed about this twice as long as it took them to build the wall.

Don’t we have this reversed sometimes? We work twice as long, beating our heads against the wall, because we did not spend enough time inviting God into our lives and our planning. Not enough time was spent seeking God’s advice, God’s will, His wisdom and His plans, and as a result we make our lives and work all the more difficult.

It’s something to think about. Nehemiah prayed about this twice as long as it took him to actually do the project.

 

An old Anglican prayer

Today I want to share with you an old Anglican prayer that I heard someone pray yesterday. Meditate upon these simple words:

What we know not, teach us

What we have not, give us

What we are not, make us

Here are some prayers in Scripture that go along with each of the above statements

What we know not, teach us

  • Teach Me your way, O Lord (Psalm 86:11). In Psalm 119, David repeatedly asked God to “teach” him.
  • Samson’s parents prayed for wisdom and instruction on how to raise their son (Judges 13:8).
  • Paul’s prayers for what he wanted the brethren to learn and understand (Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 1:15-19).

What we have not, give us

  • Wisdom (James 1:5).
  • You have not because you ask not (James 4:2).
  • Boldness to speak the gospel clearly (Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:2-4).
  • Earthly blessings of this life (1 Chronicles 4:10).
  • Longer life, physical healing (2 Kings 20:1-6).
  • Nehemiah, among his many prayers, prayed for success before speaking to the King of Persia (Nehemiah 1:11).

What we are not, make us

  • To stand perfect and complete in the will of God (Colossians 4:12).
  • To be strengthened by God in the inner man through the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:14-21).
  • You are the potter, Lord; we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8).
  • Prayers for forgiveness would fit within this prayer. If we are not forgiven, please Lord make it so through Your grace (Psalm 51; Ezra 9; Nehemiah 9; Daniel 9).

You could find many other examples. I think this would be a great sermon to preach, or a great devotional study you could lead at someone’s house.

This simple prayer packs a lot of power in it. Pray it today.

Psalm 26 part 2

Yesterday, we considered Psalm 26, and the requests David made of God.

Read it again today and meditate upon it. This time consider David’s desires, heart, hands, feet, voice, etc.

Of David. Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.
(Psalm 26:1-12)

His feet – He walked in his integrity (vs. 1,11), and walked in God’s faithfulness and truth (vs. 3). David wanted to “go” about God’s altar (vs. 6). Because of this, his feet stood on level ground (vs. 12). He was stable in God, standing on a firm foundation.

His hands – David’s hands were washed in innocence (vs. 6). His hands were not like the sinners and bloodthirsty men, in whose hands were blood, evil devices and bribes (vs. 10).

His desires and mind– David trusted in the Lord without wavering (vs. 1). Because of his humility and love for God, he opened his heart and his mind to God’s inspection (vs. 2). He “loved the habitation” of God’s house and fellowship with God’s people (vs. 6-8,12). Where did David want to be? In God’s assembly blessing Him among His people. In contrast, David hated the assembly (fellowship, congregation, association) of evildoers (vs. 4-5,9-10).

His behind – He did not sit with men of falsehood (vs. 4), nor with the wicked (vs. 5). Verse 8 doesn’t say “sit,” but we know from verse 8 where David wanted to sit, in God’s house.

His eyes – God’s steadfast love was before David’s eyes (vs. 3). Think of what that says about the “focus” of David. Where did he choose to fix his eyes? On the lovingkindness of God.

His voice – Vs. 6-7 shows that David would go about the altar of God, “proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all” His wondrous deeds. What did David do with his voice? Vs. 12 says that in the congregations, he blessed the Lord.

So, guys, think about these things. What about our voices; what do they say? What about our behinds, where are they sitting? Where are our feet walking? Upon what are our eyes focused? What are our hands doing? What do we love and what do we hate? Who are my friends? What types of people do I love to hang out with, and whom do I avoid?

Again, this is a great prayer, and we can clearly see here why David was called a man after God’s own heart.

Psalm 26 part 1

Today and tomorrow we will look at Psalm 26. Take time to read it and meditate on it.

Of David. Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O LORD, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.
(Psalm 26:1-12)

Please think about the prayer of David here. Consider the requests he made of God.

Request #1Vindicate me, Lord Lord. David wants the righteous and merciful judge to litigate his case.

Request #2 Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. This is one of many times that David invites God into his soul to search it, examine it and test it. He wants to be right with God, and he wants anything not found pleasing to God to be taken away.

Request #3Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men. David’s heart and desire is to be in fellowship with God and with His people. He does not want to be associated with the wicked, nor does he want to be swept away in their lifestyle and the consequences of it.

Request #4 Redeem me, and be gracious to me. The thing he wants the most is the mercy, grace and redemption of God.

This is a great prayer. It would be good to consider using this prayer in your time with God, maybe even today.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will look at David’s heart, desires, hands, eyes, feet, voice, etc. that are discussed in this Psalm.

And the Lord Remembered

And the Lord remembered Hannah (1 Samuel 1:19).

The Lord remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1).

God is worthy of praise because He “remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalms 136:23).

The above verses are so comforting. “And the Lord remembered…” God loves His children. He remembers His promises. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. That is a fact, but in the midst of pain, look at what God’s people sometimes wonder. Watch as they go through the process of despair to hope. These Holy Spirit-given passages are there for us today to help us go through the same process with God (and to help others do the same).

I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalms 42:9-11).

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. I cried out to God with my voice–To God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah. And I said, “This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; the depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalms 77:1-20).

Here is one final passage from Isaiah. Notice how God’s people feel, and how God helps them (and us) to see the reality. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:13-16).

Asa’s Prayer

King Asa and his soldiers drew up in battle against the Ethiopian army. Although Asa’s soldiers numbered 580,000, the Ethiopian army had a million men (2 Chronicles 14:8-9). Anybody can take a brief look at this matchup and realize that Asa’s men were in trouble. They were vastly outnumbered. Look at Asa’s prayer as he assesses the situation.

Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, “LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You” (2 Chronicles 14:11).

Asa first recognized that he needed help. Secondly, he realized that there was none other than God who can help him. He called this a “battle between the powerful and those who have no strength.” Asa and the people put their trust completely in the Lord’s power. They understood this victory would be for God’s glory (“in Your name”).

The Lord answered this prayer mightily, and He routed the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah. The Ethiopians, the powerful, the million man army, fled (2 Chronicles 14:12).

Asa’s Prayer Revisted Later in Life

In time, Asa began to depart from the Lord. He began to trust in men rather than in God. The Lord sent the prophet Hanani to remind King Asa of what God did for him.

“Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His…” (2 Chronicles 16:8-9).

Yet because you relied on the Lord – What will the Lord do for His people when we rely on Him rather than on our own wisdom and strength? His eyes are moving all over the globe today, but what are God’s eyes looking for? He is looking to “strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

You may feel without strength in some way this morning. Maybe you feel outnumbered at home or at work. It might be that you look at the size of Satan’s army and you want to tuck your tail in, run and hide. Please keep these passages in mind. God’s eyes are looking to strongly support you. Give your heart completely into His care. Don’t seek the help of man first; seek the help of God first. He will deliver.

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

What do you want Me to do for you?

And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36)

So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51)

Twice in Mark chapter 10, Jesus asked this question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” It will be good for us to look at each situation briefly and learn a lesson for today.

The first time Jesus asked this question, it was of James and John.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory” (Mark 10:35-37).

What did James and John want? Power, position and glory. Jesus had to follow up with a lesson on humility and servanthood (Mark 10:41-45).

The second time Jesus asked this question, it was of a blind man named Bartimaeus. This man sat by the roadside begging.

Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.” And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight” (Mark 10:46-51).

Bartimaeus knew who Jesus was. He understood by faith that Jesus was the Messiah and had power to heal. This man didn’t want power, position or glory, he just wanted to see. I find it amazing that others around him “warned him to be quiet.” He was not deterred nor would he be silenced.

Jesus knew the faith of this man and the condition of his heart. He “commanded” that Bartimaeus be called up to Him.

Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road (Mark 10:52).

Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road. Blind Bartimaeus “saw” something that even the 12 did not see: simple trusting faith combined with pure humility.

Be a Bartimaeus today. Don’t be a glory and position seeker, think of the basic, foundational needs you have that only Jesus can provide. Cry out and beg for the Son of David to provide those for you. Your faith will make you well, just as it did for Bartimaeus.

Bad Guys to Turn Back into Good Guys

My son Jonathan, who is six, always says this somewhere in his prayers, “And God, I pray for the bad guys to turn back into good guys and worship You, Lord.” It is such a simple prayer, and I don’t know where he came up with it, but isn’t that exactly what God wants to happen? For the bad guys to turn into good guys and worship Him as Lord?

When Paul and Barnabas were preaching in the Galatian region, they made this very appeal. Turn from these vain or useless things to a living God and worship Him (Acts 14:15). Paul knew that Jesus had sent him to the Gentiles for this very purpose. Jesus sent Paul to “open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18).

We are all at one point bad guys (Romans 3:23), and because of the grace and blood of Jesus Christ, we have been made into good guys. Now we are able to worship Him as Lord, proclaiming His praises because we have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Bad Guys to Turn Back into Good Guys

It might be at work today that you come across the “bad guys.” Selfish. Immoral. Proud. Dishonest. Yep, they are the bad guys. But what is possible through the grace and blood of Jesus Christ? They can turn back into good guys and worship Jesus as Lord. If it happened to us, then it can happen to them, too.

Thanks for the lesson, Jonathan. I needed it.

Saying Amen

Jonathan, our six year old, had been taught about saying Amen. He learned that when you say, “Amen,” that it means you agree with what someone just said. Later, he was thinking about that, and said, “So, when I say ‘Amen’ at the end of my prayer it means that I agree with everything I just said.”

Yes, Jonathan, that’s just about right.

The word “Amen” is a pretty universal word across the world, and it means “truth,” or “so be it.” Jesus used the word a lot when He preached, except we don’t see it as “Amen” in our Bibles. It is translated “truly” or “verily,” and it is used at the beginning of a lot of Jesus’ sayings. In other words, Jesus was saying “Amen” before He ever spoke, because He knew what was about to come out of His mouth was the truth. The book of John has many occasions when Jesus said this word twice in a row as an emphasis. “Truly, truly, I say to you…” (John 5:24).

We also see an occasion where Paul teaches the Corinthian Christians about the need for each one in the assembly to understand what was being said in a prayer. This is so we can all say “Amen” to that prayer (1 Corinthians 14:16). How can we say “truth,” or “so be it” if I don’t understand what was said?

Saying Amen

Now, back to Jonathan’s statement. When you pray, do you really agree with what you just said?

If you prayed for God to forgive you, do you agree with it? Meaning, do you believe the truth and promises of God’s word that He will be faithful and just to forgive you of all your sins (1 John 1:9)?

When you pray for God to “be with you,” do you agree with it? Are you living in agreement with God’s word that Jesus promised that He would never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)?

As you are praying for wisdom, do you believe in and agree with that request? James says to ask in faith, meaning you believe in God that He will grant you wisdom. You say “Amen” to that pray, because you believe the truth of God’s promises (James 1:5-8). Don’t waver.

So, if you are going to say “Amen” at the end of your prayer, then believe in and agree with what you asked. Have faith.

I waited patiently for the Lord

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth–praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD (Psalms 40:1-3).

How long am I willing to “wait”? It seems that with the speed of technology and life we are not willing to wait very long for anything.

God promised the Israelites they would receive the Promised Land, but it would take 400 years (Genesis 15). Abraham was promised at 75 years old that he would have a son through whom God would extend His blessings and promises. He had to wait 25 years for the promised son, Isaac, to be born.

Jacob thought he lost his son Joseph to wild animals when Joseph was only 17 years old. It was 22 years later, when Joseph was 39, that Jacob finally learned that his son was safe and sound.

I waited patiently for the Lord

Again, how long am I willing to wait? When I pray for an answer from God, do I demand immediate results? What if you have to wait decades for the real answer? Or, what if you never receive that specific answer you wanted from God? Will you still wait patiently for Him?

I will leave you with two more passages for today.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:29-31).

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).