The Work of Prayer

“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before God.  I said, ‘O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love.., let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.  We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments… that you commanded your servant Moses.  Remember the word…”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… 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.’

“Now I was cupbearer to the king.” Nehemiah 1:4-11

Nehemiah, now an exile for two decades, had become a trusted official of Persia’s king. He was also a man of prayer. So when he heard that Jerusalem was in shambles and the remnant of God’s people in trouble and shame, he went to his Lord. He wept with God-given love for God’s place and children. He fasted and agonized in prayed, and over days before his Lord, began to see God’s unfolding plans and to hope. Time in prayer led him through a process of unhurried introspection and confession. He recounted God’s true promises and held to them in expectant faith, surrendering himself to serve as God would lead. Then he specifically, boldly asked for favor as God made the initial steps of His plan clear. (Nehemiah 1:1-3)

Prayer changes us. It calms the restless heart and teaches us to breathe in divine rhythm. It moves us from being overwhelmed with circumstances to being overcome by God’s character and promises. It allows us to see ourselves under heavenly light, exposing dross and leading through repentance to freedom. It untethers anxiety and takes us from impossibility to possibility.

Prayer begets prayer. When we pray and God prompts, and we faithfully step out to follow His lead, He continues to unfold His plan and provision. He lights the next turn in the path, often doing more than we ask or imagine. (Nehemiah 2:1-8,12; Proverbs 3:5-6; Ephesians 3:20-21)

Are we gripped with grief? Petrified in panic? Faced with disturbing news- of escalating international tension, a sobering medical prognosis, a fractured relationship? Pray! (Nehemiah 4:7-9)

How committed are we to a meaningful, effective prayer life? Lip service will never effect bold prayer, nor will vague self-centered asking effect specific answers and praise. What time do we allot for focused prayer, and how diligently do we persist? How has God built expectancy and answered?

Father, keep me praying. Have Your way with my posture, emotions, thinking, and words. Lead me to fulfill Your intentions and glorious deeds.

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