|Theme: Claiming God’s Promise Specifically in Prayer
|Focus on: Nehemiah
|Reading Portion(s): Nehemiah 1, Deuteronomy 30:1 to 10.
|– Important Background Information
|– Helps you find strength in God
|What this article teaches you
|General praying is no praying! We need to pray specifically. This is very important when we claim God’s promises in prayer. That means that we remind God what He has said in the Bible. Then we ask Him to honor it in that particular situation in our life.
But this kind of praying should be done with reverence. There should be no demanding kind of voice when we do so. Instead, we should approach God by confessing our sins, weaknesses and disobedience. Then we can specifically ask God to make good His promise recorded in His Word. We can do so because in spite of our disobedience and sin; He still remains our God.
Nehemiah was an exile in the land of Babylon. Then when the Persian kings came to power he became cupbearer to the king. This was a coveted position. Only those the king trusted fully attained this honor. One of the main duties of the cupbearer was to taste wine before passing it on to the king to prove that it was not poisoned. Though he was in such an influential position in the court we find him a man of prayer.
We find the account of Nehemiah opening in the twentieth year of King Artaxerexes. He was in the citadel of Susa. At this time Hanani and some of the Jewish brethren came from Judah. Nehemiah asked them about the small Jewish community left after the exile in Judah. From this we come to know that though Nehemiah was enjoying a position of trust in the royal court his heart was always in the land of Judah.
The report that Nehemiah got for his inquiries was a discouraging one. They told him that the people who had survived the exile and had returned to Judah were in great trouble and disgrace. They added that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates burned with fire.
This report troubled Nehemiah. He sat down and wept. He also fasted and prayed before the God of heaven for some days. Here we see a man truly concerned about the welfare of his people.
After some days of fasting and praying He addressed God with a very specific prayer. He is meeting God in prayer in God’s own terms. He makes a claim that God has to answer his prayer because of His promise.
He starts praying by addressing God as the God of heaven who is the great and awesome God. He refers to the fact that God is One who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His commands. So he asks God to hear the prayer that he was praying day and night continually for God’s servants, the people of Israel.
Nehemiah, having said this much, is now quick to confess his sins and the sins of his father’s house committed against God. He prays thus to show the fact that they had failed to keep their part of the agreement of obeying God’s commands. He agrees that in this they had acted wickedly.
Then he moves on to a higher level in prayer. He claims God’s promise that is operational even in such miserable circumstances. He asks God to remember the instruction given to Moses and through him to the Israelites. The promise that Nehemiah gave voice to in prayer was this: God through Moses had told the Israelites that if they were unfaithful He will scatter them among the nations. But if they would return to God and obey Him, even if the exiled people were in the farthest horizon, from there God would gather them and bring them back to the place that God had chosen for His dwelling. This place is Jerusalem where stood the temple of God.
Nehemiah now reminds God that the people are God’s servants redeemed by God’s great strength and mighty hand. So he asks God to be attentive to the prayer that he was praying and to the prayers of those who delighted to honor the name of God. He concludes by praying that he may be given success that day by granting him favor in the presence of the king.
Nehemiah’s praying is an outpouring of his burdened heart. He showed true concern for God’s people. But he knew that the cause of their present condition of misery was their sins for which their nation had been destroyed and people exiled into captivity. Yet he stakes claim on God’s promise. He dares to claim this because even now they were the servants of God.
This is a truth that we need to understand. It is that we are always servants of God and God’s own people once we have entered into a covenant of love with God. It simply means that there is an inseparable bond between God and us once we enter into a relationship with God. Yet God punishes His children when they disobey. But this does not mean the end of the relationship.
And it is because that this relationship is never lost; never disowned that Nehemiah was able to claim God’s promise in prayer. He effectively told God that they were still His own people and servants though they had disobeyed Him and suffered the consequences by being scattered. Nehemiah therefore talks of keeping their side of the agreement by returning to God and obeying him. He then asks God to honor His promise which said that He will gather them from the farthest horizon when they returned to Him with all their heart.
What does this teach us? This prayer teaches us that we can claim God’s promise in prayer. In moments of disobedience when we find ourselves far removed from God we can still seek God in prayer. This is because we are still His children; His own people and His own servants. Because of this relationship that is never broken we can claim God’s promise in prayer.
Nehemiah prayed specifically. He claimed the promise that God had given to Moses. He reminded God of His promise. This tells us that we need to be specific in our prayer. This is because there are many promises in the Bible. Here Nehemiah reminds God that according to His promise if they returned to God He had promised to gather them together again and bring them to the place of His dwelling.
It is amazing to think that God has given us the freedom to quote His words in prayer. In ordinary talk it would sound something like this: “O God, You have said like this in Your Word. Now I am claiming this particular promise. Honor Your words now and do as You have said!” Can we pray like this? Not everyone can!
Look at Nehemiah. He was mourning and fasting and praying before God for some days. Only then did he open his mouth in prayer. So this kind of praying is actually like walking on hallowed ground. Claiming God’s promise in prayer is not like claiming your wages or claiming your items in a store after having paid the bill. Claiming God’s promise should be done with utmost reverence. It is to be done with confession our own sins, weaknesses and disobedience. It is to be done on the basis of our relationship with God.
Nehemiah claimed God’s promise specifically in prayer. He had a right heart before God. He prepared much in prayer and fasting and mourning before he claimed God’s promise. Therefore God answered his prayers.