The remnant in the province, who survived the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Nehemiah 1
Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned down.”When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. – Nehemiah 1:1-4
You ask about an old friend – “How is so and so?” The answer is not good, in fact it is downright horrible. The friend is in a terrible situation, so bad that you can see no way out for them.
Maybe it is grim news like we witnessed this past week, many were killed, hundreds wounded, and the enormity of it is so overwhelming it leaves you numb.
Nehemiah found himself in that spot. The city that he loved was in ruins. The people he loved were suffering extreme injustice and prejudice. Scripture tells us Nehemiah was overwhelmed with grief.
He wept for days.
And then he prayed.
Many of us can identify with Nehemiahs situation. We feel the extreme emotions that he felt over situations in our lives, the lives of others in our world. But too many times feeling the emotions is where we stop. We do not do the one thing that is needed most and that is to pray.
Nehemiah after days of fasting and weeping and praying called out to God.
His prayer was not a prayer of hopelessness or prayer to a God who might do something. No, Nehemiah’s prayer was addressed to the One who is Sovereign over all things. Nehemiah reminded God of His Covenant with his people, of His loyalty to those who love him and follow His commands.
After praying for wisdom and guidance and favor Nehemiah put feet to his prayer;
Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
So the king said to me, “Why are you sad, when you aren’t sick? This is nothing but depression.” I was overwhelmed with fear and replied to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” – Nehemiah 2:2-3
Nehemiah asked the king for permission to return to Jerusalem to oversee the repairs that needed to be made. The King not only granted Nehemiah permission, he provided soldiers to protect them, materials for the work, and letters proclaiming his support of Nehemiah’s rebuilding efforts.
Almost three thousand years later Nehemiah provides an example of what is most needed in our time.
When we see or hear the bad news it is right and good to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn.
He fasted and prayed.
God gave him a plan and Nehemiah acted on it.
But we must not, cannot stop with mourning, and we cannot allow ourselves to become numb.
We pray to understand God’s will and then we act on what he tells us to do
A pastor I know responded when asked asked why he and his wife would decide to become foster parents when they were in their 60s.
If not us who?
A very good question one to ask ourselves.
If we do not pray for those around us who are in desperate trouble, for a world that we see in chaos, who will? If we do not reach out to the defenseless, the broken, the oppressed, who will? If not us who? We pray to a God who not only can but will!
We pray as Nehemiah did. When we pray we need to remember we are not praying to a God who is detached, uninterested, who may or may not decide to help us..
Reminding God of his promises his faithfulness and his goodness.
We pray with confidence fully understanding that we are asking God who not only can, but will move in response to our prayers. Faithfully rewarding those who love him and trust Him to answer.
We pray to understand God’s will in our petitions, and we ask what He would have us do. And then we act on what He tells us.
Nehemiah’s response was to do what he could do and trust God for the rest.
So it must be with us.
Change begins with prayer
And if we as the people of God will not pray, will not act, will not care, who will?
If not me, who?