The time: 13 years after Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem.
The place: Susa, the winter palace of the Persian kings.
The man: Nehemiah, a trusted servant to the king, who gets news that, the city is in ruins along with its gates and walls.
We can place this event roughly to the time of Ezra chapter 4 when the enemies were so threatening to the Israelites that they gave up the building work and went off to secure their own houses. Verse 4 seems to indicate that Nehemiah’s grief was a continuing affair. That his prayers and fasting went on for some time (four months). In our pop up toaster lives, this might strike us as a little annoying.
We like to tackle the problem with a single prayer meeting and then move on. None-the-less, Nehemiah’s prayer is a sample of what his prayers were like during this time. They give us a peek into his diary, his prayers and his God.
First, Nehemiah knows the God to whom he prays. His is an awful God a, “Great and fearful God.”Here is a God who must be reverenced when He is approached. Second, He is a faithful God “Keeping Covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments…”
Putting these first two points together we can say that the God who created Heaven and earth is both scary and dependable. He is an approachable God, “Let your eye be attentive and your eyes open to the prayer of Your servant.” Here is a God that can be spoken to. Who hears and sees.
Note where prayer begins With a knowledge and declaration of the character of God. The character of God is the necessary basis for our prayer: it determines our approach. Or to put it another way, Theology (knowing who God is) is the proper foundation for devotion.
God is a Covenantal God. He is a God who enters into binding relationships with His people. All of this should not only shape the way we pray, it should give us great confidence when we approach His throne.
Not on the basis that we got the prayer right, but that He is kind.
Lessons For little Saints…
- What is Nehemiah’s job?
- Why is he upset?
- From his prayer, what do you think he believes about God?
- How long did Nehemiah pray this pray for?