Today read Genesis 12, Nehemiah 1, and Matthew 9. This devotional is about Nehemiah 1.
The last sentence we read in Nehemiah 1 was, “I was cupbearer to the king.” This sentence is a key piece of information for understanding what is happening in this passage of scripture.
- It explains why Nehemiah was “in the citadel of Susa” (v. 1c). Verses 2-4 demonstrate how much Nehemiah cared about Jerusalem, so what was he doing in Susa–the capital of Persia? The answer is that during the exile Nehemiah had been elevated to a key cabinet position in the Persian government. Like Daniel before him, God had put Nehemiah in a humanly-strategic place.
- It explains why Nehemiah was in a position to assist and lead Jerusalem but that comes in later chapters in this book. Nehemiah was in a position of trust serving the most powerful man in his region. This position at first made Nehemiah feel like it was impossible to leave and return to Jerusalem but later, as we’ll see, he came to understand that it gave him a unique opportunity to serve God.
What is most impressive in this chapter, however, is Nehemiah’s prayer in verses 4-11. Nehemiah was personally interested in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the re-formation of Judah as a nation. Once he heard that project was not going well and that his Jewish brothers were exposed to danger, he was emotionally devastated (v. 4). He dealt with that devastation by calling out to God for help.
Notice that his call to God for help was layered with Biblical truth. Note:
- Nehemiah described God biblically in verse 5, calling him by his covenant name LORD (YHWH) and describing him as “God of heaven,” “great and awesome,” and covenant-keeping.
- Nehemiah echoed the words of Solomon. Nehemiah’s “let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night” in verse 6 sounds a lot like Solomon’s prayer dedicating the temple in 2 Chronicles 6:40: “Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”
- Nehemiah confessed his sins and the sins of his nation (vv. 6-7).
- Nehemiah quoted Moses to God (vv. 8-9) including the promise that He would restore his people to the promised land if they repented.
Only then did Nehemiah ask God to fulfill these promises of his word (v. 11).
God loves to hear his word prayed back to him. When we repeat God’s promises back to him in prayer and call on him to keep those promises to us, we are showing our faith. It shows that we have internalized God’s word–we haven’t just read it but we recieve it for our souls and believe it to be true.
Praying God’s word and promises back to him also demonstrates that we believe God really exists and that he can and will do what he promised. That glorifies God in ways that only true faith can.
So, what are you praying for? Are your requests biblical in the sense that they tie directly to what is important to God? Are you reminding God of his word and asking him to deliver on his promises? This is the kind of prayer that God is pleased to hear and answer.