Response to Brokenness Continued
PRAYER PART II
4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
Since we have so many new faces with us tonight I thought it appropriate to recap our exploration of the book of Nehemiah so far. I have attempted to show the similarities of Nehemiah’s quest to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem with the need for many of us to rebuild our own lives.
We have spent 7 weeks in the first 4 verses of Chapter 1 which we should conclude this week. We saw the following themes so far:
· Living as an Outcast
o An overview of the book of Nehemiah with emphasis on his situation and how it pertains to those in bondage.
· Trials or Tribulations
o We looked at how Nehemiah may have experienced trails but not tribulation which we defined as suffering for Christ.
· Recognition of Brokenness
o Using verse III we discussed how one must recognize that they are broken before any repairs to their life can be made.
· Response to Brokenness Part I
o Nehemiah’s first response to learning his fellow Jews in Jerusalem are broken is to weep and mourn
· Response to Brokenness Part II
o Next Nehemiah responds by fasting
· Response to Brokenness Part III
o Nehemiah’s final response is prayer. Last time we discovered what prayer is (and is not), why we pray, why we should pray, to whom we should pray and the reason(s) we should pray.
Tonight we will conclude with the final two points how we should pray and our expectations in prayer. Let us look at our main text Nehemiah Chapter 1 verse 4 one more time:
4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, Nehemiah 1:4
The question that I think crosses all new believers minds is how are we to pray? I mean I want to pray right so my prayers are effective.
Because we are children of God we can approach the throne of Grace with bold confidence Ephesians 3:11-13 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. 13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. “Bold confidence’ however should never be mistake for arrogance. Again using the WCF let us dig in to the word.
Q. 185. How are we to pray?
A. We are to pray with an awful apprehension of the majesty of God, and deep sense of our own unworthiness, necessities, and sins; with penitent,thankful, and enlarged hearts; with understanding, faith, sincerity, fervency, love, …
I love the beginning of this pray with an awful apprehension of the majesty of God. What sounds bad is actually so magnificent. Baker’s Bible dictionary notes: When confronted with God's awesome presence the inevitable human response is to quiver and cower. In fact, the Bible never records a direct personal encounter with God in which the individual was not visibly shaken by God's awesomeness. Awful apprehension is not the same as disgusting it is a sense of Awe, Wonderment, and our Smallness as compared to the Almighty God of the Universe whenever we enter His presence.
When we pray we are to acknowledge our unworthiness; let me pause there. It is impossible for us to appreciate the love of God and therefore to have fellowship with God until we FULLY understand our own unworthiness. Next we need comprehend the very real need to pray to God, confess our sins, while being thankful that we have a God who listens and open our hearts to His understanding. All that we MUST do BEFORE we begin our petitions.
Our prayers must be done:
a) in faith Mark 11:24. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. James 1:6. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
b) in sincerity Psalm 145:18. The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. Psalm 17:1. Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer that goeth not out of feigned lips.
c) with frequency I have heard it said prayers should be one and done. God hears us the first time no need to repeat. Well while technically true, God hears all righteous prayers, repetition demonstrates our resolve in the matter.
d) in Love 1 Timothy 2:8. I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
In the jail a while back I was counseling a guy that was really angry. He spurted out “I hate these people; I pray God kills them all”. Do you really think God will honor that I asked. He replied I do not care I hate them. Therein lies the rub, He really did not care what God wanted he only cared about what he wanted. God cannot and will not honor prayers of malice.
I would venture to say from the text that it was Nehemiah’s love for his fellow Jews and their plight that drove him to prayer. Are there people or circumstances in your life that you love in need of prayer?
Another issue in our prayer life can be our expectations of prayer. Prayer can be a mystery at times. Not because it truly is but because we miss use it so often. Our expectations are so high that anything less than immediate fulfillment of what we want leaves us lacking.
R.C. Sproul on the Ligonier Ministries site has this to say about Eliminating Unrealistic Expectations
Sometimes we all feel as if our prayers lack the power to penetrate our ceilings. It seems as though our petitions fall on deaf ears and God remains unmoved or unconcerned about our passionate pleading. Why do these feelings haunt us?
There are several reasons why we are sometimes frustrated in prayer. One is that our expectations are unrealistic. This, perhaps more than any other factor, leads to a frustration in prayer. We make the common mistake of taking statements of Jesus in isolation from other biblical aspects of teaching in prayer, and we blow these few statements out of proportion.
We hear Jesus say that if two Christians agree on anything and ask, it shall be given to them. Jesus made that statement to men who had been deeply trained in the art of prayer, men who already knew the qualifications of this generalization. Yet in a simplistic way we interpret the statement absolutely. We assume the promise covers every conceivable petition without reservation or qualification. Think of it. Would it be difficult to find two Christians who would agree that to end all wars and human conflict would be a good idea? Obviously not. Yet if two Christians agreed to pray for the cessation of war and conflict, would God grant their petition? Not unless He planned to revise the New Testament and its teaching about the future of human conflict.
Prayer is not magic. God is not a celestial bellhop at our beck and call to satisfy our every whim. In some cases, our prayers must involve the travail of the soul and agony of heart, such as Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane. Sometimes young Christians have been bitterly disappointed in “unanswered” prayers, not because God failed to keep His promises, but because well-meaning Christians made promises “for” God that God never authorized.
 Ephesians 6:18. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. We are to persevere or endure how with supplications or prayer.
 Micah 7:7. Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. In our on demand society waiting patiently is not always easy. God however does not work on your time clock. When we ask for something, lift something or someone up in prayer we must wait on the Lord.
 Matthew 26:39. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. I firmly believe Nehemiah has a real expectation that God would hear, honor and grant his petition. I think when we take a closer look at Nehemiah’s actual prayer next time you will really get a better understanding of this.
Like Nehemiah when we find that there is an issue in life’s journey we must turn to God for answers and help. Godly man and women understand that they apart from God do not have the strength on their own to surmount many of today’s challenges.
In closing I wish to quote Charles Spurgeon who said "Even as the moon influences the tides of the sea, so does prayer influence the tides of godliness."
If you wish to live a God honoring life you need to be in prayer.
Next time we will begin to look at Nehemiah’s actual prayer in verses 5-11.
In HIS Service