Response to Brokenness Continued

 

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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,

           

            Nehemiah 1:4

 

            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,[1183] and deep sense of our own unworthiness,[1184] necessities,[1185] and sins;[1186] with penitent,[1187]thankful,[1188] and enlarged hearts;[1189] with understanding,[1190] faith,[1191] sincerity,[1192] fervency,[1193] love,[1194]

 

            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.

 

            The WLC in continuing question 185 says: and perseverance,[1195] waiting upon him,[1196]with humble submission to his will.[1197]

[1195] 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.

 

[1196] 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.

 

[1197] 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

                                                                                                                         

 

 Trials or Tribulations?

 

            Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I thought it a good opportunity to reflect again upon what many Christians refer to as trials and tribulations.

 

            I have heard and read from many with illness, financial woes, the incarcerated and those with a variety of other problems that they must endure the tribulations that they are going through. That they can with God’s help deal with these great present tribulations, While the sentiments are nice they are somewhat lacking in biblical standing.

 

            As much as I can understand their feelings, I must first caution them that Biblical tribulations are always something one endures for the sake of Christ. Tribulation always equals suffering via persecution.  Even Nehemiah’s situation was not one of tribulation. A trial certainly, but true persecution for God; I think not.

 

            As we learned last week Nehemiah was living as an outcast in the land of his captors. Yet as the King’s cup bearer and trusted servant of the court his life could hardly be described as one of suffering. Although he has a lofty position in the court of King Artaxerxes, he is as a prisoner. He could only do what the King ordered and allowed. He may have been trusted but as we have seen in Ester the Persians probably did not approve of his high post. Finally he is a Jew in a pagan nation much like we all are as Christians in the World today.  Nehemiah must have been in daily conflict. To live as a Jew was greatly different than that of a Persian.

 

            The lesson from last week is this; most Christians today, like Nehemiah, go through trails in their lives. Some are brought upon themselves by illegal, immoral or unethical actions. While others through no direct action of their own (illness, injury, work cut backs, etc.) have equally challenging trials.

 

            I want to take a minute or two to expand on this for a moment. Verse one says:

 

1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

 

            Do you remember why Nehemiah was in Shushan and not say Bethlehem? He was there as a direct result of the actions of his forefathers. They had broken God’s law and there was a price to pay for such actions. Listen even though Nehemiah was not one of those who had broken God’s law that led to the Babylonians conquering and enslaving the nation of Judah in 586 B.C. he must endure the consequences.

 

              Illegal actions that lead to our imprisonment have consequences not only for us but for our families and friends. While prison is not a fun time for anyone and can certainly be a trial in that it tests us in many ways it cannot be considered a time of tribulation. After all (in most every case) you put yourself there.

 

 

            Marital problems due to infidelity while trying are not a time of tribulation. Nor is the aftermath that while trying and seemingly under persecution (high alimony) again it is a problem of your own making.  Laziness that leads to financial woes cannot be blamed on the economy or anyone else. A man that will not work (at any legal job) to feed his family is not a real man in my book. Immoral acts such as gambling and drinking that lead to family, financial and health issues cannot be described as times of tribulation. Trying yes, but that is everyday life in a fallen and depraved world.

 

            There are many in the world today who face real tribulation. Who daily are persecuted for their faith in Christ Jesus.  We in America are blessed that true persecution has not reached our shores. But be forewarned that day is coming. The actions of a misguided mayor in Houston and the passing of Hate Crime legislation making it seemingly illegal to speak out biblically against abortion, sexual orientation, same sex marriage etc. are bringing the day ever closer.

 

            For real Tribulations in the life of Christians today Voice of the Martyrs is one of the best sites for information. I gleaned the following from a long list:  

 

Egypt - Akhom, was shot during an attack on his Christian neighborhood. VOMedical will help him get the treatment he needs.

 

India - House Destroyed an Orissa victim sits amid what used to be her home. “We are waiting for the next riot. We do not know where it will happen. We know this was a warning, not an end.”

 

India - Imprisoned Indian pastors are imprisoned for their evangelical activity.

 

India - Four young Dalit pastors in India - Shivashankar, Ramiah, Yesuraj and Jeevan - were beaten by Hindu radicals and police and imprisoned. We assisted in their release from the Karnataka jail. They have returned to Bible study and ministry!

 

Indonesia - Before Christmas bulldozers were sent by the Muslim government of Tangerang County to destroy five church buildings.

 

Indonesia - Police tried to protect Christians of the Batak church, but two of the church’s pastors, including Pastor Purba (in the red tie), were beaten by the mob in August 2010. One banner carried by radicals during the protest read, “The Muslim community rejects the building of a church in Mustika Jaya.”

 

Iraq - In 2011, militant Muslims burst into Afanan’s home in Iraq. They locked Afanan and her two children in a room while they tortured her husband. The family was forced to listen to his cries until they ended with a fatal gunshot. VOM is supporting this widow and her children.

 

Laos - Somchi, a young Khmu woman, handed us an unusual package — a burned Bible in a plastic bag. The Bible was still wet from the rain, but we separated and dried the pages. Somchi has underlined many scriptures in her Bible. The most underlined section was around I Cor 9:19. She put a blue asterisk by this verse.

 

Nigeria - Seyi was hit with a machete several times and almost burned to death during Muslim rioting in Nigeria.

 

Nigeria - Monica was attacked by Islamic radicals in July and has already had four surgeries. She is due for another one.

 

Nigeria - Godwin lost his arm in an attack by local Muslims. VOM provided him with a prosthetic arm.

 

Pakistan - When Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood in Gojra, Pakistan, in 2009, Christians used a cart as a strecher to transport the injured.

 

Vietnam - Pastor Cong’s home was destroyed by local authorities.

 

Vietnam - Who can forget the stunning photo we printed of Vietnamese secret police officers swinging a club at a member of Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang’s Mennonite Church in August 2006? About 50 police officers swarmed the grounds of the house church, beating congregants with nightsticks, nunchucks and electric cattle prods. Pastor Quang was arrested. Today, Pastor Quang, released from prison, is operating a Bible school. Currently, 47 young Vietnamese and tribal youth are studying in the three-year program. The course teaches them a thorough understanding of the Bible, how to use a computer, how to establish a church and qualifies them to serve in full-time ministry. Oh, and secret police are still coming by his church and home.

 

India - VOM helped a woman after Hindu radicals beat her husband and burned her Bible. Christians are attacked in India more frequently than in any other country.

 

            For a look at real persecution and tribulation in the lives of Christians today I recommend you watch the following video. Afterwards ask yourself are you ready to answer the call of God? Are you truly a Christian?

http://www.persecution.com/idop       Leana’s Prayer

In HIS Service