Resolute: Pray First
Have you ever felt deep compassion for something or someone? How about such deep concern that you felt compelled to act, to actually do something about it? In our increasingly me-centered culture, people don’t get too stirred up these days to do much that doesn’t serve themselves. But in the book of Nehemiah, we see an inspiring example of a man who cared deeply; and we can learn a lot from him!
As God’s judgment for Judah’s idolatry and rebellion, Judah was attacked by the Babylonians in 589 BC. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed. The Jews were held captive for 70 years in Babylon and then, after Babylon’s fall, in Persia; but God had promised that His people would be restored to their homeland.
In 539 BC, by God’s leading, Emperor Cyrus the Great of Persia decreed that the Jews be allowed to return to Jerusalem. Many Israelites returned immediately and began work rebuilding the temple and the city of Jerusalem (Ezra 3); but many years later, the wall to the city still lay in ruins. This is where the book of Nehemiah begins.
Though Nehemiah was born in Persia, his heart was with his homeland. Nehemiah cared deeply for his people, their plight and the need to rebuild a wall that would restore their security, confidence and dignity.
1) Nehemiah cared enough to ask. (Nehemiah 1:1-2)
Nehemiah cared enough about His people to ask how they were doing, and not just in a passing, cordial kind of way, but in a way that was truly compassionate and empathetic. He really wanted to know how they were doing. He cared.
Do you care enough about people in your life to genuinely ask: How are you doing?
Some people don’t ask because they fear that information will lead to obligation. There’s an old adage: Ignorance is bliss.
It may be easier to not ask so you aren’t burdened with a need, but that is not what Jesus taught or modeled for us. Jesus’ Good Samaritan didn’t even have to ask; when he saw a need, he stepped up to meet that need, no matter how inconvenient it was to him. In our increasingly self-absorbed culture, some people may prefer to remain ignorant, rather than be burdened with serving another. Care enough to ask.
2) Nehemiah cared enough to weep. (Nehemiah 1:3-4a)
After asking, Nehemiah got an answer that broke his heart. He knew what a protective wall in crumbles meant for his fellow Hebrews. Nehemiah was really feeling their pain, their heartache, their anguish… and it made him weep.
Sometimes God will put a burden on your heart that causes you to grieve and even weep. When He places that burden on you, don’t run from it, stuff it, or try to escape it; if you do, you will miss the blessing that God has for you. The book of Nehemiah begins with great affliction, but it ends with great joy!
3) Nehemiah cared enough to pray. (Nehemiah 1:4b)
When Nehemiah received the answer to his ask, he sat down to weep, then He knelt down to pray. Nehemiah valued prayer. There are 12 instances of prayer recorded in this book. It opens and closes with prayer. There is no doubt that Nehemiah was a man of faith who depended fully on the Lord to enable him to accomplish the work He had called him to do. And Nehemiah was successful because he depended on God.
Success in any endeavor begins with prayer. If you want God to bless your work, your relationships, your ministry, your life, then commit it all to Him, and bathe it in prayer! Pray first.
In Nehemiah’s prayer (Nehemiah 1:4-11), there are four powerful prayer principles that you and I can use in our lives, especially when we sense a deep compassion for something or someone. For more, including these prayer principles, click here to listen to: Resolute - Part 1 - Pray First!