INTRO: Adrienne and Eliza like to remind me of night, putting to bed,
trying to pray with them—kept making noises, jokes, laughing
finally I said, now listen, serious, talking to God, be quiet, blah, blah
Started to pray—they burst out laughing
girls, what did I just tell you?
but daddy, you were praying a food prayer
After my lecture on seriousness of prayer, bowed head, closed eyes,
put my brain in neutral and said,
“God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food.”
Nehemiah never would have done that.
A man of prayer—10 prayers recorded in this book, this is the longest
some quite short, just a sentence.
since his memoirs, journal, like looking into private prayer life
number of qualities grab attention—fervency, soundness, immediacy
But the most striking is his confidence
utterly confident that he is talking to the living God,
that God is listening to him and will answer him
Can’t help thinking that this confidence is the key to prayer
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help
us in our time of need.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus . . . let us
draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will
be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt . . .
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything
we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
Want to relate this to the theme of Nehemiah
Nehemiah about power of God rebuilding broken people,
broken relationships, broken lives
establishing a community of people who love God, guided by His Word
also about God calling one man—Nehemiah—to be his servant
Lord’s call for you to bring Christ’s rebuilding power to people and places
broken by sin.
May call you to a place far away—but most likely, right here
people, perhaps very close, even in own family, broken
places, workplace, broken people pass through.
Place Nehemiah starts, place you have to start is with prayer—
confident prayer—I am speaking to the living God, he hears, will answer
Where does this confident prayer come from?
Look at Nehemiah—must be his personality,
if anything, personality worked against, pray, check off list, get on with work
everything about Nehemiah himself liability when came to prayer
True confident prayer came from gazing on the Lord
more look at Him—person and attributes
how He reveals Himself in Scripture
how responds to his people
Confidence grows—yes, He is here, He is listening, He will answer
Sermon on prayer—not going to tell you to pray more.
Gaze on Lord with me—as Nehemiah does—vision of Christ deepens
so will your prayers
1. The glory of God
2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ
MP#1 The glory of God
As Nehemiah begins to pray—thoughts turn first to glory of God
those aspects of God’s being that set Him above and beyond us
where all the great prayers of Scripture begin
three attributes in particular
1. Our God is sovereign.
“I prayed before the God of heaven . . . O Lord, God of heaven . . .”
heaven is God’s throne—whenever depicted in visions of prophets
God is seated and ruling, surrounded by angelic beings who do bidding
by beginning prayer addressing “the God of heaven”
Nehemiah expressing belief in the universal sovereignty of Lord over all things
Sovereignty means that absolutely nothing is outside of Lord’s rule
from a little sparrow falling to the collapse of empires
why is the sovereignty of God so important to Nehemiah, such confidence?
History lesson—Jerusalem destroyed by Babylonians, Nebuchadnezzar
executed many important people, blinded king, exiled thousands
140 years before book of Nehemiah begins
when Nehemiah hears “walls broken” not this, old history
70 years after destruction, Babylon itself destroyed, Persian King Cyrus
sent number of Jews back, Company A, Zerubbabel, rebuilt temple, not walls
in a precarious position, danger from hostile people, economic instability
60 years later, another group of Jews returned, Company B, Ezra
to teach the law of Moses, restore religious life
began to rebuild walls, remind of special identity as God’s people
this work was opposed by those in area who hated the Jews
wrote a letter to Persian King Artaxerxes—going to rebel
stop the work! stopped with force—broke walls, burned gates
When Nehemiah hears “walls broken, gates burned”, this recent opposition
The Persian king responsible for giving the order—his master—Artaxerxes
So, why is the sovereignty of God so important to Nehemiah?
why does he begin his prayer by addressing the God of heaven?
none of these events outside of the plan and rule of the Lord
nothing accidental—planned by the sovereign Lord himself
Do you see why this gave Nehemiah confidence, will give you confidence.
before Nehemiah makes his request to the Lord,
give me favor in the presence of this man—King Artaxerxes
acknowledges—none of this is accidental, none outside of God’s sovereignty
As you deal with brokenness—broken people, places—this is where you start
the Lord God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases Him
this makes some people angry—God has nothing to do with my suffering!
well, the alternative gives no comfort or confidence
brokenness outside of His plan and control—forces in your life beyond Him
2. Our God is great. “The great . . .God”
Nehemiah ponders the power of God accomplishing His will
See this often in the Psalms—“O Lord, you are very great”
greatness of God especially His power as He brings it to bear for His people
When parted the Red Sea, drowned the army of Egypt, sang song
“Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power
Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.
In the greatness of Your majesty You threw down those who opposed You.”
Psalm 68—about God defending His people (widows and orphans)
“Summon Your power O God, show us Your strength O God,
as You have done before.”
Nehemiah looked at the needs of Jerusalem—broken place, broken people
knew that humanly speaking, enormous obstacles to rebuilding
first obstacle the man he worked for—very king who had given order to tear down
not the kind of man who liked to have people question decisions
many other obstacles as well—Nehemiah had to know
Confidence and boldness in his prayer—because believed that God is great.
looks back over the history of God’s dealings with his people
time and time again, brings power to bear to deliver them
Nehemiah has complete confidence that Lord can do so again.
Do you believe that God is great? Can bring all His power to bear on your situation
In your prayers, do you meditate on God’s greatness,
does that give you confidence?
Doesn’t grow in a vacuum—Nehemiah a man who knew history of Lord’s
powerful works on behalf of His people—knew Bible stories
will be Scripture that sustains you here
And another thing as well—testimonies of other believers
I was broken by sin—relationships broken, bridges burned
that was years ago—look at the great things God has done
impossible things, humanly speaking
3. Our God is awesome. “The awesome God.”
Word “awesome” is overused—“awesome pizza” “football game”
pizza may be mighty tasty, not awesome
football game may be a nailbiter, not awesome
Means: provoking awe, reverence, and fear
element of fear that sort of lose in the popular usage
never heard a tornado—every person, “like a freight train”
black night, heard roar of tornado in neighborhood—would be awesome
forest fire, 2000 degrees, trees exploding—would be awesome
KJV—translates “the terrible God”
this is the godly fear that talked about a few Sundays ago
Christian don’t dread God, do fear Him, in awe of Him, revere Him
When Nehemiah prayed—struck with awe by His awesome God
Very helpful to note—no miracles in Nehemiah—one of few historical books
lots of incredible answers to prayer, no setting aside of natural laws
Exodus—Mt. Sinai, the Lord descends, mountain smokes, fire, quake, trumpet,
the voice of God booming across the desert
No visions in Nehemiah—all patriarchs, prophets—taken out of self, see glory
Isaiah 6 “I saw the Lord, seated on a throne, high and exalted,
seraphim (burning ones), covering faces and feet with wings
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God almighty, whole earth full of glory
Isaiah—Woe is me. I am undone, man of unclean lips
Nehemiah never given a vision, God never speaks to Him directly
Helpful, Nehemiah prayed to the awesome God, filled with awe
very same way that you must be
witnessed no dramatic miracles, no Mt. Sinais, no visions of seraphim
it was by reading and believing Scripture, and by work of Holy Spirit
convincing of God’s holiness
Tie all of these glorious attributes together—Lord is sovereign, great, awesome
if you believe that this is the God you are praying to,
puts everything in a very different perspective, doesn’t it?
This problem you are facing—brokenness dealing with, much smaller than seems
if the nations are a drop in the bucket
how small is this to God? do you have any reason to be afraid?
Do the glorious attributes of God give you confidence in prayer?
MP#2 The Gospel of Jesus Christ
As Nehemiah continues in prayer, turns to the Gospel of Jesus Christ
this is how the sovereign, great, and awesome God comes down to you.
all great prayers of Scripture focus on this
The Good News of Jesus Christ not mentioned by name of course
but prefigured in “who keeps his covenant of love with those who love
him and obey his commands.”
What is a covenant?
A covenant is a legal bond that binds people together.
If a man and woman decide to live together—no matter how much declare love,
declare commitment—not in a covenant, no legal bond
But, if man and woman get married, in a covenant, bound together
In a covenant obligation for both parties, thing agree to do and not do.
covenants have blessings and curses
blessing if covenant obligations kept and curses if they are broken
What is God’s covenant of love?
It is the bond that the Lord has established to bind Himself and His people together.
First promised to Abraham, Moses, David, prophets
I will be your God, you will be my people. Will bless you and all nations.
Love me and obey me—if turn away, will be cut off and destroyed
God’s covenant often compared to a marriage in Scripture—I am Israel’s husband.
just like a marriage, this covenant has a history
history basically this—God is faithful, His people are unfaithful
warns them over and over, disciplines them, return for a time,
finally, after long period of rebellion, idolatry, immorality
Raises up two empires—Assyria, conquers 10 northern tribes, exile, disappear
Babylon, conquers southern tribe of Judah, exile
but even there, Lord is good, protects, sends people like Ezra, Nehemiah
calls people back, promises to restore them, rebuild them into people
created them to be
Part of the covenant—Nehemiah quoting Deuteronomy—return, will restore
Nehemiah knows this history, on the basis of it, he is confident in prayer
pleads with God for these people
Nehemiah of course, as all great OT figures represents coming Messiah
Like Lord Jesus Christ yet to come, prays for the people, pleads with God
knows that God always responds to repentant people, always merciful
no matter how broken, if repentant, if commit to love and obey
always merciful, extends His reconciling, rebuilding power
This is the Gospel—couched in OT covenantal terms
God, through Mediator, extends mercy to repentant sinners
rebuilds and restores them
Nehemiah looks at Jews in Jerusalem, so broken by effects of sin,
generations of sin, even now—perhaps suffering a relapse into sin
Lord, I know, first that I am a sinner, I confess all my sins
consider these your people, they are in desperate need
know you were merciful in the past, show your mercy again
Boldly appeals to God’s covenant mercies, pleads that God will work
Are you this confident in the mercy and grace of the Lord?
Truly believe that He will respond to every repentant sinner, no matter how far
have traveled down the path of rebellion, no matter how broken
Christ will forgive and rebuild and restore.
Or, are there some people so broken, prayers not very confident
pray, but don’t really think they could ever be restored
think too far gone, don’t boldly plead God’s mercy, just motions,
when no response, give up
Tim Keller—man, I’m a prostitute and I have AIDS, what does church
have to say to me?
The Gospel was made for people like you.
God delights in bringing grace to people just like you, come to Christ
confidence—broken person, repent and come to God, he will receive and bless
context here not prayer but a brief conversation—insight into prayer life
If willing to say this to a person’s face, surely confident in prayer
Do you believe that Christ can bring his rebuilding Gospel power to broken places?
Your prayers must be made confident by the Gospel of Jesus Christ
must be assured that you have been forgiven
look at God’s mercies in Christ, confidently claim them
CONC: What makes for confident prayer?
Kind need when bringing rebuilding power of Christ to broken people and places?
what keeps you from going through the motions of prayer, not really praying?
what keeps you from discouragement when no immediate results
and even more, when you see relapses into sin and old patterns?
what keeps you from relying primarily on own plan to make this person better>
Gazing upon the Lord, meditating on Him
his glory and his Gospel
his transcendence and his immanence
high above and beyond all your problems, at same time intimately concerned
as powerful as that is, something more wonderful as Christians
“Our Father which art in heaven.”
not “Our God in heaven” because through Christ, Gospel, the adoption as sons
if a Christian
sovereign, great, awesome God is your Father, always merciful, always gracious
Martin Luther—if truly pray “Our Father in heaven” will stop there, go no farther
what more needs to be said? My Father is in heaven.
Do you have that confidence? If you do, certainly will pray more.