The Prayer Of A Servant” Nehemiah 1:5-11 9/9/01


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

Ephesians 3:12

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Hebrews 4:16

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.

Hebrews 10:19-22

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

James 1:5-8

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 . . .

I John 3:21

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

Two headings

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

First line of Nehemiah’s prayer—addresses God, “O Lord God of heaven”

as powerful as that is, something more wonderful as Christians

Remember Jesus teaching on prayer

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.