SI: Are you ready for answered prayer? May not be exactly what you expect.
INTRO: You have all heard the fairy tale of the Genie in the magic lamp.
Person rubs the lamp, out comes the Genie—O master, three wishes
100 more wishes!
Some people imagine prayer like that—God should answer soon and painlessly
if He doesn’t, then must not be listening
But that is not the way God answers the prayers of His servants
Talking to someone recently who told me that several years ago,
became concerned about relationship with her father.
bitter toward him because things that had happened
Began to pray that the Lord would change this.
Some time later, parents called, coming for a visit, as often did.
Heart skipped a beat.
Could it be that God had arranged for this visit?
Knew she had to have a conversation with father and dreaded.
Lord, can’t talk about this with anyone else present, have to be alone.
but in the back of her mind, what are the chances, mother, other relatives
One day, during visit, hubbub of making lunch plans, who rides with who
suddenly realized she was in the car alone with her father
had God answered her prayers?
He had, but there was still something to be done—as hard as it was,
she had to open her mouth and say
Dad, I told God that if He let us have some time alone I would tell you something.
and the words of forgiveness and healing began to flow
Are you ready for answered prayer?
Book about God calling one man—Nehemiah—to be his servant
Nehemiah hears distressing news about Jerusalem from brother
trouble and disgrace, wall broken, gates burned
from this once conversation,
senses a conviction to do something bring rebuilding power of God to bear
in that broken place
all Christians, at different times, going to be burdened with some brokenness
may be close or far away, one person or many people
That burden, that calling always leads to prayer
earnest, confident prayer that God will do something
every time Christians are called, begin to pray, Lord, you have laid on my heart
Exactly what Nehemiah does, he begins to pray for people in Jerusalem
as prays, realizes that he is going to have to do something
is going to have to talk to his master—King Artaxerxes
remember, he was the king’s cupbearer
So he prays, “Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the
presence of this man”
That’s Nehemiah’s prayer—now, in this passage you see God’s answer.
See five aspects of answered prayer that are always present.
MP#1 God answers prayer in His time.
Nehemiah is a memoir, prayer journal
1:1 month of Kislev (Nov/Dec) Nehemiah has conversation, burdened
begins to pray immediately
“give your servant success today”
2:1 month of Nisan (March/April) four months have passed
still has not made request of the king
Why not? Why didn’t Nehemiah just raise the matter very next day when serving?
Nehemiah couldn’t until king Artaxerxes himself broached the subject
to raise it himself was certainly to ruin the whole thing, maybe even death
court etiquette around kings considered semi-divine was rigid
Remember Esther? Risked death coming into court uninvited
then, even after king had said, whatever you wish
she delayed asking him twice
Now understand request—“give success by granting favor in presence of king”
not—tomorrow I’m going to talk to the king about this,
Lord, tomorrow, please open a door so that king will be inclined to grant a favor
until then, I can’t do anything
Bigger question—why hadn’t God answered Nehemiah’s prayer right away?
Prayers are answered in God’s time, God’s time not your time, God’s time best
as look back at answered prayers, often see the hand of God
so that’s why He waited, it was the best time
Nehemiah—four long months, so distressed started to show on his face
king notices and asks the first question, why are you so sad
because that is the angle, Nehemiah’s answer takes on a very personal note,
king sees sadness of heart knows not some hidden political agenda
what if Nehemiah had blurted out the first day, all those raw feelings
what is this man doing questioning my decree, someone gotten to him?
Scholars—God sovereignly arranged so that king inclined to be generous
Nisan, first month of Persian year, kings expected to be generous
presence of the queen, a special occasion, birthday, desire to show generosity
To those of you now praying to God for burden—broken people, places
has not yet answered and it’s been month or years
remember—prayers are answered in God’s time, answers all servants that way
keep praying, keep eyes open for His sovereign hand to work when don’t expect
MP#2 God answers prayer through your words.
The Lord begins to answer Nehemiah’s prayer when king Artaxerxes asks,
why are you so sad, I know you aren’t sick. Must be sadness of the heart
heart starts to pound, mouth dry, “I was very much afraid.”
What was the cause of Nehemiah’s fear?
lots of commentaries say Nehemiah had broken etiquette and displayed emotion
fearful because in danger of being put to death
can’t be right—Nehemiah not afraid of death, will see that later in the book
obviously the king, by his very question is not threatening
Something much more significant here for the life of the Christian
Nehemiah afraid because he suddenly realizes, this is it, I’ve got to speak.
all my months of private prayer has come to this, I’ve got to speak
Filled with all those doubts and fears that come when know must speak
those deepest prayers and longings that you have shared with God alone
wonder, is this it? is this the right time? should I put it off?
am I really willing to put myself out there and risk this conversation
Person in introduction, lots of prayers for reconciliation with father
but when she suddenly realized, the opportunity I have prayed for is here
seized with fear and reluctance to speak
That ever happened to you—burdened for a person, path of self-destruction
pray for them, even talk about them to your wife,
but then the Lord orchestrates the time and the place—know it’s time to speak
How does Nehemiah respond? “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king . . .”
he opens his mouth, he begins to speak, and the Lord blesses his words
they are just the right words
Scholars have pointed out that Persians very much concerned with graves,
Jews were not nearly as concerned, more concern for the living
All of this talk about graves of my fathers being in ruin touches a Persian heart.
doesn’t mention Jerusalem by name, no political overtones to worry king
How does God answer your prayers—(in His time) and through your words.
He sovereignly provides the opportunity that you have been praying for
then, in spite of your fears you must speak
like Christ throwing you a touchdown pass, might afraid to catch it, tackled,
have to catch it anyway, in faith that Christ knows what He is doing
MP#3 God answers prayer through your plans.
So Nehemiah speaks—an act of faith, because not committing himself to action.
verse 4 King Artaxerxes asks another question—“What is it you want?”
“Then I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the king.”
If it pleases you, want to go back and rebuild the city in Judah
Then Artaxerxes asks another question—how long will you be gone?
“so I set a time” the time not mentioned, learn in 5:14 and 13:6 (12 years)
Then Nehemiah raises other matters—
letters of safe conduct to governors, letter to keeper of forest for lumber,
scope of building, citadel by temple, city wall, governor’s residence
King grants all these, and gives officers and cavalry as well
What if Artaxerxes had asked—how long, I don’t know or 3 years not finished
what if Nehemiah had not thought through all the political ramifications
set out and come to first governor, who are you? sent back
unable to get timber for construction methods
intentions would have been good, but in long run, prayers not answered
This is the point—when the Lord burdens you with broken people and places,
you begin to pray, you also should begin to plan, He has given you a mind
uses those plans to bring to fullness the answer to your prayers
just has He uses your words, He uses your plans and actions
Only been in the ministry for 9 years, three or four most significant conversations
sat down with paper and a pencil, laid before Lord,
what direction will this conversation take, what questions, objections,
what traps of the enemy do I need to avoid, prayers answered through plans
Talking to someone in another church—tell me about pastor’s sermons
How long are his sermons? Depends—sing or 45 minutes, Spirit moves
Though—If I did that, we’d be doing lots of singing and praying
Story not about prayer, but think it illustrates the point.
What preacher does not pray all week, especially Sat night and Sun morning
O Lord, be glorified in the worship service, may your people be blessed
will that prayer be answered with no planning?
Nehemiah’s trust not in his plans (will see that very clearly in next point).
but prayer and faith and careful planning are not opposed to each other
all honor the Lord. How reach a broken person without plans?
He answers prayers in His time, through your words, and through your plans.
MP#4 God answers prayer for those who see.
Vs. 8 “And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted
My point is simply this—Nehemiah had a spiritual vision of life,
he was able to see God’s gracious hand, see God’s answers to prayer.
does not mean that Nehemiah had head in the clouds, out of touch with reality
a very realistic person—building techniques and 12-year plans
But at no time does he attribute any of his success to his plans
or to his speaking ability, or to chance or luck
he sees, with spiritual eyes, the gracious hand of God
This verse 8 explains why Nehemiah kept this memoir—
wants to give testimony to the gracious hand of His God
over and over again, answered prayer after answered prayer
you are going to see Nehemiah repeating this theme
he sees God at work, he thanks his God and gives Him praise
So many people approach the brokenness of life in a sinful world
with a whole list of plans, going to do this and this and fix this thing
Even Christians fall into this trap
burdened for a broken person, place
certainly pray for them, but say if only . . .
if will read this book, go to this conference, listen to this sermon,
join this accountability group, go to this church make things right
All of these things are good things, Lord uses them for good,
as we have seen, must plan, must think through
but how easy then to look too hard at these plans, these tools
And not see the gracious hand of our God
don’t see the gracious hand of God, won’t see many answered prayers
even when God does work, will miss it
Will seem like a small, insignificant thing, or will attribute it to something else.
70 years before Nehemiah—first company of Jews returned, Zerubbabel
went to rebuild the temple—laid foundations, ceremony
old people cried, because remembered past greatness, young cheered
Zechariah “do not despise the day of small beginnings.” Do you see God’s hand?
Broken person—conversation (answered prayer)
MP#5 God answers prayer for your present need.
“When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this,
they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of
This verse is a foreshadowing of things to come—
these men become a thorn in Nehemiah’s side
because have and economic stake in keeping Jerusalem broken and defenseless
even though he has the king’s letters and charge, 800 miles away
these men try every trick to derail his work
But hope you see that this is not really a negative note but a positive one
because once more, in a totally different way
Nehemiah must throw himself upon the Lord, seek His grace
Answered prayer like God’s grace—can’t store it up, live off past experiences
can talk about them, enjoy the continual benefits
but new challenges are going to arise, can’t ever think—just answer this prayer
and my life will be smooth—not going to be smooth, no rest until heaven
but the Lord will answer your prayers for your present needs
Especially important for all of you who are burdened by brokenness
praying for broken people, relationships, places
when you receive an answer to prayer, a significant breakthrought
recognize that it is an answer to prayer for today’s needs,
gracious hand of God for today
tomorrow there may be new hurdles, even ones you never imagined
Know a fellow minister, he and his wife were called to adopt children
from another country who were in very desperate circumstances
lots of prayers, lots of amazing answers, Lord finally brought children to America
Guess what? Still praying—for new needs, some didn’t even know would face
still just as dependent upon God as they ever were
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, verse quoted often, essence of the Christian life
Luke 18:1 KJV “men ought always to pray and not to faint”
Remember that as you enjoy the answers to your prayers.