Results of praying
They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. Then I said, “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! Nehemiah 1:3-6
In this time of instant gratification, the tendency is to lose patience and to demand getting things immediately. Yet, the Scriptures provided numerous examples of God-fearing people waiting for His will to happen by seeking it out through prayer. Nehemiah’s experience cited from the text was an example of patiently waiting for God to act on his prayer. Nehemiah could have ignored the need at the moment and just let the Israelites wallow in their sinfulness and continue to reap the consequence of their disobedience to God’s command. But he was burdened by the situation and felt that God is calling him to initiate leading the Israelites to come back to God. He knew that the task ahead if not difficult was impossible so he did what every follower of God should do; ask the One who is capable of bringing people to His unfailing love. His brokenness led him to seek God in prayer and in fasting. He mourned to hear the physical destruction of Jerusalem and the moral and spiritual apathy of the Israelites. Nehemiah did not know what to do but to seek out God’s help. He began by admitting his own sinfulness of disobedience. “We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses” (v. 7). He also expressed his resolve to be committed to God and His will for his life. By doing this, his focus started to shift from selfishness to seeking out God’s purpose for His life. He realized God’s call to His life and His power alone to accomplish the impossible task before him. All these took place when he stopped what he was doing then he prayed and fasted. Reading through the Book of Nehemiah will show you that God was not after the rapid success of the physical task that Nehemiah will lead the Israelites to do. But it was the transformation of the heart that God was after. The victory was not achieved because they were able to rebuild Jerusalem but the return of the Israelites to God’s unfailing love. When you pray and fast, you are not asking God to change His mind so He could satisfy the longings of your hearts. Praying and fasting are God’s tools for you so you will be transformed and start to seek His will to be fulfilled in your life and to other people’s lives. Just like Nehemiah, when you come to the Lord in prayer, your focus is to trust that God will keep His promise. His promises are fulfilled so you could be in place where He will be honored and glorified. “But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored’” (v. 9).