4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
5 And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you.
Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand.
11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
Now I was cupbearer to the king. (Nehemiah 1:4-11)
Nehemiah: Fasting, Praying, and Daily Living
“…Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king.…”
King Artaxerxes, one of the most powerful men in the entire world, took notice of Nehemiah.
Just imagine standing before one of the most powerful, influential kings in the world. His word could grant you up to half the kingdom or it could take your life.
You’ve lived with integrity, honor, and faithfulness within his court. Yet deep down, you long to go back to your native nation.
Your heart aches – it longs for your people. So, what should you do?
Actively pray and wait, like Nehemiah.
Nehemiah prayed and waited
There were some Jews who survived the exile and were living in Jerusalem. Yet, they were “in great trouble and shame.” Jerusalem’s walls were destroyed; in essence, the city was ripe for an invasion.
Businesses wouldn’t be able to flourish due to the risks of outsiders. Threats were imminent.
The city, and consequently the Jewish people, were seemingly hopeless. It was only a matter of time. To make matters worse, this was the state of affairs; it was the fact of life every single day.
However, immediately upon hearing about the state of his people, Nehemiah sat down, wept, and mourned for days.
When was the last time we mourned over brokenness?
As cupbearer to the King Artaxerxes of Persia, Nehemiah was held in high regard. He was a man of influence.
He could’ve ignored the message he heard and continued serving in the King’s court as if nothing happened. After all, he had a pretty good life.
Yet, he didn’t idly sit.
He showed that he’s a man – he grieved. The story doesn’t end, there, though.
He “continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” He did that for up to four months.
Think about it. He was totally distraught. He still worked. He still lived.
Yet, for days he mourned. Then, he fasted and prayed.
He sought God.
Nehemiah cries out to God
How many times do we cry out to God for a person, a nation, a situation? Not enough.
Nehemiah’s cry to God reveals his character. It shows that he truly longed for his people to walk with God. It shows that he understood how sin destroys.
It shows that he knew the law. It shows that he was desperate for God.
Are we desperate for God?
Before replying to the king, Nehemiah again prayed and sought God. He prepared twice – once for many days when he fasted and prayed, the second time in the moment when he did a quick “Pause and pray” before replying to the king.
For the big things in life as well as for the stresses of living out each day, what are we doing to prepare?
Want to know how the king replied? Read more here.