Nehemiah needed a breakthrough. The spiritual failure of his people had led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Nehemiah needed a breakthrough to help resolve this and he found it through prayer. We find three examples of his prayer.
Firstly, he was heartbroken when he heard about the situation in Jerusalem and his initial prayer was one of mourning, sadness and weeping.
Secondly at the end of several days of mourning he prayed a more thoughtful and structured prayer. In this he reminded God of His promises and called on him to fulfil them. Hidden from us as the story opens, but then revealed at the end of this second prayer is that Nehemiah held an important office in the court of the king, he was the king’s cupbearer. This meant he might have opportunity to speak to the king about the problem facing the people in Jerusalem.
Thirdly, Nehemiah prayed when the king asked him, What do you want? We read, I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king (vs4 -5). Compared to his days of prayer or even his structured prayer, this third prayer was sent quickly and swiftly to God. It happened in a heartbeat, an intake of breath, a momentary pause before he answered the king. We sometimes refer to these as arrow prayers, quick, straight and to the point.
This arrow prayer, when speaking to the king, would not have been so powerful if not for the other prayers Nehemiah prayed. The earlier prayers were like tension pulling back on the bow, so when it came time for the arrow prayer to be released there was power behind it. We can’t presume on God’s grace, relying on arrow prayers to give us breakthroughs if we aren’t also prayerful at other times. I am confident God hears our arrow prayers in times of need, when all we can do is cry out, but as Christians we have a responsibility to also pray before the crisis, before the pressure is on us.
Nehemiah’s breakthrough prayer was answered, "And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.” (Nehemiah 2:8)
This year, we as individuals and as a church will send arrow prayers to God. Some will be prayed for family and friends, some for ourselves and situations we face, others will be for our church. Long before we pray those quick arrow prayers, we need to be putting tension on the bow of prayer by our regular prayerfulness. If we really want to see spiritual breakthroughs, we need to spend time in prayer with God.
Our church offers times of prayers, weekly and we invite you to join us. Also, on Saturday 2 March, we have our annual 8-2-8 Prayer Day. This is an event to help focus our hearts on God and to commit the year ahead to God. Come and join us for these times of prayer.
How do I foster prayerfulness in my life?
Rev John Malcolm