The Book of Nehemiah is a gem tucked away in middle of the Old Testament. It contains some great nuggets on not only the topic of leadership, but also on PRAYER. We are taught some timeless lessons on prayer throughout this thirteen chapter O.T. historical book.
Back in the day, actually in the 20th year of Artaxerxes, 6th king of the Medio-Persian Empire, (445-444 BC to be exact), Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king. He placed his life on the line every day (he was the king’s coffee taster!), yet it gave Nehemiah a lot of authority. Learning that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, he asked the king for permission to return and rebuild them, and Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild the walls. The rest is history.
In our blog last week, we focused on the first two phrases of the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father , who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.” Jesus teaches. First things first. We laser-beam focus on the Father, creator of the world, and the many attributes of His character. But what’s that got to do with Nehemiah?
In his devotional, “God’s Daily Classroom”, Jerry Tapp discusses one of the numerous prayers in the book of Nehemiah. In one of these prayers in Nehemiah 9:6-38, there are 60 times when Ezra (and Nehemiah) use the word “You” in referring to God. The point is that Ezra and Nehemiah focus first on God in their prayer. “You have…You are….You made…You saw….You led….You commanded….You helped…. You placed….You caused… You allowed…etc”. The prayer wonderfully summarizes the numerous blessings of God on Israel in spite of the Jews’ rebellious ways. Sounds simple. But because of our self-centeredness, there can be a blurry focus in our prayers.
So what’s the point? How many of our prayers include the word “I” more than “You”? Don’t neglect the “You” in your prayers! As we live our days each day, we want to begin to focus on what I call “an attitude” of prayer. We want to be communing with the Lord all the time. The key is not to forget Him! That’s why the apostle Paul encourages us in his letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:17) to, “Pray without ceasing”.
Case in point. In 1982, the Today Show in New York City scheduled an interview with Reverend Billy Graham. When he arrived at the studio, one of the program’s producers informed Graham’s assistant that a private room had been set aside for the reverend for prayer before the broadcast. The assistant thanked the producer for the thoughtful gesture, but told him that Mr. Graham would not need the room. The producer was a bit shocked that a world-famous Christian leader would not wish to pray before being interviewed on live national television. Graham’s assistant responded, “Mr. Graham started praying when he got up this morning, he prayed while eating breakfast, he prayed on the way over in the car, and he’ll probably be praying all the way through the interview.” Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley, The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, (Zondervan, 2005).
Next Week. The Lord’s Prayer continued………
By the way, for a really great read on Nehemiah, check this book out: