Praying Through the Bible project
Calling and Prayer
Sometimes God calls us to do unexpected things—perhaps life-changing, perhaps just altering a daily course. But rather than dive right into action, the right thing might be to spend time in serious, open prayer, like Nehemiah.
The book begins as a first-person narrative by Nehemiah, who is a cup-bearer to the king—that is, he brought wine to the king. But it meant more than that. He would have often been close to the king and his harem, and were often eunuchs, though there is no indication that Nehemiah was one. He may have served as the king’s wine-taster, bearer of the signet ring, and his financial advisor. As such, he would have had direct access to the king, which will play an important role later when he approaches the king with his wishes to help his people.
One day, in discussion with another Jew, Nehemiah learns that those who had returned to Jerusalem were in trouble because the walls of the city are in disrepair and the gates had been destroyed. This news affected Nehemiah profoundly. He cried, mourned, fasted, and prayed for days. He recorded the words (or some of the words) of his prayer.
After asking God to hear him, he confesses the sins of himself, his family, and all of Israel. He then reminds God that, while punishment had come to them as they had been warned, God has also promised to restore them if they returned to him. Since they have done so, he asks God to hear him and give him mercy.
Calling. Have you ever felt that God was calling you to do something? Did prayer play a role? Notice how Nehemiah, who seemingly had no sense that he would ever leave the role of the King’s cupbearer, felt called. But he did not just run off—he spent time in serious, focused prayer. Perhaps you don’t think you have been called by God—but don’t assume a “calling” is some big, career-changing event. It might just be something you need to do different, someone you need to help, some minor, but important, change. Pray about it like Nehemiah, being patient and asking God to guide you and help you to make timely and well-thought-out actions.
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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 your servants, the people of Israel, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Both my family and I have sinned. 7 We have offended you deeply, failing to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, ‘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 under the farthest skies, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place at which I have chosen to establish my name.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great power and 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 in revering your name. Give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man!”
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