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Praying Like Nehemiah

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Listen to the Audio version | Reading Time: 4 minutes

My grandmother talked only of Jesus. I saw her give money away at church and to individuals. And when her Bible was given to me years after her passing, I discovered the underlined passages outnumbered the ones unmarked. The pages were crinkled and tear-stained. 

Grandma lived a difficult life. She lost her father before her seventh birthday and developed Lupus in her teens—long before they knew what to do with it. She spent much of my childhood in the hospital, and doctors sent her home to die on three separate occasions. Grandpa passed from another rare auto-immune disease eight years before she left us. 

Because of their health, my grandparents lived in poverty. Nonetheless, you’d have never known life treated her badly if you met her. She never talked about her illness. I only learned these details from my mother and aunt after Grandma was gone. 

Though I never witnessed her deep, heartfelt prayers, I saw the effects of them in her peace-filled life, and I still see them in the blessings she obviously prayed for the ones she left behind, even four generations later.

Pray Without Ceasing

The prayers recorded in the book of Nehemiah remind me of my own—short and to the point. Nehemiah prayed in the moment as the need arose. He didn’t wait for his daily quiet time to ask the Creator for help. He talked to God all day long.

Those kinds of prayers are my forte. I like to think I learned this from Grandma.

I converse with Jesus as I write and while I wash dishes. When I wake, I begin to praise even before I get out of bed. And on the days I forget or feel too hurried, my anxiety level rises. I know when I allow life’s busyness or the chasing after my own desires to sever that cord, I feel empty and depressed—anything but blessed.

Paul told the Thessalonians, “Pray continually.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is one of the few verses I love to read in the old King James Version, “Pray without ceasing.” 

This was a steady practice of Brother Lawrence, a French monk who lived in the 1600s.  It’s said that he felt he worshipped most effectively when he prayed while serving in the kitchen, allowing the simple act of peeling potatoes transform him into an instrument of praise.

I’m grateful for the trinkets in my home that call me into a practice of prayer and praise.  As I dust and clean each one, I’m provided with an opportunity to pray for the person who gifted it.

I also love to listen to Christian music because of the way those songs get stuck in my head and continually remind me to pray and praise. Additionally, I practice what I call “drive-by praying.” Each time I see an ambulance or pass the home of someone I know, I lift the occupants to Jesus. Often, I find myself praying blessings over the houses and cars of total strangers as I travel down the road. 

Many think communication with Jesus requires just the right words. They think of prayer like an English paper, something lengthy to be evaluated. But there is no proper length or verbiage for our conversations with God. Some people use breath prayers when the weight of the day is more than they can bear, uttering a single word or phrase as they breathe out. “Jesus” or “I need you” becomes a prayer. Romans 8:26-27, NIV, reminds us,

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

When we have an attitude of prayer but don’t have the strength to pray, God’s got it covered!

Going Deeper

I want to better develop a prayer practice like that of Nehemiah’s.  He had a deeper prayer life, one that transcended his in-the-moment prayers. 

Beginning in Nehemiah 1, we see this method of prayer, when he prayed,

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.
For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
Nehemiah 1:4, NIV

We might be tempted to think Nehemiah could fast and pray for some days because he had more time. But as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, he would have been on call 24/7. He was a servant. He didn’t get a day off or vacation time. When the king requested his presence, he had to be there immediately. Setting a scheduled daily quiet time would have been impossible. The only time he may have avoided inevitable interruptions would have been the middle of the night. Still, Artaxerxes’ most trusted servant fasted and prayed for several days. 

I wonder if Nehemiah’s practice of continual prayer helped keep God’s gracious hand on him.

Nehemiah’s deep prayers, the ones that lasted for days, gave him the courage to face a pagan king and ask to be released from service so he could help restore the chosen dwelling place of God, Jerusalem. Empowered with the favor of the Lord, he organized the people and built the wall around the city in fifty-two days despite the efforts of the enemies of Jerusalem who tried to stop the progress. 

That kind of prayer took Nehemiah from servant of Artaxerxes to governor of Jerusalem. 

I would love for my prayers to change me like they did Nehemiah and my grandma. I aspire to have prayers as powerful as theirs, preparing the way so I can carry out God’s plan and become everything my Heavenly Father has created me to be.

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  1. Lynne, your post above has inspired me to read Nehemiah. His method of prayer is something that we all need to practice more of today. Thanks for your encouraging words.

    1. Thank you, Nancy! I’ve been doing a lot of research on Nehemiah as my next book to release features his fictional niece. The depth of Nehemiah’s faith is inspiring!

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