Part 1 – The Secret Ingredient
“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. 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, 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...”
Nehemiah’s prayer is a wonderful insight to just how prayer exposes us. As he turns to prayer he is not preoccupied with the state of the Persian empire or the particular status of King Artaxerxes. His heart and mouth ask after Jerusalem, and it is for her that he longs, for her he has concern, for her his heart breaks.
His instinctive response to Hanani was not based on the eloquence and passion of Hanani‘s words, but on an already heavily inclined heart that was bent in the favour and love of his people. It would be of Jerusalem that Nehemiah would lie awake at night thinking about. It would be of Jerusalem his daydreaming hours would fixate on.
Prayer exposed what Nehemiah loved and what he did not. It brought to the fore what he deeply cared about as well as reveal what meant comparatively little to him.
But something critical also happens when Nehemiah prays! That handful of concern, that pocketful of desire that he expresses in prayer, quickly develops and mushrooms into a raging, fearless passion. It is quite an amazing thing to behold, how prayer can take our desires, however minuscule, and convert them into significant passions.
When we bring to God our concerns and cares, however small and seemingly insignificant, prayer has a way of developing and progressing them. Prayer accelerates the heart of God within us. What he cares about and longs over, takes a root in us. We identify with the heart of God as we turn our faces and hearts towards him.
This was seen in the extreme in Nehemiah’s case. What began as a concerned question in his mind and heart, would eventually turn into a vocation, his life’s mission. Of course it may not accelerate to that degree with all of us, in fact it seldom does, but prayer nonetheless, will always propel us somewhere, toward something, even in spite of our seemingly small concern. It never leaves us where it finds us. That drop of concern with which you come to God, will invariably change into something else. Prayer, once entered, is the incubator that progresses and develops life, and determines direction.