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See part 2...

Pray for the Impossible, pt. 1

Nehemiah 1:5-11


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A Jew being the cupbearer to Artaxerxes, the Babylonian King, is an impossible thought to ponder.  How could this possibly be?  It was an impossible situation...but we serve the God of the impossible!  The Jews are being held in captivity, and their release seemed impossible.  And the destruction of Jerusalem also seemed to be a situation far beyond comprehension, and rebuilding it and its walls even less likely.  But here is where God does His best work, in impossible circumstances!


Nehemiah was just an ordinary guy w/ a regular testimony for the Lord...and it was just your average day when he heard about the rebuilding of the temple, and of the need to do the same with the walls which once surrounded the city, which now stood in heaps.  The gates were burned with fire.  The people there were discouraged and devastated in poverty.  It broke Nehemiah's heart.  He began to weep and pray and fast over it.


v. 4          One of the major themes which emerges from the book of Nehemiah is prayer.  The book and opens and closes with prayer.  There are 12 prayers recorded in the book of Nehemiah.  Nehemiah realized there are many things you can do AFTER you pray, but there is nothing you can do UNTIL you pray!


George MacDonald, "In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably, or succeed more miserably."  Any seemingly successful person who does it independently of God is above all most miserable!  Man is incomplete until he realizes that only God completes him.  When we are dependent on God we walk thru life with the most joy, not when we heap things around us as our gods.


Alan Redpath, "There is too much working before men and too little waiting before God."  If we took 1% of the energy we put into trying to MAKE things happen and invested that into prayer, we would see an exponential increase in blessings!


Mark it down:  This book is about building a work for God, and behind every great work of God there is somewhere a kneeling figure.


All of heaven's power becomes focused on the work of God when the people of God are willing to weep, pray, and fast for that which is truly important in this life.


Nehemiah hears about this impossible situation.  He is down but not out.  Depressed but not defeated.  He has a faith outlook.  God's people are not helpless in the face of problems.  We do not have to sit idly by and just accept whatever life deals our way.  A Christian shouldn't have the negative mindset that there is a difficulty surrounding every opportunity.  A good Christian sees an opportunity in every difficulty!  But every miracle God ever performed started out with a problem.  Jesus didn't do miracles to make good things better.  He did miracles to make bad things good.  He righted wrongs and fixed broken things.  Problems are opportunities for God to show Himself strong.


Nehemiah's REACTION        was weeping and any of us humans.  But fasting and prayer was his COUNTERACTION.  God's people have a powerful tool our disposal.  It is a most powerful counteraction.  It is the mighty weapon of prayer.

2 Corinthians 10:4
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

Prayer moves the hand that moves the world!


Here is one of the mightiest prayers in all of the Bible.


1.     A prayer of contrition.

He understands he's kneeling before the great God of heaven.

v. 5          He isn't coming to God flippantly.  Yes, prayer is conversation with God, but always with reverence for who He is.  Jesus prayed this way in His example of the Lord's prayer.  "Hallowed be Thy Name."


Nehemiah didn't rush into the presence of God asking for his problem to be fixed.


Why "great and terrible?"  Terrible here means 'one who incites terror.'  It's not about His characteristics, it's about His position over us.  It comes from the same root word from which we get the term 'reverend.'  So if you call me Rev. Jerry you're calling me terrible Jerry!  We live in a culture today where we only want to hear about the love of God, the mercy and grace of God, and the goodness of God.  They are all very real, and I'm thankful for those attributes.  But if you reject the above the Bible says it is a fearful thing to fall in to the hands of the living God!

2 Corinthians 5:11
11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men;

We live in the 'no fear' generation.  America has lost her fear for the God who gave us this land!  And the church is getting forgetful too.  We used to fear God and it showed in our behavior and lifestyle.  Not talking about an unhealthy fear of a dictator.  Rather, we used to be afraid of letting Him down!

        I'm against today's preaching and music and programs in the church that tries to pull God down to man's level.  The church today is saying to the world, "Since you aren't willing to go to the One who said, 'Come unto Me,' we'll bring a more tolerable version of Him down to where you like to live!"


God is not 'the man upstairs' and the new Comedy Central show "J.C." is as blasphemous as they come.


v. 10        Learn from Nehemiah how to move the hand of God and get prayers answered.  When you have real problems and impossible situations you don't need a God you can walk up to and 'high five.'  You need a God that is so great, mighty, and powerful, that coming into His presence causes you to kneel in humble contrition.


2.     A prayer of concern.

Nehemiah didn't pray just because it was time to pray.  He wasn't sitting down to eat or taking up the offering or praying any kind of prayer by rote and tradition.  [There is a place for a structured schedule and principled prayer and Bible study as a spiritual discipline.]  He was praying a real prayer of concern.


There's 2 times to pray:  when you feel like it and when you don't.  And we especially need to pray when we feel like it the least.  And there's 2 times to get into the Bible and meditate on it and ponder its truth...

Joshua 1:8
8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

When is the last time you prayed not because you were called upon or out of habit, but because you were broken hearted and hurting?  When is the last time you were burdened about someone's soul so much that you wept and prayed for them?  When is the last time you bore the burden of a fellow Christian and took their request on your back so much that you helped carry that burden...and you carried it to God in prayer, believing you could 'pray it thru' for them?


ill.--We're so blessed, more than you'll ever know, by some of you who weep and pray for our son to talk, as if he were your own son!  That's how we should all pray for one another.


I'm talking about heartfelt concern.

"We pray without crying, we give without sacrificing, we live without it any wonder that we sow without reaping?!"


We are a dry eyed church in a hell bent world. 

"Our eyes are dry, our faith is old, our heart is hard, our prayers are cold."


Nehemiah never could have rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem until he wept over the ruins.  The burden led to the prayer that led to the miracle!  You cannot heal what you do not feel.


Tears are a language God understands.  He is moved by what we are moved by.  Not talking about the crocodile tears we can work up, but the genuine heartfelt burden that leads us to weep.

Psalm 126:5-6
5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Contrition, concern...


3.     A prayer of confession.

v. 6-7       The best prayers are the ones that God hears.  And He has promised that He doesn't hear the prayers of those who willfully aren't right with him.

Psalm 66:18
18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

Nehemiah knew it was sin that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and her walls.  And it would do no good to weep over the ruins if he was not willing to repent of the sin which led to those ruins.

        Is your life lying in ruins?  Is sin to blame?  Don't just cry over your plight.  Make it right!


It has been my personal experience that many times God will give you back more for your repentance than you lost thru your sin!


"I've blown it, and I've lost so much, and it can never be regained!"

        No!  We serve a great God, and He's not finished with you...because you're still breathing!


There's a difference between being sorry for your sin and just being sorry you were caught.  Some people only weep over their sin once they are experiencing painful consequences.  There is a difference between weeping because you don't like your consequences and weeping because you let down the God of heaven, Who loved you and gave Himself for you!


Nehemiah did weep over the consequences, but primarily he wept over the sin which led them there.


Reread v. 6b-7 [emphasizing 'we', 'I' 'my']

        What is Nehemiah doing saying such words?  He wasn't even alive for those sins.  He was born and raised a thousand miles away from it all.


This is the identification principle.  He is identifying w/ the sins of his people. 

Ezra 9:5-6
5 And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God,
6 And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.

Things we used to blush over in America we are now proud of and flaunt!

Ezra 9:7
7 Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.

Nehemiah recognized the true fact that when a nation turns against God there is a sense in which we ALL bear some responsibility.  We're all Americans, and we're in this together.  And even if it is not you personally sinning it is our apathy and indifference which has allowed it right under our noses.  We blame our leaders for many things but we elected them.  You say, "my vote doesn't matter enough."  It's not just your vote, it's your influence, your stand, your testimony!


When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas House, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:  link

Heavenly Father,

We come before You today to ask Your Forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ''Woe to those who call evil good,'' but that's exactly what we have done. We have lost our Spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that; we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism; We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism; We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle; We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery; We have neglected the needy and called it self preservation; We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare; We have killed our unborn and called it choice; We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable; We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem; We have abused power and called it political savvy; We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition; We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression; We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of this state and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state of Kansas. Grant them your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your Will.  I ask in the name of your Son, The Living Savior, Jesus Christ.

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest.  In 6 short weeks his church logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively.
Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on "The Rest of the Story" on the radio and received a larger response to this program than any other he has ever aired.



This identification principle also applies to the church...

Never a year goes by that a big name preacher doesn't fall by the wayside morally.  As a pastor I'm asked about these things often and the temptation is to answer in a way that puts me above that...but not so.  I am a man and but by the grace of God there go I!


So, we need a national confession, but also a personal confession.  It's much easier to point out sin in others lives than in your own.  The beam in your own eye keeps you from seeing clearly the speck in someone else's eye.


Raise your hand if you have something big to pray about and you need God to move in a BIG way.  That's your miracle need.

Matthew 19:26
26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.


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See part 2...

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