I wonder how many believers take the time to pray and fast? I can honestly say I am not in the category of those who have. I have taken time away from things using the excuse that I work too hard to give up food, but I could give up something else. Sure, it can be giving up something else, but I believe there is something about fasting in the traditional sense that has meaning to it. Here in Nehemiah, we see the prophet of the same name hearing the stories of the broken city of Jerusalem and her walls in shambles from those who had escaped. In his heart, he knew something needed to be done but he did not know what, so 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. Then I said:
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you”
This is only the first part of his prayer but it is the cry of many believers who felt they have lost their way. Those who feel like they haven’t heard God’s voice in such a long time, maybe they have just been going through the motions. Then one day something breaks them, brings them to their knees with an unbridled passion to repent and crying out to the one who loves them. Nehemiah didn’t just expect God to answer, he fasted and prayed for some days, how long is not important but he prepared his heart to listen to what God would say. He trusted that God would answer and give him some sort of guidance in what was happening. We don’t hear what exactly God says to Nehemiah but what we do see is the confidence he has to speak to King Artaxerxes about what he needed to do.
What I love reading in 2:4 it says: Then the king said to me, “ What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. Think about it. He didn’t respond right away. Nehemiah stopped and went to ask God for what to do. I know all to often I have made brash and rapid decisions that have changed the course of my life. Did I stop and ask God, I wish I could say yes or that I took more than a 2 min moment with Him? No, I rushed into things and expected it to be okay. Why, because we love to make our own decisions. We don’t know how long Nehemiah took from the moment he was asked till his answer but the king waited, and he gave Nehemiah what he requested.
Imagine with me if you will a church that takes the time to fast and pray for their communities.? What if believers when making life decisions took the time to ask God what he thought about the situation? We need to be church inside and outside of the building. Sunday is a place where we gather and grow but for the rest of the week, we need to be sharing the love of Jesus all over the place. How much more effective will we be if we take the time to ask and listen to what God’s thoughts are?
Maybe you have been living a life that is on the outs, you once served God but now you’re not so sure. God loves you and is calling you back. Take the words of Nehemiah and make them yours, let God know that you have fallen and you want to get right with him again. That’s the awesome thing about our relationship with God, he is not vindictive and will always be ready to welcome you back. Don’t ever think that you have done something that there is no returning from. Take some time and pray, I encourage you to try to fast a meal and focus on him. It is one thing to skip a meal but if you don’t pray and focus on him you might as well just eat. Fasting and Prayer go hand in hand. I am going to try to myself, are you up to see what God has to say to you?
Father, I am done making excuses for my actions. I choose things without prayer and wonder why life isn’t going the way I expected. This shouldn’t surprise me as I know that when I trust you it all works out. So forgive me for my arrogance. I give my life back to your hands and I will work at strengthening our relationship with more prayer and fasting. Help me to reach those around me that need to hear about the love Jesus has and the hope found in him. Let me now hide in the shadows but step out and share. Like Nehemiah, my heart breaks form those who are hurting living in shambles. Use me. Amen