“The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”
Nehemiah 1:10-11a New Living Translation
Nehemiah was a man who saw a need and responded to the crisis at the heart of that need. He was serving King Artaxerxes as a cupbearer in the Persian capital of Susa. Many Hebrews had returned to Jerusalem, including, apparently, his brother. When his brother gave him the report of the condition of the wall of Jerusalem and the lack of safety for those who had returned, it caused great distress for Nehemiah. It caused him to mourn the fate of his family’s homeland.
Nehemiah’s first response to the need in Jerusalem was to pray. God had caused something to stir in Nehemiah’s heart and he was compelled to do something about it. Therefore, he turned to God in prayer. After beginning with praise about God’s faithfulness, Nehemiah turns to confession and identifies with the sins of his nation and his family. He doesn’t dismiss the sin as someone else’s problem. He takes ownership of the sins of his people. He, then, reminds God of His promise of restoration once people have repented.
Knowing that it is God’s heart to forgive the repentant ones, Nehemiah takes a bold step. He asked God for favor with King Artaxerxes as he prepares to present his desire to the king. He is confident in God’s character to listen to those who seek to honor Him, even when many have rejected Him before. Not all Hebrews rejected God now, therefore Nehemiah’s call was for the sake of those who sought to honor the name of God. In a sense, they would be the ones who stood in the gap for the rest of the nation.
As followers of Jesus, we have the opportunity to stand in the gap for our communities and nation, as well. When we see society around us reject God’s ways and seek their own direction, we can take the role of those who still seek to honor God despite the rejection of God all around us. In those times we must acknowledge our own part and repent on our community’s behalf. As we do that, though, we can stand confident in God’s character to forgive and desire to hear the prayers of those who seek to honor His name.
God, forgive us for the ways we and our community have turned our backs on you. Give us favor in our desire to honor and represent you to a world that often rejects your ways.