GRANT ME FAVOR: The Prayer of Nehemiah (Neh. 1:11)
Maybe you know exactly what you need to happen and where you need God to work. Yet, God first might work through someone in authority over you. That person could be a government official, teacher, or pastor or maybe even your boss, coach, parent, or spouse! But in order to get what you need, God has to move their hearts on your behalf.
As the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah held a very responsible position; yet he longed to be eight hundred miles away, back with his people in the destroyed city of Jerusalem. They were facing possible annihilation and Nehemiah needed to return to rebuild the city walls. More specifically, he needed three years off from his job and enough supplies to rebuild a wall around the entire city of Jerusalem! First, though, a huge change had to happen in the heart of the man in authority, that is, King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah’s superior, an unbeliever, had a nasty reputation for cutting the heads off subordinates who upset him. For Nehemiah to march into the king’s oval office and demand time off and building materials would be signing his own death warrant. So what could he do?
If you read the story of Nehemiah, you find a man who consistently turned his problems into prayer. He lived by the advice, “Pray when troubles trouble you.” We find him turning his problems into prayer in almost every one of the twelve chapters in the book bearing his name (Nehemiah 1:5-11: 2:5; 4:4-5, 9; 5:19; 6:9-14; 9:32; 13:14, 22, 29, 31). So when the need in Jerusalem was brought to his attention, he did as he always did. He brought the matter to the Lord. His prayer, one of the most effective in the Bible, is a tutorial on how to pray. Let’s see what we can learn from him.
Nehemiah opened with words of praise and perspective. God’s address is praise. Praise and thanksgiving are gateways into the presence of God (see Psalm 100:4). He also mentions the perspective that the God he is addressing is the one who keeps His covenant. The importance of this will become clear as the prayer develops (Nehemiah 1:5).
Nehemiah did not pray once and quit. He brought his burden to God repeatedly, day and night. It may have been weeks or even months from when he first began to pray about the plight of Jerusalem until God granted his request.
Jesus made a promise when He said, “keep on asking and it shall be given unto you.” He also encouraged us to be as persistent in our prayers as the friend at midnight and the widow who beseeched the unjust judge (Neh. 1:6).
Nehemiah then moved to a season of assessment and confession of sins (Neh. 1:6-7). He reminded God of the promises He made through Moses (Neh.1: 8-10). Then he got down to business and offered his petition (Neh. 1:11)
Nehemiah must have been familiar with the book of Genesis and with the prayer of Abraham’s servant, “Give me success today.” But he did not stop there. He told God specifically how he needed success: “Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man” (Neh. 2:1-9).
God is able to change the hearts of those in authority. God is able to change my heart. With whom do you need favor if you are going to be able to follow God’s heart? “Grant me favor” is one prayer we may need to use often. Start praying it now, and see what God can do for you.