With going away to minister this weekend, I’ll post the next installment of the fasting devotional here a few days early. Fasting and prayer are precious to God! Do it in secret, don’t look like you’re fasting, don’t brag about it, and God will “reward you in secret!” His Blessings, PB
We love it when God speaks! His voice is like nothing else and when He speaks we are changed by what He says. We most often, however, want Him to speak to us in special, personal and outward ways. Have you ever seen people line up for a word of personal prophecy? It’s hard to keep folks away when there’s an opportunity!
Nehemiah was convinced that God had spoken to him and to the whole nation of the Jews, yet God’s voice was disobeyed. And it wasn’t the voice of the prophet that he referred to. He referred to God’s Word given to Moses; the written Word! Have you ever looked at the Scriptures and breezed over what you’ve read, yet poured over a prophetic word spoken to you by a prophet? Ask God to give you a new respect for His Word, the Bible. Make a plan to read the Bible through this year. And plan on how you’ll obey His Word as you ask Him to make it alive to you.
In these verses we hear another part of Nehemiah’s prayer. He ‘reminds’ God of what He said, who the Jews were to Him and what He had done for them in the past. Did God need reminding? I’ll let you answer that for yourself! This was interaction with God on the basis of God’s Word, taken to God in prayer and believed on in faith. God seems to love it when we ‘remind’ Him of His Word. We are changed by rehearsing what is unchangeable. Faith rests on what God has said and done and has promised for the future. Link what you are asking of the Lord to God’s promises in His Word. Stand on His revealed will and believe that what you seek is connected to what He wants. Faith pleases God and stands on what He has revealed about Himself and His will.
Nehemiah, so far, has done all his responding to the burden of his heart with prayer and fasting. There have been no specific requests for anything until the end of his prayer. Somewhere in the middle of his praying the Holy Spirit began to speak to him about direction. He asks the Lord for His ear to be attentive to further prayer, to hear the prayers of the Jews, to let him prosper “this day” and to grant him mercy in the sight of “this man,” King Artexerxes. He began to see that his position as a cupbearer was the beginning of the answer that the Lord wanted to bring. Specific direction arrives in the middle of our personal prayer life. So many times we think and ponder and analyze before we get into God’s presence and pray. God wants to give you specific direction for your specific requests but they will come while we’re on our knees, concerned about Him alone. Are you looking for specific direction? Answers that defy logic? Continue to get in God’s presence, be honest, be confessing, be full of faith in Him and His Word and then ask for specifics. God loves to give them.
Notice the time frame of the beginning of this chapter. “…it came to pass in the month of Nisan…” Compare it to the beginning of the first chapter. “It came to pass in the month of Chislev…” Nehemiah began to pray in the ninth month of the Jewish calendar year, Chislev, or Kislev, as it is now spelled. This chapter records the first outward evidence that God had heard his prayer, and when did it happen? On the first month of the calendar year, Nisan. That means that Nehemiah waited about 4 months to see the Lord’s hand move in response to his prayer and fasting. Counting on instant results? Don’t! God’s timing is perfect and He answers prayer when we pray it, only we see the results later. Sometimes much later! Don’t be surprised if God takes months to answer what you agonize over in these three weeks. Praying is like sowing seed; it comes to harvest in another, but the right, season.
In response to your prayers there will come surprising responses from Heaven. You might ask the Lord to change something very important and have an expectation as to how He does it. God will most likely not address your needs in the way you expect. He likes to take care of the “how” of His answers because, well, He’s God! Nehemiah was just doing his job here at this point, four months after his heartfelt prayers and fasting. On this nondescript day the king looks at him and says “Why is your face sad, since you’re not sick?” No one was allowed to be sad in the king’s presence and Nehemiah made sure he was always smiling and positive when he was on duty. Nehemiah was petrified! It could mean his head would be the price of this slip. However, this particular day God initiated His answers to prayer by the unexpected; He let Nehemiah look sad to the king! Don’t expect God to answer by the method of your choice. Look for the unusual, the unexpected, to come about in answer to your prayers and even if it seems scary, trust that He is at work.
Nehemiah is nearly frozen in fear. The king has seen that he showed sorrow in his face and asked why he was feeling that way. Nehemiah could have done a few things, but chose to take a leap of faith. He understood that this unusual circumstance was from God, but couldn’t have known how it was going to turn out. So he blurts out his heart’s burden to the pagan leader of the most powerful nation of the world at that time. He admits he’s sad, tells the king why and pauses. The result? God’s favor! Artaxerxes said “What do you request?” Take a leap of faith, based on your prayers this year. Expect that God’s favor will follow when you see Him change circumstances in a surprising way. God really is on your side when you concern yourself with what concerns Him. Favor follows your prayerful actions every time.
Nehemiah continued to depend on the Lord, as evidenced by his “flare prayer” launched up under his breath but with his whole heart: “So I prayed to the God of Heaven.” Notice that Nehemiah had dependence upon God and a plan that God had birthed in his heart, ready for action. I need you to send me to Jerusalem, I’ll be gone this long and I need letters from you and resources from your forests. In this time of prayer and fasting, God will give you a plan that comes from His heart for what He has ahead for you. It will emerge from your prayers, your heartfelt, faith-filled times with Him. Write it down, run it by those in spiritual authority, hold it in your heart and at the right time, implement it. But don’t leave God in the dust of your actions; as if you could! Stay reliant on God in continuing relationship with Him. Put the Lord of the plan before the plan itself, but have the plan ready for action. Prayer and fasting has very real results.