Sunday, February 25, 2007

A man of prayer

if I were to ask you to name a man of prayer from the Bible, who would it be? I'm guessing it would be Daniel. You probably know the children's chorus from Sunday School - 'Daniel was a man of prayer, daily he prayed three times.'

But he isn't the only one. I'm reading Nehemiah now, and have been struck by his prayerfulness. Having made it to the second chapter, he's already been praying right through - and the Commentary I'm using has highlighted that the praying goes right through.

Check out Nehemiah 2:4. Nehemiah is in front of the King of Persia, doing his job as cupbearer. Yet he's sad, noticeably sad. The king has asked what's wrong, and Nehemiah pours out his heart, saying that he's sad because of the condition of Jerusalem, the city of his fathers' graves. Then the question from the King comes: "What are you requesting?"

Imagine being in front of Queen Elizabeth, and she asks you what you want done! What would you do? I'm guessing I would probably launch into a series of requests - a new car, a tour around the world etc... But what does Nehemiah do? 'So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king...' Nehemiah's concern, even in that important moment was to pray. Just a sigh, or a breath, maybe, but still an awareness that he couldn't do it on his own, and appealing to God for help and strength.

So what? Does this passage just teach us that in trying situations it's a good idea to fire up an 'arrow prayer' to God? Well, maybe, yes, but more than that, we see that his prayer in the heat of the moment was rooted in being a man of prayer - as we see when we read Nehemiah 1.

That's when Nehemiah heard of the state of Jerusalem from his brother, and look at his response: 'As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven' (Nehemiah 1:4). In another posting coming soon, we'll look at the content of that prayer, but for now, let's just think of his habit of praying.

It took his praying in secret to empower him to prayer in the moment of opportunity. How do we pray? Do you aspire to be a man or woman of prayer?

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