02 Feb Bullet Prayers in the Midst of Battle, Nehemiah 1:1-2:9
In this story, the captive Nehemiah learns that Jerusalem, the city of his ancestors, from which he has been exiled, is in disgrace and in ruins. His heart breaks. What is he going to do about this? He longs to go and fix it. He longs to go to battle for his God to turn this terrible situation around.
Significantly, he turns to God in prayer. He spends “some days” (Neh. 1:4) in prayer and fasting, seeking God’s will as he mourns this sad situation. He calls upon God to move, to act, and to use him to make a difference.
He then returns to his job as wine steward for King Artaxerxes, the ruler of Babylon, the nation holding the Jews in captivity. He hopes to appeal to the King to allow him to go and rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and restore the city to its former glory.
What happens next is a key lesson for all of us who would be warriors for our God.
We are about to learn a lesson that will change our lives, one that will take us to victories in battle that we have never known before.
After days away in fasting and prayer, Nehemiah finally walks into the presence of the King once again. When he enters the room, Artaxerxes notices that he is downcast.
Read the passage below, and put yourself in the room, noting the highlighted mention of prayer:
In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.” (Nehemiah 2:1-5)
Hold it! Nehemiah prayed? Right in the middle of a conversation with the King? How could he do that? Why would he do that? And, by the way, hadn’t he already fasted and prayed for days on end? Why would he need to pray again?
Fellow Warriors, we are about to learn a key lesson here lot – a lesson about the nature of prayer, and how we need to employ it in the midst of battle.
Yes, we need long times of prayer. Jesus set that example for us (Luke 5:16, 6:12-16). If we aren’t doing that, we are not imitating our Lord’s example.
But Jesus also prayed spontaneously, even while hanging on the cross, when he could barely get out one sentence at a time.
What is the point here?
Nehemiah had prayed and fasted for days, asking God to bless his coming efforts with success. But what happens when the moment of battle comes, when he is actually standing there, in front of the King?
Nehemiah comes in to bring Artaxerxes his wine. The King notices that Nehemiah looks discouraged, and asks him what is bothering him. Nehemiah tells him of his grief over Jerusalem. Then, the moment comes: The King asks Nehemiah: “What is it you want?”
Nehemiah’s earlier days-long prayer is being answered? What will he do next?
Brothers, this is a lesson for all of us as warriors for our God.
Pray! Pray long and hard. Fast and pray for days – amen to that!
But there is more. Pray in the moment. Pray in the midst of conflict. Pray with your sword in your hand while the enemy is pounding on your shield! Pray those bullet prayers right in the midst of battle!
Brother Warriors, let us be Prayer Warriors. Without prayer, we will fall. Without prayer, we are fighting in our own strength. Let us pray when we are away from battle, all alone with our God. Prayers like this will prepare us for the battles to come. But let’s do more than that – let us pray in the midst of battle as well. Why? Because we desperately need the power and presence of our God in the very moment of combat – right in the midst of the struggle.
In his great call for us to put on our armor and fight the great battle against the devil, Paul concludes his message by telling us that prayer is a key to victory:
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Eph. 6:18
May we be men of prayer, those who pray long and short, planned and spontaneous, before battle and in the middle of battle. If we pray like this, victory will be ours!
Let us imitate our hero Nehemiah who prayed in the moment of trial. Let us heed the word of the Spirit, given us by our brother Paul to “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17).
Above all, let us imitate Jesus, the greatest warrior of all, who was a man of prayer. He went away and spent days in prayer. (Luke 5:16, 9:28, 11:1) He prayed all night before he selected the Twelve (Luke 6:12-16). He prayed deep into the night as he faced his greatest challenge of all – going to the cross (Matt. 26:36-46).
Yes, he prayed in these ways, but he also prayed spontaneously, right in the moment. In the midst of unspeakable suffering, while hanging on the cross, Jesus prayed over and over again.
What was the last thing Jesus ever said while his heart of flesh was still beating? – A prayer to God!
Brothers, let us be Warriors of Prayer – men who pray all the days, hours…and moments of our lives!