“Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you.” –Martin Luther
We should never ask God to use us then make ourselves unavailable. If we do that, then our prayers are mere words, devoid of conviction. We should always present ourselves for God’s use to answer prayers if He chooses to so use us. That is what Nehemiah did here in chapter one. This attitude should permeate us in our sanctification.
Do you see the progression in Nehemiah’s prayer? His concern about the problem led him to brokenness. While he was weeping and fasting, he expressed his conviction about God’s character. As he focused on the greatness and awesomeness of His holy God, he was quickly reminded of his own wickedness and therefore cried out in confession. After owning his role in the nation’s depravity, he prayed boldly and with confidence in God’s promises. This then leads him to a commitment to get involved. We see this in verse 11:
“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man. I was cupbearer to the king.”
While Nehemiah was praying, his burden for Jerusalem became greater and his vision of what needed to be done became clearer. He didn’t pray for God to send someone else – he simply said, “Here am I, send me!” He knew that he would have to approach the king and request a 3-year leave of absence and so asked God for “success,” in his request to the king. He wanted to see God break out on his behalf when he goes in front of the king to make his request. Proverbs 21:1 states “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse where He pleases.” Nehemiah was committed to get involved and not just sit on the sidelines and lament the condition of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah was a different type of guy. We should be like him. He saw a problem with Jerusalem, was burdened by it, asked God to bless him with a plan, and then acted on the plan. How often do we follow these steps in our prayer time. Far too often we treat prayer as a one-way device: we summon God to listen to us but we fail to listen to Him. We lay our requests at His feet and then walk away. Instead of waiting and listening, we just move on as if God is constrained to do as we please.
God is not at our call. We are at His.
And this is how we should approach our responsibility in our progressive sanctification. As we saw in the last article, God has promised to fully sanctify every person He calls to salvation. We can count on His promise to do that. But we do have a responsibility to participate in our sanctification. God’s plan for each of us may vary greatly. The trials we face may be different – well, they WILL be different. Their difference may be in the nature, depth, intensity, or length of the trial. But there will be differences. All trials make us more like Christ and we need to embrace them fully…wait, I’m getting ahead of myself!
In our prayer life we must be willing to commit to God’s plan for our sanctification, rely on His promises, be very honest with God, understand our problem and ask God to bless us with a plan rather than for Him to bless our plan.
Where are you in this prayer process right now? Are you concerned about your requests? Do you have a conviction about God’s holy character? Are you ready to confess your sins? Do you have confidence in God’s promises? Are you ready to make a commitment to get involved in God’s kingdom work?
The walls of our lives have been toppled by our sin nature, deafness to God’s voice, selfishness, and arrogance. We are confronted with only two choices now:
1. To learn to live in the rubble of our lives
2. To be bold enough to admit our sins, ask God for His plan for our sanctification, and then commit to be involved in that plan.
Which way are you going to proceed? The choice you make will affect you in a monumental way.