"And they said to me [Nehemiah], 'The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.' As soon as I heard these words I sat down, wept, and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven." - Nehemiah 1:3-4
When Nehemiah learned of the very poor condition of the Jewish remnant in the land of Israel, of their trouble and shame, and of the broken down walls and gates of Jerusalem, he was heartbroken. All he could do was sit down, weep, and mourn. Then he began a period of extended fasting and prayer before God. Then things began to happen. Nehemiah was able to speak directly to the king of Persia about the situation in Jerusalem. The king allowed him to return to the land and even provided building materials for the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls. This was an amazing turn of events.
Here's some life lessons: (1) we are to care deeply about the condition of God's people and God's institutions, both in our own locality but also around the world; (2) when confronted with very depressing news, we are weep and mourn before God, then fast and pray, confessing our corporate sins and reminding God of his covenant promises; and (3) all great works of God begin with mourning, fasting, and prayer.
Father, I get overwhelmed when I observe what is happening in our world and nation. I hate to see what appears to be the fall of Western civilisation, and the moral degeneracy happening in New Zealand and other Western nations. The lack of adherence to biblical truth within the Church is also deeply depressing. The right response is not to wallow in depression or get angry, but to mourn, fast, and pray. Father, we want to see you do some amazing things in our own day. We want to see lives transformed through the gospel--not just a few, but many. I am sorry for neglecting real prayer for the last few months. Help me to return to you and to fast and pray--just you and me, Lord. As we begin to fast and pray, please open up opportunities for us to rebuild your Church in surprising ways, just as the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt in Nehemiah's day. Help us to pay attention and see all the gospel opportunities around us. In Jesus' name, amen.
- Jeff Coleman