Prayer and Fasting for the Sake of God's Name (Nehemiah 1:4) - Radical

Prayer and Fasting for the Sake of God’s Name (Nehemiah 1:4)

“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

So this is the first picture we see of Nehemiah in this book that’s named after him. He’s just found out that the walls around Jerusalem have been broken down. It’s gates burned with fire. The people there are struggling. God is not receiving glory like he deserves in that city from that people among the nations around them. And it just causes Nehemiah to weep, to mourn for days.

Nehemiah 1:4 Gives Us a Picture of Mourning and Fasting

Then it says, “He continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” And we find out. So Nehemiah 2 is when he begins to act as cupbearer to the king and go to the king and ask for permission to go and help the people in Jerusalem.
But we know that was months after he received this news. So this picture of him, weeping and mourning and fasting and praying and lasted for a matter of months before he actually acted on something.

When I read that, I think that’s so different from me. I think often from us. We’re so quick to act. We see need, we’re like, let’s do something about it, which is good. That is a good impulse. We want to respond to need.

This Verse Reminds Us of the Importance of Praying and Fasting

But if we’re not careful, we’ll bypass this picture that we see in Nehemiah of weeping and fasting and praying before God. That his first impulse was to fall to his knees before God, when he saw need around him.

Just a reminder of the importance, the significance of prayer and not just prayer, but fasting. I don’t know if you have a regular routine of fasting in your life, but I want to encourage you. If you don’t, to make that a regular routine.

Nehemiah 1:4 Calls Us to Pray, Give, and Fast

When we see Jesus teaching in Matthew 6 on praying and giving and fasting, he teaches on all three of those right together. Just as basic as prayer and giving is, fasting is that basic. It’s expected. He says, “When you fast…” and he teaches them about fasting.

I fear that for many followers of Christ, at least in the culture where I live, fasting is not a regular routine like it needs to be in our lives to set aside food for a meal, a day or more. To say more than I need food, I need the word of God, to spend extra time in his word. More than I need food to nourish my body, I need time with God, alone with God to nourish my soul.

This Verse Encourages Us to Regularly Fast

Let me encourage you to make fasting a somewhat regular part of your life in some way, if it is not. In this picture of Nehemiah, for us to be reminded that when we pray like we’re about to do, this should always be our first impulse. When we see need around us, when we look at our lives around us, that we would be driven to fast and pray.

God, we pray. We pray like Nehemiah that you would help us. We want our lives to count for your glory in a world of urgent, spiritual and physical need in the world around us.

Nehemiah 1:4 Leads Us to Seek the Lord

Oh we pray, O God, we come to you. We ask you, how do you want to use us to make your glory known? We seek you. Help us to put aside even food on a regular basis, whether it’s once a week or a month to put aside food for a meal or a day or longer. Just to say, God, we need you more than we need food. We want to be used by you. More than we want our stomachs to be full, we want our lives to count for your glory in a world of urgent, spiritual, and physical need around us.

Help us to follow in Nehemiah’s footsteps in these ways. Break our heart for what brings your heart when it comes to need around us. Cause us to pray and to fast, and then to act according to your will, as you lead us as we fast and pray and seek you.
We pray this in Jesus’s name. Amen.

David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.

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