An Example From Nehemiah About Praying Without Ceasing
1 Thessalonians 5:17 – Pray Without Ceasing
This is a famous verse about prayer that we all know and love. But what does it mean to pray without ceasing? An example from the life of Nehemiah is helpful in understanding what this means and how we can do it.
The below example comes from Nehemiah 1-2:1.
Nehemiah heard of a problem with Jerusalem. It wasn’t necessarily his problem. He had a good job and a good life. But when he heard of problems, even others’ problems, he was motivated to pray.
He was persistent. He wept/mourned/fasted/prayed for days. This was an important issue. He didn’t just offer up a 1 minute prayer and then move on. He spent a lot of time before the Lord praying about it and searching for God’s will about what he could do. We see that he had a lifestyle of prayer.
Nehemiah didn’t rush to the king to get help immediately. Neither did he start issuing orders. Neither did he immediately consult with Hanani and the others. He didn’t rely on his own wisdom to begin taking actions. From the world’s perspective he did nothing. He sat down and he prayed. But this was his best recourse.
He kept praying and praying until God shows him what he should do and opened a door for him. He knew that is where help would come from.
Application: Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you prayed about it for days a time? Many of us have not. But maybe we should.
Application: Prayer should become this natural to us. When faced with challenges and difficulties our first instinct should be to pray. Don’t be in a rush to take action. Pray first.
We see many aspects of his prayer. He has a very high view of God. He starts off His prayer with praise. He continues into confession. Even though he was not the one who had sinned, he identifies himself as one of the group and intercedes on their behalf. He uses words like “I” and “we.” Nehemiah confesses their sins as a nation to God. At the same time, he knows God is forgiving and claims the promise that God will bring them back to the land and redeem them.
Then in verse 11 Nehemiah makes his petition. He prays for success and mercy “in the sight of this man.” As he has been praying, an idea has started to form in his mind. A plan starts to take shape.
Have you ever prayed for wisdom and an idea, a thought, a plan, a Scripture pops into your mind? That can be the Holy Spirit speaking to you and giving you an answer. There have been many times that I have prayed about what to share with people or teach and as I have been praying a verse or a passage suddenly pop into my mind. When you pray for wisdom, God will give it to you.
Now note in verse one it is the month Chislev. In chapter 2 when Nehemiah is able to take the plan to the king it is the month Nissan. This is about 4 months later.
Nehemiah has been praying. He has a lifestyle of prayer. But his prayers were not answered immediately. Four months later God opened the door he was praying for. Note Nehemiah 4:2. The king asks him what he wants and right there, right in the king’s throne room, Nehemiah prays again. This prayer is not like the last prayer. It is not the fasting and praying for days which he was doing. This prayer was most likely in his heart, unspoken. It was probably very quick along the lines of, “God help me.” And God did.
Both kinds of prayer are examples of praying without ceasing. We need to have those extended times with the Lord. We also need to have those moments throughout the day when we offer up “insta-prayers” or “snap-prayers.” If you can send instagrams, you should be able to send an insta-prayer, right?
This insta-prayer had power because it was rooted in a lifestyle of prayer. If we only come to God in times of great need, those prayers may lack the same power or sincerity as if we pray without ceasing, all the time, in good times and in bad.
From Nehemiah we see an example of praying without ceasing. We do this when we have a heart of compassion for others. It means extended lengths of time in private prayer, pouring out our heart and emotions to God. It also means our life is filled with those quick, spur of the moment prayers when we face obstacles, temptations, or decisions in our daily life.
Application: How can you improve in praying without ceasing? What obstacles or situations do you face regularly that you need to pray before responding? When and where can you set aside time for a prayer retreat with God?