2008-05-07 - Begin-to-Begin
Nehemiah 2:4, "So I prayed to the God of Heaven."
In this passage, Nehemiah has found out that the city of Jerusalem is in ruins. He is sad. Nehemiah works as the Cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, which was no small position. Kings back then were always afraid of being poisoned. Nehemiah is doing his job, and the king notices that he looks a little "down in the dumps." The King asks what is wrong, and Nehemiah tells him about the city being in ruins. The king then asks Nehemiah what he would request. It is here that we have this statement, "So I prayed to the God of Heaven." We can't imagine it was a long prayer. It is not that we are to read that Nehemiah dropped to his knees, and started praying. What is in view here is that short, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 prayer, "Pray without ceasing." We are always to be in a spirit of prayer. We are always to be sending up "shout-outs" to Heaven, in both times of concern, and thanksgiving. Whatever enters into our daily experience, let us seek to have that practice firmly entrenched - that we begin, in our first thought, even before we begin, "I prayed to the God of Heaven." Prayer ought to be to begin to begin in everything.
If we follow Christ, it is our duty to pray. However, let me restate that. If we follow Christ, it is our privilege to pray. Both are true. We should have regular set times of prayer, and prayer should be a habitual habit in our lives. But those short, quick, what the Puritans called ejaculatory prayers, can be offered at any time. The interesting thing is that they take no time. They don't hinder anything we are doing, but they help to cultivate the attitude of placing the Lord at that center of all things in our lives. We can breathe a prayer to Heaven at any time. We don't have to go anywhere to do it. We don't have to even stop what we are doing. We could be making scrambled eggs, taking a shower, or doing laundry - and a short prayer to God, for whatever reason, will not overcook the eggs, waste water, or add time to our laundry cycle. Prayer is to begin to begin, but it also can be part of the process, any process, of anything, once we have begun.
You can set me down in a traffic jam in NYC, and make me late for an appointment, but you cannot stop me from praying in traffic. You can laugh at my clothes as I walk past, but you can't challenge my prayers. My prayers are between God and me, and no one can hinder my coming before Him - even if I wear goofy clothes. You can cuff my hands behind my back, but you can't stop appeals to the throne of grace. You can burn me at the stake, like many martyrs were, but you can't silence my prayers until you take my life. Those martyrs prayed and sang as they burned. You can only stop a Christian from praying, if you take his or her life. Mary Queen of Scot said in the 16th century, "I fear more the prayers of John Knox than an army of 10,000 men." She knew the power of prayer.
All of us have that same ability to pray. In season and out season, prayer is always in season. Are you alone? You are not alone. You have the Spirit of Christ with you, and you may pray to the Father in the name of the Son, and you may do so at any time. What a blessing prayer is, and prayer comes with a promise also. "He hears the prayer of the righteous," Proverbs 15:29.
Soli Deo Gloria,