“Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 2:4).
Nehemiah was used mightily by God. His heart ached for the disrepair in Jerusalem, but he was miles away, the servant of a foreign king. But he prayed hard for the restoration of Jerusalem. He prayed with the knowledge a day would come when he'd go to the king with a massive request. Finally, the day came.
One day, Nehemiah stood depressed in the king’s presence. The king inquired about Nehemiah's sadness, so Nehemiah confessed he could not have joy while the city of his fathers’ graves lied in ruins. To this, the king replied, “What are you requesting?” Nehemiah uttered a silent prayer to God. Then he spoke.
What flowed from Nehemiah’s mouth was a massive and clear request which would lead to God’s glory. He wanted the king to send him to rebuild Jerusalem, to pay for it, and to protect the process with military aid. These requests were massive and clear. But the rebuilding of Jerusalem was for one great purpose — the ultimate glory of God. Once Jerusalem was operational the temple would operate. The temple operations would lead to the worship of God. Thus, God’s glory.
Does not Nehemiah’s massive and clear request of Artaxerxes teach us much about prayer? He approached a king, but we approach the King. When we do, there are times it is beneficial to pray massively, clearly, for that which would lead to God’s glory.
The opposite of a massive prayer is a small-minded prayer.
Nehemiah would not make empty requests, barely asking for a thing. Instead he thought of the best case scenario. He was not embarrassed to ask for the impossible. He could have easily told Artaxerxes he only wanted a little time off to visit Jerusalem. He could have requested a small donation to the rebuilding effort. He might have asked for only a letter of approval for the rebuilding effort. But none of those would get the job done, he thought. Instead, he went all the way with his request. In his mind, his request is exactly what was needed to see the project to completion. At times, like Nehemiah, we must request massively.
The opposite of a clear prayer is a muddled prayer.
To pray this way is no real request at all, for this murky prayer rambles on and on about this and that without ever bringing any request to the Father. It is a nothing prayer. Nehemiah did not shuffle when given a chance to speak. For months he had sorted out his heart’s desire. When the opportunity arose, he made a clear request. At times, like Nehemiah, we must request clearly.
The opposite of a prayer which leads to God’s glory is a prayer which leads to my glory.
Nehemiah was not in it for himself. God had given him a vision. He could see a healthy and robust Jerusalem, loud with the praise of God. He could smell the smoke of the offering ascending to God. He could taste the fellowship offerings. He knew this request, should it be granted, would lead to the glory of God. He was not building his own kingdom, but God’s. At all times, like Nehemiah, we must request for God's glory.
I want to allow the size and clarity and goal of Nehemiah’s request mature the way I supplicate and intercede to my Father. When I do pray this way, I find I more often can rejoice in the miraculous God who has heard and answered my prayers.