Nehemiah 1:8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses.”
This one part of Nehemiah’s prayer tells us a great deal about him, which is that he was very familiar with the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, at least. We don’t know how much of the rest of what we consider the Old Testament was available to him, but he applied himself to what he had. Books were hand copied in those days, in drastic contrast to today, when electronic publishing has made even printed books old hat. However, abundance can make us take things lightly. I would dare say the majority of American households has one or more copies of the Bible, but familiarity with it to apply it is a sadly rare thing. In contrast, Nehemiah had no more than what we would consider a Bible fragment, but he knew what it said and applied it to his circumstances, not excusing himself or his ancestors. Our prayers would have more weight if we based them on the Word the way Nehemiah did, rather than just presenting wish lists to God. He hears when we pray to Him, but we need to be in line with Him when we do so, and nothing is more helpful in that than familiarity with the Bible. However, how we use the Bible in prayer is very important. I have known people who delighted to find promises in the Bible and then demand that God fulfill them. Generally such people ignore the conditions that go with virtually every one of the promises, and by failing to fulfill the conditions, they don’t see the promises fulfilled either. In this case, Nehemiah remembered both the “if” and the “then,” and prayed in great humility. We would do well to follow his example.
I grew up steeped in the Bible, but I don’t remember my parents focusing especially on God’s promises. They were too busy following Him for who He is! That is a magnificent example and spiritual heritage for me, but that’s no reason for me to be complacent. I am indeed very familiar with the Bible but not as much as I could be. Most importantly, I don’t apply it as fully as I could. I am to walk in consistent humility, recognizing God’s grace to me and expressing that grace to those around me. I am to lead by word and by example, drawing others into intimacy with the Lord their God. In Japan, that often involves helping them understand who God really is, in contrast to the theology and superstition in which they were raised. I am to be grateful for my own spiritual heritage, but not think that makes me intrinsically better than those who are not so blessed. I am to speak God’s Word, in prayer and however else He allows me to do so, so that it will accomplish everything for which He has sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me indeed receive Your Word to apply it, and not simply to transmit it to others. Help me fulfill Your conditions so that You may fulfill Your promises, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!