“‘I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.’”
(Job 19:25, NIV)
Over the past week, 3 suicide bombings and 2 mass shootings have accosted various communities in Northern Nigeria. These attacks have caused the deaths of over 200 people, from all different walks of life. On Sunday, July 5th, one tragedy in Potiskum, Nigeria, grieved the lives of those both near and far: one suicide bomber took the lives of 4 men and women within Redeemer Christian Church, including the church’s pastor, and a mother with her two children. To hear of such deep, profound grief leaves one in tears; yet, we do not need to grieve “as those who have no hope,” apart from Jesus.
In the place of our grief, we can truly do what Christ wants us to do: Come to Him. With weary, bereaved souls, we can run to our Father, pouring our hearts out, knowing that He bends down as an attentive, loving, compassionate Father to listen (Psalm 116:2). More than anything, coming to Christ can be crucial– not only for comfort, but to pray for– and actively help– those whose situations broke our hearts in the first place. Coming to Christ in our grief then becomes not only about us, but about those whom God has put on our hearts and minds. This is true of many people within the bible, in both Old and New Testaments, but it is especially true of Nehemiah.
The Bad News
Nehemiah knew grief. In Nehemiah 1, Nehemiah enjoyed a comfortable life as a “cupbearer of the King” in Susa, modern day Iran (Nehemiah 1:11). When Nehemiah spoke with a few men from Judah, he was struck with extremely grievous news:
“Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace.”
Going on, almost as if to express the spiritual and emotional brokenness of the people in a physical way, the men told Nehemiah that “the wall of Jerusalem [was] broken down, and its gates [had been] burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3b). At this time, the idea that those in Israel were in great trouble and disgrace– along with the picture of Israel having no wall, no fortress, against any outside enemies, brought Nehemiah very low. So low, in fact, that he “sat down and wept,” and “for some days, mourned and fasted” (Nehemiah 1:4). Nehemiah felt more than sympathy for his fellow Israelites– he felt a real, tangible connection to them, one that drove him to unyielding sorrow.
Nehemiah’s grief was almost unbearably real, and it led him to God. This type of Godly sorrow is spoken about in 2 Corinthians 7, as Paul endeavors to discern and explain the difference between that which gives us life and which does not: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). The grief that Nehemiah felt was healthy and full of Love, leading him to seek Israel’s best interest, not His own. Coming before the Lord, Nehemiah was drawn to more than just grief: he was drawn to the very heart of our LORD Jesus Christ.
The Value of Confession
In what is a beautiful, earnest, authentic model of prayer, Nehemiah was genuine before God, holding nothing back in his seeking of the LORD:
“Then I said: ‘Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’”
Here, Nehemiah is broken and honest before the Lord. Unafraid of confessing his and his family’s wrongs before Christ, he confronts the things that have separated his people from the LORD, drawing them to the place of brokenness they are in. As he is facing the fact that their sin has led them to their current, “disgraced” state, Nehemiah also asks the Lord to remember his “covenant of Love” with Israel, found in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 29, which perfectly describes what Nehemiah and Israel are now going through. It is obvious that in confessing, Nehemiah faced the reality of what had gone on, and was willing to humble himself so, in turn, God would use him to help Israel confess. In a place of humbleness and surrender, Nehemiah was in the perfect spot to be used by the Lord for Israel.
A Call to Action
Nehemiah, in prayer, closes by “reminding” the Lord that “They (the Israelites) are your servants and your people” (Nehemiah 1:10). As he seeks the Lord in facing the situation at hand, Nehemiah does not stand guilty over the past, nor disheartened over the present circumstance. His prayer, in seeking the Lord, moves toward what must be done now. The Lord, in Nehemiah’s humbleness, wants to use his brokenness for leading Israel to restoration.
“They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
Being led by the Lord, he recognized what he had to do next: ask the King of Susa for permission to go restore Israel. With wisdom and boldness, Nehemiah prayed for Jesus’ favor in doing His will. Reading further, one can see this was graciously granted; following the Lord, Nehemiah helped rebuild Israel’s walls, and helped restore Israel back to Jesus. The Lord, using Nehemiah’s heart, planned for (and brought about!) Israel’s healing. This is a beautiful example of how the Lord uses us– and parallels how the LORD sent Christ to save and heal all of mankind. As James 4:8 proclaims, Nehemiah’s seeking the Lord was not in vain; in drawing near, Jesus redeemed his pain, using it to call Nehemiah to action.
I pray there would be a similar call to action in our hearts. I pray that we, as Jesus’ Bride, would be moved to grief and true compassion for things happening to those around us– both near and very intimate, as well as far-off and foreign. I pray that as His people, we would take the “stories” we hear– the real-life events of others– to heart and to prayer, realizing our need for Jesus, and allowing that He would change and use us in the process. May grief lead us to the Father’s arms– for, that’s where the healing starts.
Do you know Jesus?
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)
Have you ever prayed to God? More than not, most people have, in some way, shape, or form. Yet, sadly, many people’s understanding of who God is keeps them from seeking a real relationship with Him.
It’s true– full of compassion, Jesus always “turn[s] his ear” to those who cry out to, trust, and believe in Him (Psalm 116:2). Jesus, from the very beginning, was about relationship: both with others, and with God. More than this, He claimed to be the only way to having a real, true relationship with God– not by works or religion, but trusting in Him alone as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9). Learn about Jesus’ great sacrifice for us to be in relationship with God– and the prayer of confession that creates that relationship– here.
For a printable, pdf version of these prayer requests, please click this link.
Please pray, just as Nehemiah prayed, that Christ would hear the prayers of His people– all over the world, but especially in Nigeria. Pray that our brothers and sisters in Nigeria would run to the Lord during these times of distress. Pray that the Lord’s hand of protection and safety would be upon all of Northern Nigeria, and that He would give them rest from war.
Pray for Jesus’ hand of protection over our brothers and sisters during the next few days, weeks, and seasons. Pray that our fellow churches and villages would be kept from the harm of the Boko Haram. Pray that The Lord would change Muhammadu Buhari from the inside out. Pray he would know Jesus as His Lord and Savior. Pray that as this happens, Jesus would give him the wisdom, decisiveness, and courage to make the right decisions pertaining to Boko Haram and rebuilding the nation. Pray that the Nigerian military, government, and Nigeria’s CJTF (Civilian Joint Task Force) would be strengthened against Boko Haram’s future plots. Pray these men and women would have courage, skill and wisdom to defeat Boko Haram.
Pray that those affected by Boko Haram violence would come to know the healing power of Jesus as Savior and Lord. Pray that these men and women would be very aware of Jesus’ Presence in their lives. Pray that the Lord would use this horrible, wicked thing for His good. Pray that while “[The enemy] intended to harm [them], …God [would intend] it for good to accomplish what [will] now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). “…For [He is] the Lord, [their] healer.” Exodus 15:26.
Pray that those who are grieving their Loved Ones– and that the whole church– would come together in Christ to uphold, Love on, and strengthen each other in the Lord in such a crisis as this. Pray that muslims would be reached and touched by the Lord Jesus, as well as every other cult, pagan, and non-believer alike.
Pray that the enemy– Boko Haram, but more so, satan– and their (his) tactics would be bound up in Jesus’ name. Pray that he would not be able to decimate these people, but that as Jesus’ church, they would stand victorious, as Job 19:25 so confidently declares.
Pray for how you can be of help/get involved. The world is getting darker, and soon, Jesus will be back– so be praying about Jesus would have your light shine, whether it’d be in/for Nigeria or something/someplace else. Pray also, as so many countries are facing persecution, that Jesus would come come near to those being persecuted, and would strengthen and embolden them, so that they might be like bright stars in the dark world they find themselves in, bringing many to Christ (Daniel 12:3).
Pray that the Lord would give us, in less conflicting areas, a soft and sensitive heart for hurting people all over the world. Pray that we would be near to the Lord’s broken people, in prayer and practicality. Pray, in a world of soundbites and selfies, that we might be Nehemiahs– compassionate and passionate for Christ.