Praying for the Nations – Excerpt from the book – Learning to Pray

Whilst the changes were happening in Zimbabwe, there were many calls to prayer. But the question was, HOW DO WE PRAY in a situation where there are so many variables? This excerpt gives a model of praying for the nation used by Nehemiah. Praying but having a plan.

NEHEMIAH THE NATION BUILDER

In the book of Nehemiah, the children of Israel were captives in Babylon. Israel had failed to listen to the warnings of the intercessors. In fact, they had imprisoned or killed some of their own intercessors, leaving the nation exposed.

Nehemiah asked one of his brethren:

2…concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:2-4)

Nehemiah was devastated when he heard the sad news. But after the initial shock, he composed himself and prayed along these lines:

  • He fasted.
  • He declared the greatness and awesomeness of God.
  • He pleaded for God to hear him as he stood on behalf of a sinful nation.
  • He confessed sins at various levels:
    • Sins of the nations;
    • Sins of his family (tribe);
    • His own sins.
  • He confessed sins of governance, corruption and breakdown of law and order (commandments, statutes, ordinances).
  • He reminded God of the promises made to Moses, that He would one day gather them and bring them back to their former glory – if they would return to Him.
  • He reminded God of previous victories over Egypt and in the wilderness.
  • He prayed for an opportunity to find favour with his master the king.

As a cupbearer, Nehemiah knew that if there were to be any restoration, it would require a change in the heart of the king. He prepared for the day.

And the day did come. When the king asked, “What do you request?” (Nehemiah 2:4), the intercessor was ready with a proposal of the restoration plan. This included:

  • Obtaining the appropriate authorisations and military escort;
  • The bill of materials;
  • The surveying of the amount of effort required;
  • Engagement with the local leaders;
  • Detailed plans for the restoration of each gate and walls, including recruitment of skilled people;
  • Contingency plans to deal with the nay-sayers and spoilers;
  • Restoration of the spiritual and civic leadership structures.

INTERCEDE, BUT HAVE A PLAN

Nehemiah knew exactly where to start, who he needed on his side, the number of days it would take to rebuild and the materials required. He did not take up the project or walk into the battlefield with no plan or agenda, hoping the Spirit would lead. This is a remarkable approach to problem-solving as it shows that secrets of intercession are first private before they are public.

Nehemiah shows us that the national intercessors must not just fight in the closet, but must also be skilled at nation building. And, if required, they must have access to the resources and skills required to make God’s plan for the nation come to pass. They cannot afford to stay in despair and despondency about the state of the nation.

Does that mean they should be politicians? No. But they should have the gravitas and courage to influence the politicians. And to pray for them.

1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

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