Persevere in Prayer

For what are you persevering in prayer? Is there anything right now that you have committed to prayer?

Or, consider this: What of significance do you attempt to do apart from prayer? What do you seek to do for your family, for our church, for the community, without first making it a matter of serious prayer?

We’re currently about a third of the way through our 40 Days of Prayer, but prayer can’t just be a 40-day challenge; prayer must be a core component of who we are. We are to be a praying people.

Scripture makes clear that we can’t accomplish anything of eternal significance apart from prayer. Jesus told his disciples in the upper room, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the same thing is true for us today.

Thankfully, we don’t live apart from him. He has given us both his Spirit to be with us, and he has given us prayer as a means of bringing our needs, our requests, our hearts before him.

All of this is wonderfully illustrated in the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament, and one of the reasons I love it so much is because of the inner look we get at the title figure.

Nehemiah was a man who was commissioned by God and used by God to restore the wall of Jerusalem beginning in the year 445 B.C. Over the course of this book, God gives us many lessons for our lives—lessons on leadership, endurance, strength, and humility, and lessons on God’s own faithfulness. But for me, the most powerful lesson from Nehemiah’s life is the lesson on prayer.

Nehemiah was a man devoted to prayer. And while throughout the book, Nehemiah models short, explosive prayers in the moment of need, it is the lesson on extended prayer that stands out most to me.

Consider Nehemiah 1.

Nehemiah had just found out that the wall of Jerusalem had been broken down, its gates destroyed by fire. In response, he sat down and wept and mourned for days. He was broken over this news. But it’s the significance of what happens next that is easy to miss.

“I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven,” is what we read in Nehemiah 1:4. In the following verses, we read a portion of Nehemiah’s prayer, but this prayer is actually a season of prayer that continued for four months, from the month of Chislev (see 1:1) to the month of Nisan (see 2:1).

That’s 16 weeks of prayer. 16 weeks! Nehemiah built the wall in just 52 days, but he spent roughly 120 days in prayer. Before he worked for 7–1/2 weeks building the wall, he spent 16 weeks praying.

For Nehemiah, the wall was built on prayer. Prayer was the important foundation work—it’s that work that takes time and goes unnoticed by most, but is absolutely essential to get anything accomplished that will last. And because it was essential, it took priority for him. He persevered in it. To be sure, he still did his regular job as a cupbearer to the king. One would imagine that he certainly fulfilled all of his normal responsibilities, but he made it a priority to pray, because without prayer he could do nothing.

Do we see prayer as that essential? Do we see it as the foundation work without which nothing will be accomplished?

And are we persevering in it, possibly spending weeks or months seeking God before we act? Or, possibly spending weeks or months—or years—in prayer, trusting God that He will act?

We have 27 more days in the 40 days of Prayer. Roughly four weeks. Let’s persevere in this season of prayer, using this time to ask God to grow us into a people who are deeply devoted to prayer. Because while it’s true that apart from him we can do nothing, with him, we can do all things.

Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.