Text: Nehemiah 1:1-2:8, Psalm 35:13, Mark 2:1-12
“Is fasting ever a bribe to get God to pay more attention to the petitions? No, a thousand times no. It is simply a way to make clear that we sufficiently reverence the amazing opportunity to ask help from the everlasting God, the Creator of the Universe, to choose to put everything else aside and concentrate on worshipping, asking for forgiveness, and making our requests known – considering His help more important than anything we could do ourselves in our own strength and with our own ideas.”
- Edith Schaeffer, The Life of Prayer
Do you remember the story of the four men in Mark chapter 2 who have a paralyzed friend and want desperately to get him to Jesus? They heard He was in town and carried their buddy on a stretcher to where Jesus was, but when the house was so crowded with people that the door was completely blocked, they were not deterred. The men wanted healing for their friend, so they carried him up onto the roof, cut a hole in the roof, and lowered him into the center of the room.
First of all? I want friends like these guys! And second – their persistence paid off! Jesus forgave the man’s sins (because only Jesus knew where his greatest sickness was), and then told the man, “rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
The four men were willing to put aside all earthly sensibilities because their friend needed Jesus! And what could be more urgent than that?
Roughly 400 years earlier, I think Nehemiah was a similar friend with a similar faith. He was living a solid 800+ miles from home, selecting wines for the king of Babylon. Even though he was in exile, he was enjoying a life of prestige and influence until he received word that his people and his city had suffered a great devastation.
Like the four men in Jerusalem some 400 years later, Nehemiah’s compassion compelled him to seek the Lord on behalf of his people at any cost:
“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven… let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants…” (Nehemiah 1:4-6)
When I think about the men who pursued Jesus tirelessly on behalf of their friend, and Nehemiah who petitioned and fasted and repented before the Lord on behalf of his people, I don’t wonder to myself, Well, sheesh, what kind of a friend am I? Instead, I remember what kind of a God I (and Nehemiah, AND the four dudes in Mark) serve! I remember that however compassionate those men were, HIS compassion is greater still! And if I serve a God of compassion who answers the persistent petitions of His people (did you see what the King let Nehemiah do in chapter 2?), I remember that I can approach the throne just as boldly, just as reverently, and with the same discipline, and be heard by the Almighty God upon whom no prayers are wasted.
Sisters, your God hears you. Let’s seek Him more and more and more today. Let’s petition Him with persistent prayer and fasting for good things for ourselves and others! Like Edith Schaeffer said, let’s “reverence the amazing opportunity to ask help from the everlasting God, the Creator of the Universe.”