Day 1

My Prayer to the God of Heaven

from the reading plan

Nehemiah 1:1-11, Deuteronomy 30:1-5, Deuteronomy 30:11-15, Hebrews 7:25

I have a friend whose house burned to the ground. Practically everything his family owned was reduced to ash. Yet in the midst of his shock and uncertainty for what lay ahead, my friend said that he felt strangely liberated. Losing all their worldly possessions meant his family was free to start over.

If you were given the opportunity to reboot your life, what would you do, and why? Would you work to recapture what was lost, or would you try to build something completely new and different? Would you try to become someone completely different?

This situation is where we meet Nehemiah. The Babylonian exiles have essentially burned life as his people knew it to the ground. The walls of Jerusalem lay in ruins hundreds of miles away. As the people of Judah surveyed their situation under Persian rule, they were essentially asking themselves: Who are we now, and what happens next? Do we try to go back, or is there no such thing as home anymore?

For Nehemiah, Jerusalem was more than a place. It was a symbol—a physical location on a map that pointed to a spiritual belonging. He and his people didn’t just belong to that city. They belonged to the God who had led them there so many years earlier. Their identity was tied to the temple of the Lord shining from that city on a hill in Zion. So when the opportunity to repair Jerusalem’s fallen walls became a possibility, Nehemiah prayed, “Please, Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant” (Nehemiah 1:11). Then he set his face like a flint toward home and went back to rebuild.

As you read the book of Nehemiah, remember that true belonging is about more than a physical place to store your stuff or lay your head. For the Christian, we are tied to the ancient story of God’s redeeming work, which has its roots all the way back in the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Even if everything around us burns to the ground, we still have a home in the presence of God. Even more, we have an identity. We are His people, and that is something no exile, catastrophe, or war can threaten or change.

Written by Russ Ramsey

Post Comments (16)

16 thoughts on "My Prayer to the God of Heaven"

  1. Sam H says:

    Seeing Nehemiah’s heart as the desire to repent for His people, his brother, and wanting to rebuild is incredible. He wanted, in his heart, to make things right. Jerusalem was so important to him, and I don’t even think he had ever even been there before he went back to rebuild. So…God acted in His heart to change that. As His people turned back to Him, He came back to His promise that He would regather them. This was the beginning of His promise fulfilled.

  2. Steve Williams says:

    I hope my house doesn’t have to burn down before I start over.

  3. Micah McNeal says:

    The story of Nehemiah is a great reflection of the way Jesus takes the people with broken and destroyed “walls” and leads them into Nehemiah-like repentance and then rebuilds their “walls” better than ever before.

  4. Devin Limo says:

    If everything around me today collapsed into the dust, I can still rest in the assurance of God’s providence. No presence or absence of temporary, worldly possessions can change the promises I hold steadfast to.

  5. Jackson Forse says:

    In a season of life where I feel like everything I once had has been destroyed, burned to the ground. Of course my identity in Christ can’t be taken from me, and I cling to that. But still, I don’t want to stay in this state.

  6. Jonathan Chambers says:

    I am taken back by Nehemiah’s prayer.
    He is not angry or vengeful over the news, even with a self-righteous anger, or overwhelmed, or stressed, or discouraged towards hopelessness. Like a typical American would be.
    Instead, he is filled with a sense of urgency to go, and before he considers going, he first humbly confesses his people’s and his own sin, declares God’s faithfulness and mercy, and asks for help.
    This seems like such an appropriate prayer for anyone to pray who is looking to go on mission and are about to rebuild anything, especially a city in ruins.

  7. Chase says:

    The story of hope presented here, that even after I’ve allowed sin to corrupt me and break down my walls, even when I’ve made
    decisions that aided in the destruction of myself, God is faithful to His promises should I repent and turn from wickedness… I couldn’t be more thankful. There have been times where I have a hard time seeing how Old Testament scriptures point to Jesus, but I see a parallel of Christ’s redemption here. I’m thankful His mercies are new every morning.

  8. Lucas Harriman says:

    I appreciate this beginning for the devotional. I am coming to this reading plan because we are preparing for our VBS on Nehemiah: “Rise Up and Build.” I like the idea of a new beginning for Nehemiah and his crew. It was a time to reflect and ask, “Who do we want to be as a people?” I pray this can be true for our church as well as we proceed in our VBS.

  9. Patrick says:

    A few thoughts occurred to me about how this passage applies to the situation that Andi and I find ourselves in now.

    First: that this world is not our home. And even more, that no place on this earth is our home – a permanent landing spot, an identity. That means we must go wherever the Lord leads us to go and build. And like Nehemiah, who saw Jerusalem not only as a physical dwelling but as a symbol of spiritual belonging and identity, where we go we must build a place of spiritual belonging, a dwelling place for the Lord.

    So, Andi and I both know that we were called here. This place is where the Lord has brought us. But let’s not stop short of completing the mission to which we have been called. We must focus now on building a place where God can dwell. Our intention must be wrapped around that goal.

    Second, Nehemiah prays on behalf of Israel. He confesses their sins on their behalf and prays that God would fulfill his covenant to them on their behalf. And God responds. I want to care for others as much as Nehemiah does. I want to love others that much. I want to be faithful like Nehemiah is, to set his mind to the task and complete it regardless of the persecution, the hardship, regardless of the naysayers, the lack of support.

    I also want his faith. He believes so much in God’s promise. And he is calling in God to fulfill it.

    Lord, please here my prayer. You have shown mercy to me. You have shown yourself to be faithful and your Holy Spirit will not be ignored or denied. You will complete your good work. I know that. It is evident in my own life. You pursue your sheep and do not let even one be lost forever. You are able to save to the uttermost. Father, I call upon you to rescue your creation. Rescue your sheep Paige who is lost and hurting. I believe you want her to be redeemed and restored. Please accomplish this by your mighty hand. And father if it is your will, heal her body. Destroy this cancer. God, imagine the testimony of her life. Bring this about please Lord. Accomplish this for your glory. Accomplish this miracle so that we would lift your name high and praise you and that many others would come to know you. God do this. Help us believe in your promises and help us believe in your power and sovereignty over all things. Walk with us, be with us, comfort us and lead us. Give us wisdom and patience. Give us endurance and strength. Help us be a light for your name. Thank you for your salvation. In your son’s holy name. Amen

  10. Alvan Chow says:

    I also want to rebuild this world

    I stay steadfast in my journey to create a home for every man, woman, and child in the world

    With water, electricity, internet, and shelter

    Please God

    Let me do this

    It is a good work.

  11. Kevin says:

    Day 1: What a crappy day it would be to have your home burned down. To lose everything. That would not be an easy day. I can only pray for the servants heart of rebuilding if that were to happen. It doesn’t have to be physical either, the fire can consume us in different ways. Emotionally, spiritually, I pray that if God brings you or me to a point of nothing in any of these aspects be it by death, loss of relationship etc., I pray you and I both turn to God with a heart of servanthood and say “Lord, where do I start? Let this rebuild be a better way for my life to reach others.”

  12. Ivan Aguas says:

    I’m so exited about this new 21 day devotional in Nehemiah. It’s about new beginnings. I can dig it!! “Cannn youuu diggg ittt?!!” This is inspiring to me and I can TOTALLY relate to it!! This morning I posted yet another song, referring to it as “being from the soundtrack to my NEW life. Then I started this new devotional tonight, all about new beginnings for the people of Israel. That is what we call Devine confirmation my brothers and sisters!! Jesus Is Beautiful!!

  13. Rob McGibbon says:

    I love the opening to Nehemiah. We get a glimpse of his heart. His heart to restore the walls of Jerusalem. He has a desire deep within him. He spent time fasting and praying, crying out to God asking him to be attentive.

    I guess this passage has led me to questioning exactly what it is I am passionate about. Am I fasting? Am I praying with intent? Am I crying out to God asking him to be attentive? Challenge I’ve left with: have I lost passion about what I’m passionate about?

  14. Drew Bell says:

    Nehemiah reflects on Jerusalem as God’s place, for His people too. Nehemiah prays to God, approaches with humility, he is moved by the destruction of a place he probably didn’t even know.

    The great part, isn’t necessarily Nehemiah’s reaction so much as his complete trust in God’s promise to His people. God assured Israel and to a similar extent, me, that He would gather us and bring us closer to Him.

    When my life is wrecked, or even especially as it is going well, I need to humble myself and recognize that God is calling me closer to Him. He will gather me, no matter the distance or apparent destruction, what He rebuilds will not be torn down.

  15. Micah says:

    Life has to consist of who God is, and that all my possession and place is in him. If I lose everything, I have God.

  16. Josh W says:

    When I was forced to leave my well paying career of almost 10 years, I didn’t understand why God would cause me so much pain. I was saved but not living the way I should. God showed Himself to me when I was at my lowest and now 2 years later, I can see His hand in everything. Hindsight is 20/20 and even though we might not know why things are a certain way at the time, we can trust in God’s sovereignty.

    Help me to love you more each day. Help me to love your Word and strive to keep all your commandments. Thank you for your Son who intercedes on my behalf and for saving me completely. Help me to run my race with discipline and purpose and reach the finish line strong.

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