“Now I was the cupbearer to the king.” Neh. 1:11b; NASB
I find it interesting that Nehemiah felt it necessary to make this statement. It has nothing to do with what he had just done. It tells us he had access to the king. But more important than that, He had just prayed to the Lord a magnificent prayer of repentance and a request that he find favor in the king’s eyes. He had heard how bad it was for his fellow Israelites in Jerusalem and knew if he found favor in the king’s eyes, he could do something for them. Here is Nehemiah, a slave of the Persian king. His job was to taste the king’s wine to prevent him from being poisoned. With all this against him, he still prays to do something for people nine hundred miles away. That’s a pretty ambitious goal for someone who could die at any moment from tasting poison wine meant for the king. It was actually God’s favor that was needed to facilitate the king’s favor, and Nehemiah knew it. This is why his prayer began with repentance.
I think we all have gone to God asking for His favor. It might be for something as big as a loved one’s health or as small as a win for the bowling team. We hope the Lord will look favorably at our request and award the selected prize. There is nothing wrong with this. However, do your prayers for favor begin with praying for what God wants? We know God hears the prayers of the righteous and they “can accomplish much” (James 5:16). We also know it is our belief (faith) that God looks to in considering us righteous (Gen. 15:6). But He rewards us according to our heart motive. He told Jeremiah, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds” (Jer. 17:10).
The Lord knows your heart. If you are dedicated to glorifying God with your life, your prayers will reflect that desire. They will not only address the things you want and need, they will first address what God wants. He wants us to be humble before Him while repenting of our shortcomings and petitioning for the welfare of His people. When we do that, we are showing our reverence for Him above ourselves. Beginning your prayers with that attitude will change the way you see yourself in His kingdom. You will be aligning yourself with His Spirit, bringing you into a deeper relationship with Him.
Nehemiah was a slave with a job that could cost him his life before any meal. He could have let that discourage him, or even blame God for his situation. Instead, he went before God in prayer, first humbly repenting and interceding, then boldly asking for what he wanted. As a result, God gave him success in his ministry for at least twenty-five years. Whatever your circumstances might be right now, give God your heart, your whole heart. Believe His word that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28; NASB). You will not be disappointed.
Have a great week and God bless.