“O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.” (Nehemiah 1:11)

It is a practice of many churches to conduct weekly prayer meetings. For Tabernacle BPC, our weekly prayer meetings are held every Tuesday at 8p.m. on level 3. Alas, prayer meetings are often poorly attended. Some reason that there is no need for corporate prayer as they can always pray in private at home. Anyway, God will answer my prayers, so why come together and pray?

The Scriptures testify against such apathy and aversion to corporate pray-er. When Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples were said to have “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14). The result was power from on high to witness for Christ Jesus as the era of the local church was inaugurated. Similarly, the church after Pentecost was also said to have “continued steadfastly . . . in prayers.”

Our text today is also instructive. Note from the underlined words that Nehemiah did not pray alone but was joined by others in seeking the Lord to grant him good success before king Artaxerxes.

A Needful Prayer
Firstly, it was corporate prayer borne of great concern. The walls of Jerusalem were in great disarray. God’s people were in great affliction and reproach (Neh. 1:3). There was need for God’s people to plead for mercy. Moreover, Jerusalem was not just any city. It was the city of Israel – God’s national witness. Letting Jerusalem remain desolate would be an affront to the glory of God. Jerusalem must be rebuilt!

Similarly, is there not a cause for us to pray today? Look at our churches today. Are there not rampant apostasy and unbelief? Are there not wide-spread worldliness and iniquity? Are there not also many souls in the world who are still lost in the darkness of sin? Is there not a lack of workers for the harvest fields? Are there not brethren who are sick and back-slidden? Why then are we not on our knees pleading for the mercy of God, and for God to prosper our work for Christ? We must be concerned about the kingdom of God!

A God-Honouring Prayer
Secondly, the prayer in Nehemiah appealed specifically to the faithfulness of God. God had promised in his covenant that He would destroy Israel and scatter her people among the nations if they rebelled against the LORD (see Deut 4:27; 28:64). However, God had also promised in His Word that He would restore the nation of Israel both spiritually and physically (see Deut. 30:1-5). The corporate prayer in Nehemiah 1 was thus the people’s exercise of faith in God’s Word, and expression of desire to see God’s name being honoured upon the earth.

Let us also understand that the promises of God form the Biblical basis for this prayer of success in Nehemiah 1. It was according to God’s desire that Jerusalem was to be rebuilt. True success is defined as doing that which pleases God. Sadly, we may sometimes pray for “success” that is based on our own fleshly lusts. Such prayers will not be heard by God. The corporate prayer of the saints must always seek to magnify the name of Christ and His Word.

A United Prayer
Thirdly, observe that the Scripture in verse 11 says “the prayer” and not “the prayers” of the saints. The use of the singular emphasises the unity of the saints in spirit and their concern for God’s glory. They were single-minded in their request for Nehemiah to be granted success before the king. Corporate prayer is thus an expression of our oneness in Christ, and a wonderful testimony of Christ’s work on the earth. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21)

When a believer is apathetic to gather for prayer meetings, it reveals a lack of understanding and appreciation of the saints’ unity in Christ Jesus. Is Christ’s body divided? Surely not! Yet this seems to be the picture we present to the world when we shun opportunities to gather and prayer. No wonder the witness of the church to the world is so weak today!

A Privileged Prayer
Lastly, the people participating in corporate prayer are called “servants” and those who desire to fear God’s name. These expressions teach us that it is our duty to be concerned about the working of God’s will in this world. However, let us also understand that as God’s servants, it is also our wonderful privilege to bring our prayers and supplications to Him as a united people. The unbelievers do not have the honour to do so as their prayers would be rejected.

Why are corporate meetings so poorly attended? Is it because we are so caught up with cares of the world that we have no time to be concerned about the kingdom of heaven? Is it because we do not appreciate the won-derful privilege of praying as one people unto the Lord, and the testimony it brings to the world concerning our unity in Christ? I certainly hope not.

The weekly church prayer meeting must be a priority. Hope to see you on Tuesday!

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew