Developing Camel Knees
by Pastor Mike on June 5th, 2014

This past Sunday we started a series on the book of Nehemiah and we jumped into chapter 1. The gist of the story is that walls of Jerusalem had been broken down for many years, many/most of God’s people were living in exile, and something needed to be done about it. In chapter 1, we are introduced to Nehemiah, who is a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in the capital city of Persia. Nehemiah received a message from some friends about the situation in Jerusalem, and it is at this time that Nehemiah gets the call from God to rebuild the walls and restore Jerusalem.
My sermon on Sunday answered the question “Why did Nehemiah receive that call from God?” The answer, based on the scripture, is threefold:

1. Nehemiah had his kingdom RADAR on and a kingdom burden. He wasn’t just concerned about his own well-being but put the things of God before all things.

2. Nehemiah had CAMEL KNEES. In other words, he was a man of prayer. It is said that James, brother of Jesus, had knees that looked like a camel’s because he prayed on his knees so much.  Nehemiah didn’t run ahead of God and strike out on his own to solve the problem – he sought God in prayer. He knew he needed the power of God to show up in his life. His own abilities were not enough.

​3. Nehemiah realized that he was PERFECTLY POSITIONED by God to respond to this call. He was a cupbearer to the most powerful man in the world. God had positioned him there not so Nehemiah could cruise through life in relative ease, but so he could become a person of influence for God’s kingdom. The same is true for us – wherever God has placed us. 

​Anyway…in my message, due to time constraints, we skipped a large portion of the text of chapter 1 that was Nehemiah’s powerful prayer response to his broken heart for the broken walls of Jerusalem.  Here is what he prayed:
Then I said:
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

I wanted to share with you a few insights from Charles Swindoll on Nehemiah’s prayer.
One, it begins and consists of PRAISE. Like most prayers in the Bible, they are founded in an acknowledge of God’s greatness and majesty. They express back to God is amazing and great worth. When I was a young Christian, I was taught this principle of reflecting back praise by an illustration about Michael Jordan. Jordan, of course, was the greatest basketball player of all-time. When I was a teen, if any basketball fan were to meet an all-time great like Jordan, it would be natural that we would praise him. We would say things like, “Wow, you’re so tall! You’re the most amazing basketball player ever! Do you remember when you jumped from the free throw line, stuck out your tongue and dunked the ball? That was amazing!” We would sing his praises because we would be awed by him.
The same should be true of our prayer life. We begin with praise. When we come into the presence of greatness, we reflect back praise! Ie, “God, you are so awesome! You have forgiven me so much! You are so faithful! So patient!” And the more we get to know God, the greater our praise will become.
So, like Nehemiah, as you seek God in prayer, begin with and continue in praise to Him
Second, Nehemiah’s prayer was one of CONFESSION. He confessed the sins of his nation, but also his own sins as well. Consider Michael Jordan again. If, after meeting Michael, he invited me to play hoops, I would certainly be thrilled. But immediately, I might begin to make excuses, confessions, if you will, about my ability compared to his. I might say, “Wow. That’s be great. But I’m not so good. I mean, I’m not horrible, but compared to you, I’m not much. I haven’t played much lately. I can’t jump very high. You’ll have to excuse my inabilities, but I’d love to play.” Ultimately, I’ve just made a confession. The same is true in prayer. As I come into the greatness of God, I’ll realize instantly how awesome He is, and how not awesome I am. I will be convicted of my shortcomings – my sin. And confession should come naturally. “Lord, I’m sorry. Forgive me for my failures. Forgive me for not trusting you. Forgive my anger, my selfishness, my greed, my lust.” And for the follower of Jesus, we can rest secure that despite our sin, God loves and forgives us:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Finally, after praise and confession, Nehemiah claims God’s PROMISES. Nehemiah calls on God to remember his promises and covenants to His people. He seeks God as the one who can remedy the situation he finds himself in. Back with Michael Jordan again, I might be inclined to ask, “Hey Mike. Could you give me a little coaching on how to improve my game? Do you have any advice? Can you help me?”
The same should be true of our prayers with God. He has given us so many great and precious promises and He is true to every one of them. And He is our heavenly Father and wants to intervene and pour out blessings into our lives. So we are invited to ask God for our needs, and to call on Him for the fulfillment of His promises. The trouble is, more often that not, our prayer lives tend to begin and end with the asking, and miss out altogether on the praise and confession.
Well, that’s it for now. Let’s develop some camel’s knees like James and Nehemiah, and seek God in prayer with praise, confession and seeking God through the promises He has made to us in His word.

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