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Places Of Prayer

When we read His Word, God directs us to some surprising places to witness the prayers of remarkable men. David had his cave, Daniel his upper room, Elijah his Carmel, Nehemiah his ornate palace. And what pleadings and beseechings from them ascended to heaven's throne 'To move the hand which moves the world, to bring deliverance down'.

How inadequate our prayers seem to be when we hear Daniel crying:

O Lord, hear; 0 Lord, forgive; 0 Lord, hearken and do; defer not; for Thine own sake, 0 my God, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy Name (Dan. 9:19).

Such prayer, such pleading, touched the heart of God and brought deliverance down. Perhaps the Lord's disciples felt the same inadequacies as we do, for they pleaded, 'Lord, teach us to pray' (Luke 11:1). Notice they did not request teach us how to pray, but teach us to pray. There is much for us to learn about the experience of prayer.

Nehemiah was unquestionably a man of prayer, and one pictures his room in the pagan palace resounding with the pleadings of a fearless, godly man. Here is one example:

0 LORD, the God of heaven... Let Thine ear now be attentive, and Thine eyes open, that Thou mayest hearken unto the prayer of Thy servant, which I pray before Thee at this time, day and night, for the children of Israel (Neh. 1:5,6).

This influential man of God speaks of prayer being a day and night experience. How onerous his palace duties must have been! yet they did not interfere with the regularity and intensity of his prayer life. He was cupbearer, literally the right hand man, to a powerful heathen potentate. He was the royal food taster, and nothing reached the king's table without the consultation and approval of Nehemiah. He came between the king and the outside world; and as a man of God he came between Israel, and their heavenly King.

Nehemiah wept over Jerusalem just as Messiah would almost 450 years later. Its condition was lamentable. When Nehemiah was told that the walls of Israel's capital city were broken down, its gates burned with fire, and its remnant people in disarray, he did five things. He sat, wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed before his God. His name means Jehovah consoles, and he surely needed that consolation as he wrestled with one of the greatest burdens of his life - the future of Jerusalem and its people. When he finally visited the city, and travelled around it by night, he discovered nothing but chaos. But being a

man of character and prayer, he did not despair. Defeat was not a word in his vocabulary. Nehemiah was a positive man of action who had the ability to stir the people into activity; and work they did, as a unified force. Men and women, families, individual craftsmen, helpers, even goldsmiths and apothecaries whose hands were used for delicate work, all buckled down to their formidable task. In their midst was Nehemiah their defender against opposition, who alternated between cries to God and cries of encouragement to the people. 'Be not ye afraid', he would say, 'remember the Lord ... fight for your brethren' (Neh. 4:14). Then came the day of glorious triumph. The wall was finished. Fait accompli!

What can we learn from another man of prayer, Elijah the Tishbite? The hand of the LORD was on him (1 Kin. 18:46). Also, 'he was a man with a nature like our own; but he offered prayer that it might not rain ... then he prayed again, and the sky yielded rain' (James 5:17,18 Moffatt). His name means 'my God is Jehovah'. His life of faith was challenged at Cherith's brook during prolonged drought. In hiding, Elijah was fed by ravens and drank from the brook. Then, at God's behest, a widow with a handful of meal, a little oil, shared, reluctantly it seems, her all with him. Her faith earned the promise of food for many days (1 Kin. 17:14). Elijah's faith would be strengthened, too. His earnest prayers restored the widow's to life. Such preparation was needful for the great challenge confronting him at Carmel, when the lonely prophet faced 450 prophets at Baal, and triumphed (1 Kin. 18:2140). Applicable in his life, as in ours, too, could have been heaven's assurance to Abraham: 'Is any thing too hard for the LORD?' (Gen. 18:14).

David, another man of like passions with us, knew the need of restored communion in his sometime discordant life. But he always knew prayer to be his way back to God. One of his lowest points was a lonely spell in Adullam's cave, or an equivalent. Hidden from his tormentors, he cried unto his God who heard, answered and restored his faith and renewed his life (Psalms 57, 142).

Faith is not only a word but an experience. Hebrews 11 establishes this. Men and women with natures akin to ours survived apparently impossible situations of adversity, because the all-important ingredient of faith was not omitted from their lives. To be numbered with them is an honour. 'By faith' is a key to life, and an important adjunct to our prayers.

Montgomery says:

Prayer is the Christian's vital breath,

The Christian's native air,

His watchword at the gates of death;

He enters heaven with prayer.