Feature Article- Insight for Intercessors from Nehemiah

Let’s look at how the key points and players in Nehemiah’s story point to the importance of intercessors and their leadership. Nehemiah and a remnant had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city that God had chosen for Himself as His dwelling place (see 2 Chronicles 6:6). Their hearts were repentant over the sins of their fathers and the desolation of God’s beloved abode. God heard their repentant pleas and gave them favour with King Artaxerxes, who issued a decree sanctioning their plans and ordering his governors to provide them with safe passage and supplies. Upon arrival in Jerusalem, he secretly surveyed the walls to see what needed to be done to make the city safe for further restoration and set his people to work. However, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, three regional governors under Artaxerxes, saw what they were doing. They feared that the rebuilding of Jerusalem would undermine their already limited power and did what they could to oppose them.

For that reason, Nehemiah ordered the work to be carried out in shifts, day and night, appointed armed watchmen to stand guard, leaders in high places to look for possible attacks, and a trumpeter to guide the troops to vulnerable spots where attacks were taking place. Can you see the picture emerge? As God is building the new Jerusalem, His kingdom on earth, the same is happening in the spiritual realms today. At the centre is His temple, the redeemed in whom He dwells. He has appointed apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to build it up as the body of Christ (Ephesians 3:11,12). The Apostle Peter puts it this way: “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4,5).

Let’s look at how the key points and players in Nehemiah’s story point to the importance of intercessors and their leadership.

  1. The kingdom of God, which had lain in ruins, is being rebuilt since the resurrection of Christ in territory temporarily occupied by God’s enemies – Satan, His demons, and worldly forces that hate Him (Luke 21:17, Psalm 2:2).
  1. God is raising up leaders in every generation who grieve over the decay in the Church and thirst for revival. Nehemiah was such a leader. Today’s evangelists, missionaries, revival stewards, and prayer leaders are such leaders. Dissatisfaction with the status quo and grief over sin – our own and that of their forebears – drive them to their knees in repentance and eagerness to be used by God for restoration.
  1. Kingdom-building is constantly under attack. Until the day of his final reckoning, Satan will – in the limited power God has given him – try to stop God’s kingdom from being built and provide a safe haven for people seeking to leave the realm of darkness. Tobiah, Sanballat, and Geshem represent the forces of darkness working through people with threats, direct attacks, and trickery (see Nehemiah 6) to keep kingdom work from progressing and people from crossing over from their dominion into God’s.
  1. God has appointed watchmen on the wall to safeguard the progress of His work. Nehemiah placed armed guards near every segment of the wall under construction. Likewise, God has appointed intercessors all over the world to defend against Satan’s attacks vigilantly and valiantly on the fulfillment of the Great Commission, which is the prep work for His kingdom on earth. Intercessors are God’s prayer defenders.
  1. God has raised up specialized ministries to inform of attacks and mobilize intercession. Those are like the leaders “who stood behind the whole house of Judah” (Nehemiah 4:16). They were there to support, keep watch, and help direct the watchmen to respond to locations under attack. A trumpeter was appointed to alert them (vs.18,19). Numerous prayer ministries serve a crucial dual role in scoping out where the enemy is attacking, sounding the alarm, and feeding vital information to prayer warriors. That is of much greater strategic importance than haphazardly gathering a bunch of prayer topics. God’s appointed guardians would pray in an informational vacuum without adequate information. That is not to say that the Holy Spirit couldn’t direct intercession. Still, I believe He has chosen to work through the collaboration of information gatherers, mobilizers, and prayer warriors to safeguard the work of His kingdom. He directs all three to work together, and all three must listen closely to His direction, just as Judah’s remnant did not depart from Nehemiah’s orders.
  1. Prayerful vigilance is 24/7. There was considerable urgency for Nehemiah’s remnant to complete the walls. For that reason, he divided the people into shifts and alternated them between work and security detail. They never took off their tunics and always had their weapons at hand (vs. 23). Don’t worry – this doesn’t mean you should stop sleeping. It does mean that intercessors adopt a wartime lifestyle. Essentially that means that we order our entire lives around fulfilling our God-given role, including our times of much-needed rest. God has appointed kingdom builders and intercessors in every time zone, all over the world, so that His work and its prayer defence continue without interruption.
  1. Prayer is the Church’s greatest mission as it builds God’s kingdom by taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. Nehemiah’s story recounted how every worker laboured with a sword strapped to his side or a spear in hand, apart from armed guards being posted (vs. 17,18). So likewise, it is imperative that every apostle, evangelist, prophet, pastor, and teacher at work in God’s kingdom bathe their ministry in intercessory prayer. Simultaneously, they must surround themselves with intercessors who will pray for them and their families without ceasing. Prayerlessness often leads to failed ministries and ruined lives. The sad reality that our missionary force is declining and the number of pastors quitting the ministry is rising speaks to that. How do we turn these analogies between Nehemiah and the ministry of intercession into prayer? Here are a few pointers:
  • Thank God for calling you to be a prayer defender of His worldwide kingdom work.
  • Pray that His strength and energy may work in you and your fellow intercessors to stay vigilant and hear the trumpet when it sounds.
  • Ask the Lord that you may pray with insight and guide you to the proper prayer assignment lest we wear ourselves out by trying to be everywhere and pray for everything simultaneously.
  • Pray for prayer information ministries like Operation World, and others to find and sort information under the direction of the Holy Spirit and feed it to intercessors with clarity.
  • Pray for the Lord to appoint greater numbers of intercessors as the wall and the city grow with every tribe and nation that is reached with the gospel and every revival that is ignited.
  • Pray for the Lord’s intercessors to be one in heart and mind as we listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His directions for prayer.
  • Pray for Satan’s attacks on God’s kingdom work to be effectively frustrated by our prayers so that the work may continue unabated.

Finally, a poignant word of great encouragement: “In the place where you hear the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” (Nehemiah 4:20). Why did they not respond with the question, “why should we fight if God fights for us?” Because God’s work always involves a partnership between Him and the people He has created and redeemed. We were created for partnership with God in the stewardship of His creation. But unfortunately, it was broken by sin. We are saved from our rebellion to restore the broken partnership. The glorious truth is that we pray in partnership with God. He fights for and with us as we battle against Satan and his forces. The Old Testament is replete with stories about small bands of warriors defeating large enemy forces in battle. Statistically, none could have won the battles they fought. But they did because God commanded them to go in the knowledge that He would fight with them.

That is His promise to us too. Romans 8:26 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought.” It’s a promise that most prayer warriors know and by which they live. But occasionally, our remembrance of it fails us, and we fall back to human logic. So let us take courage it from it once more. When attack seems to happen everywhere, and you don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit will guide you. “Father in heaven, we pause to thank You for assigning us to watch over Your kingdom work across the world. We confess that we are often overwhelmed and at a loss over how to pray. Grant clarity of purpose and vision to Your appointed intercessors and their leadership, according to Your purpose, as You build the New Jerusalem. Give wisdom and direction to every prayer ministry you have raised up to inform and mobilize prayer. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

Source: Remco Brommet is a pastor and prayer leader with over 40 years of experience in Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the U.S.

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