The good hand of God

The good hand of God – a sermon on Nehemiah 2:1-8 by Rev. Craig van Echten.

Brothers and sisters,
Why doesn’t God answer our prayers? Have you ever wondered about that? Do you sometimes wonder if God is listening? And if your prayers are hitting the ceiling? There are many reasons for unanswered prayer.

One common reason is that people don’t ask full stop. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” So ask, seek and knock. James 1:6 says, “But let him ask in faith with no doubting for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed about by the wind.” God is not a scrooge. We must ask believing He is our generous heavenly Father.

Another common reason is that we ask wrongly. This is where the health and health preachers go seriously wrong. They often say ‘name it and claim it’ or ‘believe and receive.’ And when they say that, they mean that you should strive for physical health, material blessing and personal happiness. In their thinking you should name these things in prayer and claim them. However, prayer is not like a genie, where you can have whatever you want. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions.”

Another common reason then is that God has a better plan. Jesus prayed ‘take this cup from me.’ If anyone prayed in faith it was Jesus. And yet that prayer went unanswered. Why? God had a better plan. And thankfully, for our sakes, our Saviour submitted Himself to that plan.

But another common reason for unanswered prayer is simply that the timing is not right. The answer is neither yes or no, but rather WAIT. Nehemiah had to wait. Recently, in Nehemiah 1 we considered Nehemiah’s prayer. In response to the broken walls in Jerusalem Nehemiah prayed. Specifically he prayed, “O Lord let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” He asks for a response “today.” But, the response was not immediate. Nehemiah ends up persisting in praying for the next four months. We know this because of the time markers in the text. Then after four months the answer finally came.

Maybe there is something that you are praying about and you are still waiting?
Maybe there are things you are not praying about but should. Maybe your prayer life has gone cold? The encouragement from this text this morning is: Never cease to pray because the good hand of God is at work.