Online Bible Commentary
God Cannot Bless Sin
Nehemiah 1:5 Then I said: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 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 house, 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 O 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." (NIV)
Nehemiah was called to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem after the seventy year exile of the Jews to Babylon. When he heard of the destruction of the walls he was greatly disturbed. He knew Jerusalem would not be able to defend itself without walls. He sat down and wept. Then for some days he mourned, fasted, and prayed. He decided to approach the king over Judea, Artaxerxes of Persia for permission to return to Judea and rebuild the walls. He offered this prayer before approaching King Artaxerxes with his request. He asked God for favor from the king.
Nehemiah began his prayer by praising God as “the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands” (v. 5). He introduced himself as one who loves God and obeys the commands of God. Thus, Nehemiah immediately presented his credentials to come before God with such a request as one who loves and obeys God. He was asking God for a blessing and He knew that God blesses those who obey Him. He knew that we show our love for God through obedience.
Nehemiah also understood that God does not listen to every prayer (v.6a). God listens to prayers of believers. He also listens to prayers of non believers if they are reaching out to Him asking Him to be their Lord and Savior.
After praising God, Nehemiah immediately confesses his sins and the sins of his nation, since the blessing would be for the nation (v.6b-7). After confessing, Nehemiah repented of his sins and the sins of the nation, stating that hey had returned to Him and obeyed His commands (v.8-9). He stated that the evidence of such repentance was that God had returned the people to their land.
Nehemiah then thanked God for his redemption in returning the people to being His servants and His people (v.10). He completed his prayer by asking God to hear his plea and the plea of the people and to give him success in his meeting with the king. He asked that the king would grant him favor (v.11).
Nehemiah was granted favor by the king. The king allowed him to return to Jerusalem. Additionally, the king appointed Nehemiah as Governor of Judea and gave him a military escort back home along with the funding necessary to complete the repair of the city. Nehemiah and the people were greatly blessed.
This is an example of an effective prayer. Nehemiah came before God as one who was in alignment with God’s will. He had been obedient to God. He came in repentance for his sins and those of his people.
We also can have an effective prayer life. As was Nehemiah, we must be walking in obedience to God. Nehemiah also followed a formula for an effective prayer. The formula can be remembered by the acronym ACTS for adoration (praise), confession (which includes repentance), thanksgiving, and supplication (our requests of God). God wants to give His children good things. However, He cannot bless us when we are out of relationship with Him because of a sinful lifestyle. God cannot bless sin.