Nehemiah Chapter 1 introduces us to Nehemiah, who had the hand of God on him (Nehemiah 2:8 and 18). Nehemiah was known for his great management and leadership skills. When I study Nehemiah I see much more: I see a man poor in spirit and a man of prayer. A study of Chapter 1 will give you a clear picture of what I mean,
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capital, that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.” When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said, “I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’ They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.” Now I was the cupbearer to the king. (Nehemiah 1:1-11, NASB)
Nehemiah had a nice secure job as the cupbearer to the King (as long as nobody was poisoned!). This exiled Jew had worked his way up to be in the court of the King of Persia. But Nehemiah’s heart was for his people, a people who in the land of promise lived in a devastated city with no protection from their enemies and were in great distress. Nehemiah would sacrifice this job and his life by requesting an opportunity to help them. Nehemiah offers this prayer in preparation of asking the King for help. Nehemiah prepares for this prayer with weeping, mourning, fasting, for an unspecified number of days. This must have been awhile because the king would notice his physical countenance of despair. Nehemiah only approached God with a heart of brokenness. This is poor in spirit. Nehemiah’s prayer includes confession of the sins of his people just as if he himself committed them, yet he was not there (note the comparison to Ezra). Nehemiah recognizes that the problem that his people faced was sin and he asks for the mercy and grace of God to work in the situation of the exiled nation. This is poor in spirit. Nehemiah ends his prayer with the recognition that he is but a servant. This was not about him or his people; this was about bringing glory to God. This is poor in spirit.
Examine your life and ask God to break anything that is holding you back from complete surrender to His will. This is brokenness, what we need to be effective in prayer, ministry and life. It is the character of being poor in spirit. Let the Holy Spirit regularly search your heart for things that need to be broken. He will do His part when you allow Him complete access to your heart.