So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Neh 1:4 NKJV
Let’s look at the context of this verse. Nehemiah wrote this book around 445 BC. He was the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes. The first three verses of this book recount a meeting between Nehemiah and men of Judah. The men of Judah tell Nehemiah the Jews who had escaped and survived the captivity were in great distress and the walls of Jerusalem had been torn down and its gates burned with fire. This verse is the response to the news of Nehemiah’s brethren.
Like Nehemiah, when life hits us with sad or disturbing news, we too cry. We don’t mourn like Nehemiah did but do other things. Some people become depressed turning to pills, alcohol or food to relieve the burden, some people escape through physical activities and others escape by becoming workaholics. These measures destroy our bodies and souls.
But Nehemiah did something different. He fasted and prayed. Today people fast for their diets but not for spirituality. Fasting clears the mind. And prayer…it lifts the soul out of its dark place.
Prayer changes not only our circumstances but changes us. Ask any of your friends and family for their personal experiences on how their lives have changed because of prayer. The responses will astound anyone. There is power in prayer even if some people don’t believe in it.
But there is scientific proof that prayer works. According to Dr. Kent Ingle who researched the correlation between prayer and health, he states the following.
“Although science is ill-equipped to prove the existence of God, scientific research does show that prayer works. The literature I looked at states, regardless of God’s existence, elements of prayer are universally valid—across various religions, traditions, and practices. The act of prayer itself has beneficial physiological effects.”
“Prayer, much like meditation in Buddhism, or concentration on breathing techniques in Yoga, causes the mind and body to focus on singular focal points that align the mind, soul, and physical aspects of a person to lower cortisol levels, improve oxygen utilization, and confer numerous other psychological benefits.”