Scripture: Nehemiah 1:5-11
“LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 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 family, 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 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.”
The context and content of this prayer of Nehemiah is instructive to us. Think parallels in your situation as you read this. A broken Israel had rejected the Lord and been in captive exile for many years under several foreign powers. Nehemiah’s heart was broken as he prayed for his wayward nation. He was a man of much prayer. In fact, there are references to his praying to the Lord at least ten times in the thirteen chapters of this book. He prayed before, during, and after events. In this case we read of his final prayer prior to his going to the king to ask to return to Jerusalem to rebuild his beloved city and encourage those Jewish exiles who were living in that city. (You note here again the practice of mourning and fasting being associated with earnest prayer for a specific situation.)
Nehemiah begins his prayer with words of adoration commenting on God’s character and being. He then simply asks that God would hear his prayer. Confession enters at this point, both confessing his own sin and confessing on behalf of the nation. He is specific about their disobedience and rebellion against the Lord. He then reminds God of the covenant made with his people. Despite their rebellion, they are still his people. He asks in faith for God to listen to his prayer and declares his personal love for God and offers his one specific request, “Give your servant success today in granting him favor in the presence of this man” [the king].
When our hearts are heavy about a specific situation, note Nehemiah’s approach. He puts the bigger picture into perspective. 1)He is truthful about his and the people’s sinfulness. 2)This prayer is instructive of the importance of including ourselves as sinners when praying for our nation. It is very easy to see the flaws of our local and national leadership believing their public sins are more egregious than our “little” sins. 3) He reminds God of the covenant promise he made to his people. 4) He articulates Israel’s history of God’s deliverance. 5) He makes his request-direct, nothing vague. Notice there is a deep reverence toward God. There is humility and honesty. There is much to gain in studying the honesty and pattern of the prayer life of Nehemiah. You may want to work your way through the short thirteen chapters of the book noting the circumstances of each of his time of prayer. What would happen if Christians fervently and regularly prayed for our cultural and societal repentance?
Music: “The Lord’s Prayer” in Aramaic (the spoken language of Jesus)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, our Intercessor, may our hearts be open to you, to see as you see. May we be obedient to your voice. May our prayer life with you multiply many times throughout the day. We ask that you bring people and circumstances to our minds during the day that need your touch. May we be free to pray with those in need as we go through the mornings, afternoons, and evenings of our lives. In all of this, may you receive glory and may your kingdom be advanced. Thank you for continually interceding on our behalf. We pray this in your tender name. Amen.