Prayer is not a passive activity. If done well, prayer takes time, a great deal of effort, and a sense of priority. It is quite possible that biblical praying can be the most challenging, exhausting, laborious, and rewarding thing we do. Through prayer we can become filled with the Holy Spirit, gain wisdom to make godly decisions, and access spiritual power that can melt the hardest of hearts and change the minds of the most stubborn of people. In prayer we have the privilege of expressing our concerns and needs, as well as having God’s agenda revealed to us for what to do. Our personal and corporate holiness is in direct proportion to the great task of prayer.
When faced with the reality that Jerusalem was in trouble, Nehemiah prayed. In prayer he owned the problems that Jerusalem faced. He owned it through a prayer that emphasized and reminded God of his covenant with his people; he confessed the sins by which Israel violated that covenant; and held onto the promise that God would lift the curse on the city if the people would repent.
Nehemiah had a compassionate heart that did not ignore what was going on in his native land, but wept, mourned, fasted and prayed. He had a deep concern for and was profoundly disturbed by the news that Jerusalem was in trouble. Rather than being preoccupied with himself, or turning his back on what was going on and focusing on his own new life in Babylon, he sought to do something about the security and spiritual health of his people.
In his prayer to God, Nehemiah was genuine, persistent, confident, humble, and submissive to God. He did not distance himself from the sins of the people, but clearly identified with them through a prayer of confession. That confession was intense, honest, real, and urgent. Sin always needs to be identified, acknowledged, and pardoned. If it isn’t, there is no hope for things to be different.
There is a season for everything. Deer season may come and go, but it is always open season for prayer. And Nehemiah’s prayer is a solid biblical model for us to emulate. We all have our challenges to face. Like Nehemiah, let’s own those challenges through prayer that is biblically focused, compassionately offered, and spiritually curious to know and do God’s agenda for our lives and for God’s people.
Most merciful God, I confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.