Much like Ezra, Nehemiah continues the story of exiled Israel who needs corporate restoration from God. God continues to display His magnificent sovereignty through the king’s approval of Nehemiah’s request, the strength and resources for building Jerusalem’s wall, the success over enemies, and the provision of food and care for His oppressed people.
In chapter 1, Nehemiah is greatly troubled over the shame Israel is experiencing because of their sin and their vulnerability to other nations without a wall around Jerusalem. As I read his prayer, I think about how much I desire Baxter to be a praying people who cry out to God in faith and who use God’s words to pray back to God. Given, I already see this manifested in our church family, but I speak of wanting to see it more and more.
Praying the Bible
Every verse in Scripture can be used as a prayer or can spark a prayer. This passage is fairly easy to pray because it is a prayer itself (1:5-11). In context, Nehemiah’s prayer is on behalf of Israel at this particular time in history. Even still, Nehemiah’s words can help us to pray for our current lives and better understand how to pray more effectively and in a way that pleases God.
Let’s pray through Nehemiah’s prayer together:
1:5 – “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,”
Father, you are awesome in the truest sense of the word. Even as the great God who created all things, you show steadfast love to those who love and obey you, even though we do not perfectly love and obey you. We thank you for your steadfast love that sought us, even when we didn’t want anything to do with you.
1:6-7 – “Let your ear be attentive…to hear the prayer of your servant… confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments…”
Lord, we do not deserve your ear to hear our prayers, but we feel the weight of our sins and desperately want your forgiveness to cover our failure to love you. Please grant us grace to love you more. We confess that we fail to love and obey you constantly, even when we choose to think ill of others, when we act lazily at our workplaces, when we get angry with our spouses, and when we do not follow through with our word.
1:8-9 – “Remember the word that 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, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.”
Father, the Christian life is difficult. Even as your children, we stagger and stumble to walk where you lead. Give us the faith to be strong in your strength today, because we want your name to be exalted and treasured in our lives and in the lives of those we interact with.
1:11 – “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
Father, we thank you and sing your praises for your mercy that is always more than our many sins. In this day you have given, we delight to fear your name because you are awesome and great. Lord Jesus, you are the most delightful of all, in all of your radiance, perfection, and humility. Establish the work of our hands, even as we trust in you today.