Thirteen years after the temple was rebuilt, we are introduced to Nehemiah catching up with his brother Hanani, asking how things are in Jerusalem. His friend responds that things are bad. The wall of Jerusalem is in shambles and the gates have been burned down. For Nehemiah, a fellow Israelite, the walls represented not only the strength of the Israelites within the city, but they represented the strength of the God they served. It brought disgrace on God’s people and left them vulnerable to attack. This brought Nehemiah a great deal of distress, so much so that he goes into mourning and fasts and prays for several days. He then prays a great prayer of petition. Here are a few highlights to this prayer that we can use in our own prayers.
Praise – Nehemiah starts with recognising how awesome God is. Using praise to declare the might of God, acknowledging his greatness is also what Jesus models to us in The Lord’s Prayer. Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed (sacred)be your name.
Petition – ‘…please let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, that you may hear the prayer of your servant, which I pray before you now, day and night…’ My girls when they were little would often repeat the words, ‘Mum, Mum, Mum…’ until I stopped what I was doing and looked them directly in the eye. I was listening, but they wanted my total attention. We know that God is always listening, but Nehemiah wants to make it clear to God that he means business and he wants his total attention. He repeats this petition again towards the end of his prayer. He is desperate. In getting God to hear, he wants him to act.
Confession – He then confesses his sins, acknowledging his faults and that he has gone his own way. Just as Jesus teaches in the Lord’s prayer, it is good to repent and come to God with a pure heart so our sin doesn’t interfere with God’s work.
Reminder to God of his promises – I love this part where Nehemiah then reminds God of his promises to his people the Israelites. He reminds him that he is a faithful God (as much to say, you made a promise and you never fail to keep your promises). This is an excellent tool to use when we pray. God doesn’t forget his promises but by reminding him, it both builds our faith and it shows God we mean business.
This prayer moved God so much and prepared the way for what was to happen later in this book. James 5:16 tells us “the fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” and Nehemiah definitely prayed fervently. His prayer moved God’s heart, and he was allowed to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls with the king’s blessing. Your prayers can move God too.
Whatever you’re going through, allow Nehemiah’s example to guide you through your next talk with God so that you too can experience miracle breakthroughs.