We said this morning that Nehemiah’s knowledge of God informed his prayer life and gave him hope, even when the news from Jerusalem was not good. (Neh 1:2-3) Throughout the book, we see that it was his knowledge of who God is which inspired his prayers:
- ‘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…’ (Neh 1:5)
- ‘You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.’ (Neh 9:6)
- ‘you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf.’ (Neh 9:17-18)
Prayer needs to start with who God is; as Jesus taught us to pray. (‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.’ Matt 6:9) Prayer is our response to God and not simply a list of our requests, though these are welcome. (Phil 4:6-7)
It is clear also that he knew God’s word and often used this as the springboard for prayer: ‘Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 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.”’ (Neh 1:8-9) Often, we feel helpless or that we do not know what to pray, but Nehemiah gives us a framework for prayer, starting with God’s character and using His word when we do not know what to say.