Nehemiah 1:5-11 summarises Nehemiah’s prayer after he heard of the distress of the Jews in Jerusalem. In this case, Nehemiah’s prayer contains praise, confession of sins, an affirmation of God’s promises and petition. It is important to state that a prayer that aims at transformation should be fashioned along this line. The content of Nehemiah’s prayer serves as a prayer model for contemporary Christians.
Nehemiah praised God (Ne 1:5)
Nehemiah adored God as the God of heaven who is great and awesome. He addressed God as the one who keeps the covenant of love with those who love God and obey God’s promises. Indeed, the God that Nehemiah prayed to is the one true God, who is the ruler of heaven and earth. In prayer, we ought to remind ourselves that God deserves our worship and praise. Acknowledging the greatness and awesomeness of God should therefore be our foremost priority whenever we come to God in prayer. This model implies that our prayers should not just be in the form of making requests before God. Praising God is always appropriate before we ask something from God.
Nehemiah confessed sins (Ne 1:7)
The second element of Nehemiah’s prayer was the confession of sins, not just his own sins but also, that of the sins of his people, Israel. For this motive, Nehemiah repeatedly used the plural personal pronoun “we.” This effort implies that Nehemiah was not only concerned about his sins, but he identified himself in the corporate sinfulness of his people. For the corporate sins required corporate confession.
In this regard, Nehemiah confessed and acknowledged his own sins in addition to the sins of his family and the people of Israel. He openly admitted their corrupt conduct toward God. To him, they had not kept God’s commands, statutes, and ordinances as given through Moses. Although Christians are not under law but grace, yet we are called upon to confess when we sin (1 John 1:9).
Nehemiah recalled God’s promises (Neh 1:8-10)
Having prayed for forgiveness of sins, Nehemiah recalled God’s promises to return the people of Israel from captivity. God had told Israel that God would disperse them among the nations should they become unfaithful. However, if they repent and keep God’s promises, they would be brought back to their promised nation (Deuteronomy 4:25-31). To Nehemiah, his people had been unfaithful and as such were scattered. Nehemiah was hereby urging God to keep the second part of the promise, namely, to return the people when they repented and bless them again in the land.
Learning from this model of prayer, therefore, Christians are called upon to claim God’s promises in prayer. In prayers, we are to trust God to fulfil God’s holistic promises which are for our spiritual, social, material and emotional wellbeing. Most importantly, Christians are enjoined to know Scripture and pray according to Scripture.
Nehemiah petitioned God (Neh 1:11)
Nehemiah’s prayer concludes by asking God for help. Some Christians begin their prayers here instead of first adoring God, confessing our sins and reminding God of God’s promises. From the perspective of Nehemiah, therefore, an adoration should precede supplication. In this model prayer, Nehemiah was not requesting on his own behalf.
It is important to pray for ourselves and the things that we need. However, remembering to pray for the needs of others especially God’s people should form an essential part of our prayer life. Nehemiah pointed out that he prayed specifically for favour before the king. He wanted God to bless and prosper him in his attempt to request something from the king. Among others, therefore, as Nehemiah did, we are to pray to God for the things that are profoundly important in life, especially for God’s blessings of our work for God. We are to pray for God’s strength, prosperity and blessings in our lives.
Conclusion and application
The content of Nehemiah’s prayer which involves adoration, confession, scriptural promises, and petitioning God should serve as our model prayer. Effective prayer for the total transformation of our lives and communities should contain these elements. It is important to remind ourselves that these elements could be related to the content of the Lord’s prayer as thought by our Lord Jesus Christ in Mathew 6:9-13. In analysing the Lord’s prayer, it is clear, the Lord Jesus taught us to adore God and thus hallow God’s name, confess our sins, affirm scripture and petitioned God who is addressed as our father in heaven. In this light, a Christian has prayed well if he has prayed through these models.