When we last left the Israelites they were celebrating God’s goodness through the Feast of Booths. The Feast of Booths was a time to rejoice and remember how God led the Israelites through the wilderness into the Promised Land. Now that the feast is over, it is a time of fasting, weeping, and contrition. With the Feast of Booths accomplishing its purpose by God, the people are convicted of their unfaithfulness and the unfaithfulness of their ancestors against God. We read “On the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them” (9:1). Nehemiah 9 is one of 3 “National” prayers of repentance. The other two are found in Ezra 9 and Daniel 9. These prayers of confession on behalf of the nation are rooted in God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:14 that David’s son would build a house for the Lord and in Solomon’s prayer of dedication in 1 Kings 8. The prayer entails:
- Humility and Confession of sin (1-2),
- Acknowledgement of God’s majesty (6),
- Remembrance of God’s justice and faithfulness during Israel’s history:
- the Abrahamic covenant (7-8),
- the events of the Exodus from Egypt (9-18),
- the years of wandering in the desert (19-23),
- the conquest of Canaan and subsequent backsliding (24-31),
- Humility and Confession of sin (32-37),
- Commitment to keep God’s laws (38 & 10:1-39).
With this prayer in mind, we shall take time to discuss the importance of prayer and important aspects of prayer that God delights in.
The Importance of Prayer
Prayer is an act of worship. Specifically, prayer is communication with God. It is the intentional act of speaking to and listening to the Creator of the Universe (God). Because prayer is an act of worship, prayer can only be directed to God (Father, Son, and Spirit). You cannot and must not pray to anyone or anything other than God. A Christian may ask a fellow believer to pray for them, but a Christian never prays to them (living or dead).
The Types of Prayer
Greg Frizzell has summarized the five main types of prayer found in Scripture:
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Praise.
This type of prayer focuses on giving thanks to God and praising Him. It is vital that we come to God in prayer and offer Him thanksgiving and praise. It doesn’t matter if you feel like praising and thanking Him, do it because He is worthy! Consider His characteristics, His names, His work, His salvation. Praise His Holy name! Examples include: Nehemiah 9:5 “O may Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise!” and Nehemiah 9:17 “But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”
Prayers of Confession.
This type of prayer focuses on the confession of sins. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Every Christian has been freed from bondage to sin and is now able to “put to death what is earthly [sinful] in you” (Col 3:5). Confess sins of thoughts and attitudes, sins of speech, relationship sins, sins of wrongdoing, and sins of failing to do what is right. Remember “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Example: Nehemiah 9:16, “But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly; they became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments.”
Prayers of Petition.
This type of prayer focuses on asking Jesus to meet your needs. It is rooted in God’s Covenant and faithfulness. Take note that it is important to know the difference between your needs and your wants. Jesus never promised to give us all that we want; but did promise to meet our needs. Jesus tells us to “ask, seek, and knock” (Matt 7) and He will give. Come to God and ask Him for what you need that will help you carry out His will for your life. Pray for the physical, mental, and spiritual needs you have. Come boldly to Him asking Him to supply all that you need.
Prayers of Intercession
This type of prayer focuses on making petitions on behalf of others. Pray about what they need and ask God to give it to them. This is a very important type of prayer because you are thinking less about yourself and more about others. Ask for God’s help for physical, mental, and spiritual needs others have. This prayer is an indicator of your love for others so don’t neglect it. See Ephesians 3:14-21 and Nehemiah 9:32.
Prayers of Meditation
This type of prayer focuses on listening to God. As we said earlier, good communication is both talking and listening. Every type of prayer thus far has involved us talking to God. Meditation is important because it is prayerful listening (1 Sam 3:10). Take time out of your busy, hectic life to be alone with God. The emails, text messages, and Facebook notifications can wait. Listen to God and allow the Holy Spirit to search you and guide you. Use this time to hear from God so that you can obey God’s commands. See Nehemiah 10 where the Israelites committed themselves to specific ways they will obey God’s commands.
Nehemiah and Ezra called the people back to the pure worship of God. Today, we are in just as much need of revival as they were. Our Refocus emphasis will be mocked if it is done in our own strength with little to no discernable impact among us and our community. But, if we pray and have faith; we will move in God’s strength and see mountains moved (Matt 21:21). Are we willing to humble ourselves before God? Are we willing to obey? Trust God!