Nehemiah’s prayers give us insight on moving from prayer to action. His despair when he receives devastating news about the plight of Jews who have returned from captivity to a wrecked Jerusalem causes him to weep. Then he prays. In his prayer in Nehemiah 1, he includes the following:
1. Praise for God – “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands” (Nehemiah 1:8).
2. Confession of sins that he, his family, and his nation have committed – “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you” (Nehemiah 1:6). Sometimes we resist the concept of collective guilt, but Nehemiah groups himself with others in his nation in confessing sin while praying on others’ behalf.
3. A reminder to God of God’s promises to forgive his people when they repent and obey his commands. Note reminding God in our prayers also reminds us what God has promised and what God has done. Nehemiah prays, “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return tome and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people great the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my name” (Nehemiah 1:8-9). Nehemiah’s prayer reveals that he knows the story of God’s relationship with his people – he has read (or heard) the Book! He also reminds God that “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand” (verse 10). the saving God continues to care for those whom he has rescued.
4. He prays specifically that God will grant him success when he pleads his nation’s case before the king of Persia – “Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man” (verse 11).
The second chapter of Nehemiah reveals that when the king asks Nehemiah what is troubling him, Nehemiah seizes the opportunity (after a lightning-quick silent prayer) and explains the wretched situation of his people. He then unveils a plan for his returning to help his people that establishes how long he will be gone, what supplies he will need, and requests security forces and letters of introduction. The king grants the request of this prepared civil servant. When God answered yes to Nehemiah’s prayer for help, Nehemiah was ready to act.
Nehemiah’s prayers and actions give us a template for moving from prayer to action. The template includes knowing God’s Word and his will, humility that allows confession, specific prayer, and preparing so that one can act quickly when God says yes.