The hymnwriter John Montgomery wrote, “Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath.”
How important it is to remember that prayer is a vital sign of the spiritual life of a Christian — much like a spiritual pulse. If prayer-life is lacking, then most likely faith needs a spiritual jump-start from the Word. Or maybe we have been doing a lot of praying with an incorrect focus— praying more for physical blessings than for spiritual.
Old Testament believer Nehemiah provides a wonderful example of a faithful prayer life. Through Nehemiah the Holy Spirit has recorded a balanced model prayer which can help us keep a proper focus (please read Nehemiah 1:1-11).
Nehemiah’s prayer can be divided into four parts: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. (This format can be easily remembered with the acronym ACTS.)
Nehemiah began his prayer with Adoration, praising the Lord (1:5).
The God to whom Nehemiah prayed was not a man-made god of wood or stone or a Persian deity. The God that Nehemiah was placing his trust in was the God of heaven, Jehovah.
Nehemiah went on to make Confession of his own sins as well as the sins of his people (1:6-7).
Nehemiah knew he had sinned. We too know we have sinned against God in many ways. We too have acted corruptly, disobeying God’s will by the things we should not have done and also by not doing what we should have done.
Confession of sins is an important part of our relationship with God. We need to realize our own unworthiness and then come to the Lord for His grace in forgiveness.
Confession leads us to Thanksgiving (1:10). After making confession of his sin and the sins of his people, Nehemiah thanked God for not forgetting them and leaving them in this foreign land.
We also want to remember to thank God for guiding us with His great power and strong hand. We should thank Him for the many ways that He has kept us from temptation and delivered us from evil.
Above all, we want to be thankful for that greatest demonstration of God’s power—how He has overcome sin, eternal death, and even the devil for us through the perfect life of His Son Jesus and His atoning death on the cross, whereby He takes away all our sins!
Then (1:11) Nehemiah brought his Supplication to the Lord.
Nehemiah was praying that the Lord would bless his meeting with the king (see chapter 2). When he heard about the problems in Jerusalem, Nehemiah wanted to go and help out, but he was still employed by the king in a very important office. The Lord granted him mercy in the sight of the king, and the king allowed Nehemiah to return to his homeland—more than once!
Just as the Lord heard Nehemiah’s prayer, so He hears our prayers.
Nehemiah’s prayer is a balanced, model prayer that we can use and benefit from in our own difficulties. Let us bring our prayers before God with Adoration of a great and merciful God; with Confession of our own sins and shortcomings; with Thanksgiving for the Lord’s past mercy and deliverance; and finally with Supplications—requests for
both physical and spiritual help and strength. And we can have confidence that the Lord will hear and answer the prayers we offer up to His throne in Jesus’ saving name.
Nehemiah 1:1-11 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, 2 that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” 4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5 And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, 6 “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, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. 7 “We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. 8 “Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; 9 ‘but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ 10 “Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. 11 “O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”