Focal passage: Nehemiah 1:3-10
Every now and then we hear a statistic about what percentage of Americans say they pray with some degree of regularity. Frankly, I’m usually shocked that the number is that high, but when we stop to consider what passes as prayer, the number seems less surprising.
Sadly, many of us see prayer as a time to update God on our wishlists. Our primary attitude when it comes to prayer is one of demands and wish fulfillment.
But what if our attitude toward prayer was different? What if we took our cue from the Lord’s Prayer, seeking that His kingdom come and His will be done? Nehemiah gives us an excellent example of this. Notice that God-focused prayer does not exclude asking God to act or to provide. Yet God-honoring prayer does not treat Him as if He were a cosmic wish-granter.
Nehemiah’s prayer recognizes the trouble and distress that has come upon God’s people. Our own prayers must do the same. Prayer does not neglect or ignore the reality of trials and suffering, it recognizes this reality and brings it to the Lord. This is the Christian response to distress. We turn to God in prayer, casting our sorrows and burdens upon His sovereignty and mercy. Take note here, because this is central: The way forward for the believer is not through instinctive action.
The way forward is to retreat into prayer and seek the Lord’s face.
We should also note from Nehemiah’s prayer that an honest assessment and confession of sin is integral. It is not likely that we will come to the Lord in prayer without any sin to confess, but by Christ’s redeeming work, we can confess it, repent and turn from it and be restored. May we seek the Lord in prayer not as those seeking gifts, but as those who recognize that He has already given us the greatest gift: Himself!