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Friday, June 06, 2008

Nehemiah's Prayer

At various times, I have heard the acronym ACTS used as a structure for prayer. It stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Recently, I realized that this replicates very closely Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter 1 of the book bearing his name.

He begins his prayer by praising God. He uses terms like “LORD,” “God of heaven,” “great and awesome God,” and One “who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (v. 5). Acknowledging His greatness, leads us to humility. Nehemiah recognizes his own lowly state, referring to himself as God’s “servant” (v. 6).

Nehemiah then confesses sin. He has been praying “day and night . . . confessing the sins of the people of Israel” (v. 6). He does not, however, just admit the guilt of others; he includes himself, saying, “Even I and my father’s house have sinned” (v. 6). He sees this iniquity and repents.

Next, he reminds God of His promises (he must have known the Scriptures well). Through God’s words to Moses, he can know why the Israelites have been scattered and know how they can be gathered again. “Return to me and keep my commandments and do them” (v. 9).

He concludes with supplication, reminding God who it is that he is praying for: “They are your servants and your people, who you have redeemed by your great power and your strong hand” (v. 10, emphasis added). With his final words, he again asks for God’s attention to be upon His humbled people, “who delight to fear your name,” and pleads for success and mercy (v. 11).

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